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.
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.