You Gotta Have Skills – Knife, that is!

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Every cook knows the importance of a good collection of kitchen knives. There are seemingly blades, shapes and handles for just about every purpose. From paring to butchering and from boning to chopping, each home cook will have an arsenal of knives at his disposal. Unfortunately, however, not all home cooks know how to use their knives properly. Below are the three most important knife skills to have.

1. The Rock Chop

Perhaps the simplest skill of the three, the rock chop is very versatile and extremely useful. Used for mincing, chopping and dicing, the rock chop requires a knife with a curved blade. For the purpose of example, we will consider chopping an onion into small pieces. To begin, place the onion on your chopping block. Slice it into rings; they don’t have to be thin. Next, lay the onion slices on their sides on the chopping block, in whatever configuration is most comfortable for you. If you’re right handed, hold the handle of the knife in your right hand, and use your left palm or fingertips, flat with fingers straight out and together, to control the knife. Your left palm or fingertips will rest gently on the dull edge of the blade. Using a see-saw motion, rock the knife blade back and forth, while rotating the entire knife in a circular motion. Using this technique, you can cut your onion into diced pieces or even tiny slivers. Onions, apples and other soft foods are excellent foods with which to practice the rock chop, but the skill can be used for herbs, fruits, vegetables or even garlic.

2. Chopping

You’ve probably seen great chefs on television who seem to cut at breakneck speeds. How do they cut an entire carrot in three seconds without also cutting their fingers? With a little bit of practice, you can learn this skill as well. Choose a knife that’s comfortable for you. This could be a chef’s knife, or you may feel more in control of a knife with a thinner blade. For practice, start with a long vegetable such as a carrot or celery. Hold the knife in your dominant hand, and the vegetable in the other. Firmly grasp the knife blade, keeping your index finger either on the flat of the blade or on the dull edge. Hold your vegetable firmly with your fingers curled in toward your palm, but give your wrist enough flexibility to be able to maneuver the vegetable. Now, raise your knife, with the point of the knife turned slightly upward. Start your cutting motion midair, bringing your knife down while slightly rocking the blade. Continue this chopping motion while using your other hand to slowly guide the vegetable under the knife blade. Your knife should be raised and lowered in the same place with each chop, and only the vegetable is moving. Practice the motions slowly at first, and then gradually increase your speed. You’ll be chopping like the great chefs in no time!

3. The Slice

Similar to the chop, this particular skill may be one in which you’d like to see your speed improve. Like the chop, you will hold the knife in your dominant hand and the meat or vegetable in your other hand. However, the motion you will use when cutting is slightly different. Instead of beginning with your knife pointed upward, the tip of the blade should point toward your chopping block. Begin pulling your knife toward your body until you slice your vegetable. The blade should hit the chopping block before making contact with your vegetable. As with chopping, your left hand should guide the vegetable toward the blade at an even pace, ensuring uniformly sized slices. Remember to keep your fingers curled under as you guide the vegetable toward the knife.

With a little bit of practice, you can master these three knife skills which are essential for any cook. Remember to keep safety a priority, and to keep your knife blades sharp. Dull blades are the leading cause of kitchen accidents. Keep practicing your knife skills, and you’ll be cutting and chopping like a top chef in no time at all.

7 Essential Kitchen Utensils

 

Whether you’re stocking your first kitchen or looking to expand your current collection of utensils, you are likely missing a few items which are essential for every home cook. You’ve likely remembered to purchase ladles, spatulas and wooden spoons, but there are a few more items which will allow you to cook your meals with very little frustration. Here are the seven most essential kitchen utensils for every cook.

1. A Chef Knife

Totally versatile and able to handle almost any cutting task, a chef knife is perhaps the most essential tool you can have in your kitchen. Chef knives ccan be used not only for preparation of vegetables and slicing of fruit, but can also be used to cube or cut meat, and disjoint bones. Many supermarkets will sell poorly cut meats at a discounted price – for example, chicken wings sold whole, with wing tips – and a chef knife can handle cutting the ligaments between the bones. This will save you a lot of money on your grocery bill.

2. Scissors

It’s useful for every chef to have scissors in the kitchen, but it’s even more useful to have three color coded pairs. One pair is for food preparation; for example removing the skin from chicken breasts or thighs. Another pair is for general cutting, such as parchment paper or cheesecloth. And a third is for anything else you might find it suited for. Tasks such as opening boxes and prying objects open can dull or damage your scissor blades, rendering them useless for even paper cutting. Having three pairs of scissors is a very convenient way to manage all your kitchen tasks.

3. A Citrus Zester

A citrus zester is a small tool that looks like a miniature rasp. It’s marketed for scraping the outer layer of peel off oranges, lemon and limes, but can also be used for other food items. Ginger, for example, is difficult to cut in small enough pieces suitable for cooking with just a paring or other knife. A zester will produce tiny shreds of ginger or other spices perfect for cooking. A microplane may also prove useful for any of these tasks.

4. A Colander

Other than a chef knife, the colander is the most commonly utilized item in your kitchen. Generally used for draining pasta, it also serves as a wash basin for fruits and vegetables, a place to rinse and cool potatoes for potato salad, and a basin in which to drain canned beans and vegetables. The colander is so well loved that an Austrian man sanctioned his own religion, Pastafarianism, and won the legal right to wear a colander on his head for religious reasons.

5. An Electric Grinder

Have you ever been to the store around the holidays to realize that ground cloves or nutmeg were out of stock? When you keep whole cloves, vanilla bean, nutmeg or other spices in your cabinet, you’ll eventually need a way to grind them down for cooking. A small coffee grinder is perfect for this task. It’s recommended that you keep a separate grinder for your coffee beans. Both coffee and spices contain many oils which may be difficult to clean from your grinder. These oils may produce a smell or taste that is undesirable when mixed with your drinking coffee or your cooking spices.

6. A Potato Masher

Potato mashers are wonderful little tools to have in your kitchen. Even if you don’t care for mashed potatoes, they can offer many other uses. When baking, use your potato masher to crumble your flour and butter for crust. You can use your potato masher to make inexpensive, homemade baby food. Mashers are also effective when used to crumble¬† feta or other similar cheeses. And finally, potato mashers can be used to press bread when making French Toast.

7. A Blade Sharpener

There is nothing more frustrating than attempting to slice through a juicy red tomato, only to have it turn to mush before your eyes. When this happens, it’s time to sharpen your knife blades. Sharpeners come in several styles, including stones, long sticks and more expensive knife sharpening kits. While some of these options are pricier than others, all are still preferable to taking your knives to be professionally sharpened. Usually just a few quick swipes of your knife blade down the sharpening stone or stick will produce a sharp, like-new cutting edge.

As you expand your kitchen, you’ll likely find a few more utensils that you feel you can’t live without. This list will allow you to begin building your collection of utensils, and will serve as a great starting point for any new or experienced cook.

 

15 Things You Can Use a Knife for in the Kitchen

 

Most home chefs have a full arsenal of kitchen knives at their disposal. Knives can range from paring to boning and from chefs knives to tomato knives. Each particular knife has a designated purpose, but there are many things you can do with a kitchen knife other than cutting and slicing. Here are 15 ways that yuo can use a knife in the kitchen.

1. Fileting

Every good meal is made from fresh meat. The freshest meat will come from fish or meat markets. But not many diners wish to see an entire fish, head and entrails, on their plate. Fileting a fish is quite simple! Lay a rinsed, dried fish on a cutting board, with the belly toward you. Remove the head of the fish, and discard or save for fish stock. Remove and discard the tail. Now, use your knife to separate the fish from the bone, running it along the length of the fish’s ribcage on both the top and belly of the fish. Once your fish is in two pieces, it’s simple to remove the bones and the internal organs of the fish, leaving you with the freshest meat possible.

2. Peeling an orange

Most people use their fingernails to peel an orange. But a small paring knife will do so with minimal mess. Simple hold the orange in your left hand, and the knife¬† in your right, with the blade facing away from you. Cut into the peel of the orange, and then use your knife to cut a “curlicue” shape around the outside of the orange, removing the peel as you go.

3. Pitting an avocado

To pit an avocado, use a chefs knife or other wide blade. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, and separate the two halves. Using your knife, strike the pit of the avocado firmly with the blade and twist slightly. A ripe avocado’s pit will come right out.

4. Remove greens from strawberries

Holding a strawberry in one hand and a paring knife in the other, insert the knife tip into a the strawberry’s top right near the green leafy part. Angle your knife slightly toward the center of the strawberry, and cut in a circular pattern around the greens. A triangle shaped section of strawberry will be removed along with the greens. If you choose to slice the strawberry, your slices will be heart shaped in appearance.

5. Coring an apple

Using a long blade with minimal curve, insert a knife into your apple right beside the stem. Carefully push the knife all the way through the apple until the tip appears on the bottom. Remove your knife, and repeat the process in a circle pattern around the entire stem. When your circle is complete, simply push the core out of the apple using your finger.

6. Cutting chicken wings

Everyone loves buffalo wings, but precut wing pieces are more expensive. You can cut your own chicken wings by using a chef or butcher knife. Stretch the wing from tip to tip. Using your finger, find the joint between each of the bones. Place the blade of your knife directly between the two bones, and using the heel of your hand, slice through the wing. Discard the tips.

7. Mincing vegetables and herbs

Using a large, curved blade knife such as a chef knife, slice your vegetable into the desired thickness. Then, place the blade of the knife near your vegetable. Using the palm of your hand to support and steady your knife into position, rock the curve of the knife back and forth as you rotate the position of the knife. This will cut the vegetable into small pieces, suitable even for minced garlic or onion.

8. Peeling garlic

Knives are, of course, useful for slicing and mincing garlic, but for an easy way to peel a clove of garlic, follow these steps. Simply place the clove of garlic on your cutting surface. Using the flat, wide edge of a chef or butcher knife, use your hand to firmly press the knife down onto the garlic. The meat of the garlic will break into two or three pieces, and the peel will separate itself from the meat, causing it to be easily peeled.

9. Preparing salad greens

The most efficient way to prepare a head of lettuce for use in a salad is not to tear it by hand, but to slice it. Bang the core of the lettuce against a hard surface to remove the hard, inedible portion of the vegetable. Remove the outer layer of lettuce, as it has a tendency to become brown. Using a ceramic knife, which is less likely to brown or wilt your lettuce than a metal blade, slice through the head of lettuce until your pieces are the desired thickness.

10. Peeling an egg

While a knife is only used for the initial step in peeling a hard boiled egg, it makes the job easier. Use the dull edge of a chef knife to gently but firmly crack the egg. Aim for the widest part of the egg, as this is where a pocket of air accumulates. Under cold running water, finish peeling the egg. Discard the egg shells or use as compost.

11. Sectioning a grapefruit

Using a serrated knife, cut a grapefruit in half. Holding one half of the grapefruit steady on a cutting surface, insert the tip of the serrated blade into the grapefruit between the pith and the fruit. Rotating the grapefruit, and using an up and down motion with your knife, cut around the grapefruit until you’ve separated the entire fruit from the peel.

12. Frosting cakes and pastries

In the event of the absence of a spatula or other spreading tool, a butter knife or other dull, flat blade may be used to decorate cakes, cupcakes or other frosted baked goods.

13. Making pie crust

Combine pie crust ingredients in a large bowl. Using two butter knives with blades pointed toward each other, “cut” into the flour and butter mixture. This is done by drawing the two knives together until they cross in the center of your bowl.

14. Opening a bottle of wine

While a corkscrew is optimal, we’ve all been in a position where a sealed bottle of wine awaits but no tools are present to open it. A butter knife may be used to pry the cork from a bottle of wine. Use extreme caution while doing so, as the knife is prone to slip if you’re not mindful.

15. Opening a beer bottle

On the subject of alcohol, beer bottles may also be opened using a butter knife. Using the dull edge of the knife blade, pry a small section of the bottle cap upward and away from the bottle. Using a towel or other object, protect you hands while you remove the bottle cap from the beer bottle.

Handy not just for cutting vegetables and meats, kitchen knives can serve a number of purposes. Always exercise caution when using knives, especially when using them for purposes which are not their intended use. Finally, never use a sharp knife to pry objects, as the blade might chip or break off and cause serious injury to you or others.

7 Useful Kitchen Tools that are Sharp

From graters to shredders and ladles to sporks, there are many useful tools in your kitchen. We’ve all used a butter knife as a screwdriver at least once, and entire websites are devoted to cooking supper in your coffee pot. Here we will review the seven most useful, and sharp, kitchen tools

1. The Corkscrew

The corkscrew is a handy little device to have around. While it’s particularly helpful on a Friday night after a long week at work, the corkscrew can be used as an icepick, a cereal bag opener, a letter opener, and can help you unclog drains or garbage disposals. It’s a great weapon to have in self defense should an intruder enter your kitchen unannounced. Or, if you’re like the majority of Americans, you have a drawer full of tangled jewelry; the corkscrew makes a perfect necklace detangler.

2. The Butter Knife

While 97.4% of Americans have already tried the butter knife to remove a switchplate from the wall, it serves a few other purposes. Butter knives can be used to smooth caulk on your bathroom shower wall, pry a window open which had previously been painted shut, or to scrape the grime out from between the baseboard and the tile in your children’s bathroom. A butter knife is also incredibly effective for spreading butter.

3. Scissors

What’s not to love about scissors? They cut paper. They cut string. They cut cloth. They can also pop a balloon when your child has volleyed it into your workspace one too many times. Scissors are great for opening boxes and even for trimming herbs from your garden. A very versatile tool, every household’s kitchen should be stocked with at least one pair of scissors.

4. The Seafood Pick

Most Americans don’t eat crab or lobster at home often enough to warrant purchasing a seafood pick. They are, however, useful little objects which can be used for a variety of projects. Everything you can do with a corkscrew, you can do with a seafood pick with the exception of self defense.Seafood picks are smaller and more easily manipulated, and therefore are excellent aids in cleaning the “gunk” out of your faucet heads. They’re also small enough to clean the cracks between your keyboard. (Please ensure that your PC or laptop is powered off before attempting this.) A seafood pick will double as a stick for your cocktail garnishes in a pinch.

5. The Toothpick

If you’ve ever been seven years old, you know how advantageous it can be to keep a well stocked supply of toothpicks. Not only are they effective in dental hygiene, but can also serve other purposes. A toothpick is the structural integrity of a marshmallow building. It is excellent at mixing tempera paint, and colored party toothpicks make a fabulous collage when glued to construction paper. As fun as toothpicks may be, they also have adult purposes. Everyone knows that the best way to hold together the perfect club sandwich is with a toothpick. They can clean the lint from the corners of your dryer’s lint trap. And a toothpick is helpful when gardening. Place a toothpick in each plot where you’ve planted seeds; this will be helpful in thinning your plants later in the season.

6. The Chef’s Knife

Not to be confused with a butcher knife, the chef knife is a long knife with a wide blade, generally used for, well, everything. Most home cooks use their chef knife at least once during each meal preparation to dice onions, cut meat, or chop herbs. But the chef knife can be used as a spatula if you need an extra. It can also be used to scrape ingredients into a hot pan, so as not to get burned by using your hands. Finally, the chef knife is superb for crushing garlic when used by pressing your palm flat against the wide part of the blade.

7. The Can Opener

The can opener, of course, is the most effective tool for opening cans. Truthfully, there may be only one other use for the can opener. However, this trick might be the most stress and time saving of all, and the can opener may win the title of Most Useful Kitchen Tool. The can opener can be used to open clam shell packages. Those hard plastic cases that every electronics device is packaged in, which are impossible to open without a chainsaw can be opened quite simply using a basic can opener. Bring a can opener to the next holiday gathering, and you’re sure to be the life of the party.

 

There are many more kitchen tools which are both sharp and useful. Use your imagination (and your common sense) and you can find many ways to help your kitchen tools serve more than one purpose.