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Q&A -- Basic Knife Skills

87 posts in this topic

... However: her cautionary tale serves to underline what I said about never taking your eyes off your knife blade while it is in motion.  To do so is to practically guarantee an injury...

Yes, my point exactly. Try not to let yourself get distracted. Your flesh is much softer than most of the other things you chop!

Unless you happen to be chopping up a bunch of fingers, of course. :smile:


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Unless you happen to be chopping up a bunch of fingers, of course.  :smile:

You'll have to find yourself a different volunteer to be the instructor in that segment, oh great coordinator.

Wondering idly how easy it would be to french finger-bones,

zilla


Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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I've seen people cut planks using a mandoline, which can also create less waste and goes faster than using a knife. If you do this I recommend you carefully stack your planks in order as they come off the mandoline so they'll be easier to line up for julienning.

I've cut myself with dull knives and with sharp knives. Cuts with sharp knives are deeper but heal much more quickly.

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I've cut myself with dull knives and with sharp knives. Cuts with sharp knives are deeper but heal much more quickly.

One of my instructors tells a story about a knife injury on Valentine's day while he was working at the only high-end restaurant in a small Indiana town.

Early in the day, during prep, he dropped his chef's knife and didn't get his foot out of the way in time. The knife went through his clog, his foot, and stuck into the floor.

He was taken to the emergency room, stitched up, medicated, and sent back to work for the dinner shift - but told to stay home the day after that. After all, all the doctors in that small county hospital had Valentine's day reservations for that evening :rolleyes:


Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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However: her cautionary tale serves to underline what I said about never taking your eyes off your knife blade while it is in motion.  To do so is to practically guarantee an injury.

Another cautionary note. Don't do anything else with a knife in your hand. Put it down, do whatever you need to do, then pick it up again. Answering the phone with a chef's knife in your hand is a very bad idea :shock:.

Another excellent point Zilla made in the safety section is to never let your knife edge or tip hang off the end of your cutting board. Just last week I was mincing some garlic. I put the knife down to sweep away some of the trimmings and paper when I felt this all-to-familiar burning sensation. The side of my pinky had swiped across the edge as I was sweeping up the garlic. The edge of the knife was parallel -- and just over -- the edge of the board. Nasty. Blood everywhere. It looked like that old Saturday Night Live Julia Child skit where she cuts her finger off. "Don't forget to save the chicken livers!"

Chad


Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Yikes! I dropped a small scalpel-like knife years ago and it ended up sticking straight out of the big toe knuckle on my left foot (I was barefoot at the time). Still have a funny indented scar there.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Here's another thought. It's a good idea to have a basic first-aid kit in the kitchen (not all the way across the house in the bathroom). A basic kitchen first-aid kit should include antiseptic wipes, anti-bacterial ointment, various sizes of bandages, and finger cots - so you can get back to work right away (unless you need stitches). I like to try and keep a supply of blue band-aid-type adhesive bandages in case one falls off - they're easier to spot.


Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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oh, and never allow anything like a plastic bag or a towel to be accidentally left on top of a sharp knife.

aïe!


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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This is great, zilla, you've done a very nice job. Since I'm the half in the house that does most of the prep work, I spend a fair amount of time chopping and slicing the hours away. Your lesson has made some points very clear to me that I hadn't picked up on before, although I am still fighting the urge to 'point' my index finger along the blade when I pick up the knife.

Kudos also to Dave Farris and his demo video. I'm trying this when I get home tonight.

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Great course, Marsha!

I just attended a "knife skills" class last weekend and this reinforced everything they mentioned in the class. While different knife grips were shown in the class, the grip you showed in your course is the one I went with...felt much more natural. I am still trying to get used to the "claw" you have to make with your other hand. As you suggested, perhaps practicing on a sack of potatoes will make it feel more natural (looks like mashed potatoes this weekend...anyone have a recipe for garlic-roasted mashed potatoes?).

We weren't shown the wrist-fulcrum method of slicing, though. I am wondering if animated GIF's can be made of the two different methods for better illustration. GIF's can be low in file-size and are easier to post than video clips.

Thanks again!

Edited to add: The knife class instructor I had also mentioned that they do make knives specifically created for left-handed people. Perhaps Chad or another knife afficianado on the board will have more info...


Edited by Toliver (log)

“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”

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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:

i00007.jpg

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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:

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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!

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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

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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.

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

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 (log)

“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”

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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

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What is the best procedure for dealing with ginger?


-James Kessler

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What is the best procedure for dealing with ginger?

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.

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Yup, spoons are the best way to deal with ginger. :-D


WhizWit.net -- My blog on Food, Life, and Politics

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