Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Q&A -- Basic Knife Skills


  • Please log in to reply
86 replies to this topic

#61 zilla369

zilla369
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 1,244 posts
  • Location:Louisville, KY

Posted 14 August 2003 - 12:03 PM

I am wondering if animated GIF's can be made of the two different methods for better illustration.

Hm...i'll look into that. Maybe i can capture it with my webcam (which records 10-second videos) and turn it into a GIF. Will consult with my more computer-literate roomie, and report back.
Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

#62 Toliver

Toliver
  • participating member
  • 4,626 posts
  • Location:Bakersfield, California

Posted 15 August 2003 - 05:03 PM

This is an aside, but as I was reading your course I thought it would have been really, really, really bitchin' cool if you would have been wearing an eGullet chef's jacket in your pictures.
Too bad they don't exist, yet. :sad:

My apologies for altering a copyrighted image without permission.

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'
Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”
– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


#63 Stone

Stone
  • participating member
  • 3,626 posts
  • Location:New York

Posted 15 August 2003 - 05:08 PM

When I'm trying to make thin slices from things like potatoes and tomatoes, I find that one problem I have is the blade descends down and out, away from the object, giving me only a half slice.  This could be due to less than perfectly sharp knives.  I compensate by thinking that I'm actually slicing inward to produce a thicker bottom -- and I end up with uniform slices.

This was a much-discussed issue amongst the knife cut coaches at school. My theory was that, even though a knife may be perfectly sharp, it is "triangular" in cross-section (wider at the spine than at the edge). I'm guessing that's what tends to make it lead to one side or the other when trying to perform a perfectly vertical cut. The solution? Practice, practice, practice, until compensating for the phenomenon is second nature. A mental trick such as Stone describes is often helpful, as well.

No kidding? I always thought I was a retard.

#64 Toliver

Toliver
  • participating member
  • 4,626 posts
  • Location:Bakersfield, California

Posted 18 August 2003 - 12:34 PM

Sorry that the image isn't there in my post above. You get what you pay for when you use a cheap-ass (free) web site. :angry:
Here's a link if you want to see it:eGullet chef's jacket

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'
Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”
– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


#65 zilla369

zilla369
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 1,244 posts
  • Location:Louisville, KY

Posted 18 August 2003 - 12:36 PM

This is an aside, but as I was reading your course I thought it would have been really, really, really bitchin' cool if you would have been wearing an eGullet chef's jacket in your pictures. 
Too bad they don't exist, yet.

Heh. I'll take three!
Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

#66 Rachel Perlow

Rachel Perlow
  • legacy participant
  • 6,756 posts
  • Location:New Jersey

Posted 08 September 2003 - 09:45 AM

No, but you can get an eGullet apron!

I'll admit it, I didn't do this whole class. But I did think about what I read here while dicing my veg for this saute of yellow summer squash, onion, corn and tomato:

Posted Image

#67 NickMach007

NickMach007
  • legacy participant
  • 39 posts
  • Location:Nashville, TN (USA)

Posted 13 January 2004 - 01:57 PM

I'm just now getting to read all these eCGI courses (new member here on eGullet), but I just wanted to add another thanks for the great info! :smile:

#68 Llantha

Llantha
  • participating member
  • 19 posts

Posted 19 April 2004 - 11:35 AM

Ditto, Nick. These are great.
Thanks a lot for all the work you have put into them.
"Adkins" is the Hunter-Gatherer diet.
"Low Fat" is the early agrarian diet.
I live civilized: I want it ALL!

#69 Fernwood

Fernwood
  • participating member
  • 167 posts
  • Location:Connecticut

Posted 05 October 2004 - 12:55 PM

After taking a nasty slice off the tip of my left pinky this weekend :sad:, I think I need some guidance about dealing with raw carrots. I feel pretty good about my completely amateur, very basic knife skills in general, but this accident highlighted a situation that seems to be particularly difficult/dangerous for me. I have no problem with carrot coins, but I was trying to do a fairly fine dice for mirepoix for a short ribs braise. It's cutting that hard, rounded carrot the long way that gets me into trouble. My 8" knife was nice and sharp so, when it slipped, it cut through the tip of my finger very cleanly, instead of tearing the nail. I will admit that haste was a factor, but I am hoping that someone can give me some safety tips for this chore. I trust what's left of my finger (Oh, it's really not so bad, I think, but we'll have to see how it turns out in a month or two!) will serve as a reminder to slow down next time. :blink:
Any advice is most welcome. Fern

#70 jayt90

jayt90
  • participating member
  • 1,503 posts
  • Location:SW Ont

Posted 05 October 2004 - 04:07 PM


This was a much-discussed issue amongst the knife cut coaches at school.  My theory was that, even though a knife may be perfectly sharp, it is "triangular" in cross-section (wider at the spine than at the edge).  I'm guessing that's what tends to make it lead to one side or the other when trying to perform a perfectly vertical cut.  The solution?  Practice, practice, practice, until compensating for the phenomenon is second nature.  A mental trick such as Stone describes is often helpful, as well.

No kidding? I always thought I was a retard.

Find a thin spine knife, like Sabatier in the used market. Some Japanese laminated knives are thin, others thick.

#71 Toliver

Toliver
  • participating member
  • 4,626 posts
  • Location:Bakersfield, California

Posted 05 October 2004 - 04:49 PM

It's cutting that hard, rounded carrot the long way that gets me into trouble.

View Post

I am sure Marsha will weigh in on this subject, but from what I've learned is that when slicing anything that is round you first need to create a flat base. This means slicing the side of the carrot off and turning the carrot so it will rest on this flat base which will help provide stability when cutting. Once the carrot is on its flat base, slice each side again so you now have three flat sides. Rotate the carrot so the round top is now on either of the sides and slice it flat, as well. Chop off both ends of the carrot. If you're frugal or ambitious, you can use the trimmings for stock, soup or stew.
Once you have this carrot "rectangle", slicing juliennes or matchsticks should be easy and from there you'll get your fine dice.
Make sure you also master the "claw"....turning the fingers of your non-slicing hand under so the only the flat of your knuckles are exposed. When slicing, your knife should never be raised higher than your knuckles so they won't be cut. Use the "claw" to guide and move what you're cutting.

edited for clarification and spellling :wink:

Edited by Toliver, 05 October 2004 - 04:52 PM.


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'
Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”
– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


#72 Fernwood

Fernwood
  • participating member
  • 167 posts
  • Location:Connecticut

Posted 07 October 2004 - 01:08 PM

Thanks, Toliver. I intend to practice that (after my finger is healed). On reviewing the course I realize that, although I'm OK on how I handle my knife in general, there is definitely room for improvement in the department of straight cuts of firm round objects. :rolleyes: Something to look forward to....
Fern

#73 James Kessler

James Kessler
  • participating member
  • 92 posts
  • Location:Westchester County, NY; USA

Posted 23 June 2005 - 08:37 AM

What is the best procedure for dealing with ginger?
-James Kessler

#74 zilla369

zilla369
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 1,244 posts
  • Location:Louisville, KY

Posted 23 June 2005 - 03:10 PM

What is the best procedure for dealing with ginger?

View Post



Just be sure to compliment her evening gown and talk smack about MaryAnne :raz:

Seriously, though - I peel fresh ginger root with a spoon! No kidding! A regular service spoon works great, but so does a plastic picnic spoon. This is the best method I've found for peeling, because it removes only a thin layer (mostly the brown "skin" and any imperfections). It's not perfect - you'll still have some skin left in between close-set knobs, but unless the root is old (which translates to tough, thick, stringy skin), those few pieces of skin won't affect your final product.

After peeling, either grate it on a microplane or a chocolate grater, or slice thinly (and mince if required) with a french knife.
Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

#75 ghost

ghost
  • participating member
  • 85 posts
  • Location:Silicon Valley -- Bay Area

Posted 23 June 2005 - 06:23 PM

Yup, spoons are the best way to deal with ginger. :-D
WhizWit.net -- My blog on Food, Life, and Politics

#76 James Kessler

James Kessler
  • participating member
  • 92 posts
  • Location:Westchester County, NY; USA

Posted 04 September 2005 - 07:15 AM

When dicing an onion, I have been taught that there are three steps. Apparantly people differ about the correct order of the first two steps, but everyone seems to agree on the last step. After halving and peelong, you cut "planes" into the onion first. Then you do the "horizontal" cuts, followed by lastly cutting vertically and releasing the diced onion. Some people like I said, reverse the order of the first two cuts, but it doesn't help me with my problem. It's still the same.

My problem is with the "planing" step. I have difficulty doing this safely. Once I cut my thumb in the process, and since then I've been more careful. However, I still think I could improve my technique. Could someone go into more detail about correct pressure, knife motion, grip on the onion, etc... while performing this manuver?

Thanks!
-James Kessler

#77 kelautz

kelautz
  • participating member
  • 48 posts
  • Location:SF Bay Area

Posted 08 September 2005 - 12:59 PM

Ooh, sorry about the thumb!

This can be avoided by holding the onion in place on your cutting board with a "flying hand." I think this pithy little description comes from Barbara Tropp. Just imagine you're a little kid flying your hand through the breeze out of the open window of a moving car. Heck, I havent seen "little kid" for decades, and I still fly my hand out the car window!

The part of your hand in contact with the onion is the palm side of your knuckles. All digits should be held above that contact point. Hold the onion down lightly, or you'll have trouble working your knife through the onion.

Use the full length of your knife (heel to tip) to make one slice/cut. Avoid sawing back and forth. It goes w/o saying that for best results, your knife should be extremely sharp.

#78 liv4fud

liv4fud
  • participating member
  • 159 posts
  • Location:Chicago

Posted 08 September 2005 - 02:50 PM

since the thread is still active, I know a lot of people back in India use recycled hack saw blades as knives. serrations are removed and the blade is sharpened

they are usually about 4 " long and the handle is bamboo tied with a metal wire.

one of the most efficient cutting tools that I have seen are those flimsy blade knives - needless to say one of the hardest knives to learn with. guarranteed cuts. but the people who have used them swear by them.

funny a set of tramontina that was gifted to them by me is a nice show piece. only pairing and utitlity knives are used (seldom). slicer / chef's knife is used to cut open a melon once in a blue moon....

#79 alexthecook

alexthecook
  • participating member
  • 88 posts

Posted 27 September 2006 - 11:00 AM

TIme to reactivate this great thread!

I was wondering if anyone could share their techniques for using a chinese chef knife (the one that looks like a cleaver)... how would you hold it? Do you chop straight down or do a pendulum movement? What else should we know about using this very cool knife?

Thanks!

Edited by alexthecook, 27 September 2006 - 11:02 AM.


#80 Chad

Chad
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 1,295 posts
  • Location:Wichita, KS

Posted 28 September 2006 - 09:24 AM

TIme to reactivate this great thread!

I was wondering if anyone could share their techniques for using a chinese chef knife (the one that looks like a cleaver)... how would you hold it? Do you chop straight down or do a pendulum movement? What else should we know about using this very cool knife?

Thanks!

View Post

I hope Zilla and others will jump in; Chinese cleavers are pretty great. To get you started, this is a section from Andy777's Cleaver How-To on knifeforums.com's In the Kitchen section. Andy is the resident cleaver nut/expert.

How should I hold a cleaver?

The proper way to hold a cleaver is the pinch-grip method. I use both a one-finger and a two finger pinch grip ( I call this the Chen Kenichi grip.) The one-finger method is easier to use on quicker and less articulate cutting. The two-finger method gives a lot more blade control and balance for articulate cutting.

What exactly is the push-cut method?

The push cut method is the most common technique used with a cleaver. You keep the blade horizontal to the board and move slightly forward as you allow the blade to fall downward. Here is one of my world famous drawings giving a good idea of the technique. This allows the edge to slice as it chops. It's a very simple technique with only one thing that you need to watch. Many people have way too much horizontal movement when they push-cut. From my experience the blade should only move about 1/4" forward for every 1" of vertical movement.


I have six or seven cleavers on hand at the moment. On the bargain end, the Dexter Russell Chinese chef's knife (the one endorsed by Martin Yan) is a steal at about $40. The Suien and Sugimoto cleavers are both excellent Chuka bocho -- Japanese made Chinese cleavers. The Suien at $128 is the entry level to high end Japanese made cleavers. The Sugimoto is bizarrely expensive but the top choice among professional chefs in Japan.

Cleaver technique takes a little getting used to, but once you master it -- a matter of half an hour or so -- you can see why Chinese chefs use their cleavers for absolutely everything.

Hope this helps.

Take care,
Chad

Edited by Chad, 28 September 2006 - 09:29 AM.

Chad Ward
An Edge in the Kitchen
William Morrow Cookbooks
www.chadwrites.com

#81 myriadin

myriadin
  • participating member
  • 7 posts
  • Location:Santa Cruz CA USA

Posted 23 May 2007 - 05:28 AM

When dicing an onion, I have been taught that there are three steps.[...]After halving and peeling, you cut "planes" into the onion first.  Then you do the "horizontal" cuts, followed by lastly cutting vertically and releasing the diced onion.[...]

View Post


I use a small variation which eliminates horizontal cuts altogether.

1. Peel & halve the onion as described in the course.
2. Make the long vertical cuts...but save the middle cut (through the highest point of the onion half) for last. Then make this last cut all the way through the root area, resulting in quarters.
3. Flip the quarters on their new flat sides, the ones just cut.
4. Make long vertical cuts again.
5. Finish with vertical cross-cuts.

This method might take a tenth of a secong longer than what's in the course, but there's comparatively little danger to fingers and (more importantly) little danger of irregular onion pieces. :wink:

edited for clarity

Edited by myriadin, 23 May 2007 - 04:15 PM.


#82 Porthos

Porthos
  • participating member
  • 1,166 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 27 August 2007 - 12:21 PM

Saturday night we were camping with friends and I volunteered to mix the drinks. For the gin-and-tonics we had fresh limes to slice.

I get teased in a friendly way because even though there are other knives available I bring my own. I have "graduated" to carrying them in a knife roll (using edge guards) and I bring along a knife block to boot. I welcome anyone who wants to use them to do so. Othere knives get put into the block also just to keep things tidy.

When I went to slice the limes I grabbed a cutting board and knife and proceeded to cut up a lime. I couldn't believe how hard a time I was having. It was more like using a table knife than a kitchen knife but I got the job done. Sunday morning when I went to clean up I found the reason for my frustration. I had grabbed someone else's knive that they don't keep sharp. Which brings me to my "pleasant surprize"...

I found the eGullet Society while doing a web search on learning to sharpen knives and found Chad Ward's excellent and thorough article. His patient and detailed explanation of what went into making a knife and what went into sharpening a knife gave me the confidence to try again (after a 30 year gap of trying) to learn to sharpen my knives. I even bought some old damaged knives off of ebay to work on. However, even though I thought I was doing ok I had no real comparison to judge by - just how my knives worked for me. The knife that was dull as a rock was from the same maker as the knives I was carrying (not very expensive by the way - the good knives stay home). This caused my to do a little bit of a happy dance - I could tell my knives had markedly sharper edges and I wasn't just me fooling myself.

The reason I am posting this is not to congratulate myself, though. I still have a loooonnngggg way to go in learning this skill. But instead I want to encourage anybody who has been sitting on the fence of whether to try to learn sharpening for themselves or to keep using a professional service to take the leap of faith, study Chad's article and learn this new skill. You can do it!

Edited by Porthos, 27 August 2007 - 12:23 PM.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Unrelenting Carnivore
"If every pork chop was perfect, we wouldn't have hot dogs." (source unknown)
Customer to clerk in a clothing store, "Do you have these in a size for people who actually eat?"


#83 Pallee

Pallee
  • participating member
  • 188 posts

Posted 27 August 2007 - 01:52 PM

And don't forget to rinse the lime juice off that knife! Left overnight, lime and lemon juice can put some pretty deep pits in even stainless steel.

#84 Rembrant Wood

Rembrant Wood
  • participating member
  • 19 posts

Posted 14 January 2008 - 11:47 PM

Ditto, Nick.  These are great.
Thanks a lot for all the work you have put into them.

View Post



First....you generally are not looking to cut the full length 6-9",cut it in half first. It's easier to deal with a cut only 3-4"

Then ... You set the tip into your carrot and cup the holding hand so the thumb and fingers steady the vegetable and the palm presses the spine. The other hand-on the handle,helps this "rocking" pressure and also keeps the blade centerd. You don't hurry this cut. Once halved-you have a flat side-can use a quicker style.

Another method-you start the blade on one end- hold the carrot on the other-keep the edge in contact with the carrot-rock-don't saw.....and as you get most of the way-you can shift your hold to the end already cut. Do it slow and deliberate-have a reason behind what you do-keep the Carrot (or whatever target) under control. "Fearful Fingers" can be there own worst enemy, just as a dull blade is often the most hazardous.

If all that fails...get a Forschner "Cut Glove". We have to use them at work. I find they make me feel a bit awkward-but then I also can get reckless and hasty and not get nicked. That's not all good as i may get into some bad habits. As I mentioned elsewhere...I cut veggies by the case,dice meats 20-40 lb at a time. That's enough practice that I don't give much thought to technique----it's habit.

A home cook who's not getting 6 hours "practice" a day has to be more DELIBERATE.
For example,Mushrooms,you slice a bit off a side to create a flat side so it wont roll. you hold with the fingertips curled back-so the flat of the blade may hit your knuckles but the cutting edge can not get your fingertips.

Where I work is a college dining hall. Beautiful coeds can be a powerful distraction. NEVER move the knife if you are for any reason not focused on the task.
My motto is to NEVER cut anyone unintentionally-----especially myself.

Edited by Rembrant Wood, 14 January 2008 - 11:51 PM.


#85 Rembrant Wood

Rembrant Wood
  • participating member
  • 19 posts

Posted 15 January 2008 - 12:00 AM

If you want to do a full length julienne on a carrott...you set the edge on the thick end-holding the thick end firmly while also holding the tip in position,then you smoothly bear down-halving the carrot. A Very good edge really helps as you don't need much pressure. If you do not-for whatever reason---have a really sharp edge....don't try cutting a 6-8' julienne carrot. Settle for 1/2 length.

#86 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,405 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 28 February 2009 - 11:19 AM

I'm bumping up this topic because this morning I received an email notice of the following Sur La Table class Master Knife Skills- Bob Kramer instructor.

I am envious of folks in the Portland, OR and Kirkland, WA areas who will be able to get there.

Edited by andiesenji, 28 February 2009 - 11:20 AM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#87 mgaretz

mgaretz
  • participating member
  • 789 posts

Posted 21 August 2011 - 11:00 AM

It looks like this is the best place to post this question:

I have "decent" knife skills, but one thing I haven't figured out how to stop from happening. When slicing round veggies, such as carrots, zuchinni, etc., invariably some of the cut pieces will roll or fall backwards into the chopping path, resulting in those pieces being cut further. This can also happen with say, celery, where the pieces build up on the blade as I am slicing and fall off into the knife path. (FYI my usual knife for these tasks is a Wusthoff Classic Santoku that has gratons - I never found the gratons actually did anything to prevent the veggies from sticking to the blade.)

Is there something I am doing wrong?