When it comes to preparing food, one of the most important things you need to have in your kitchen is well-maintained knives. Looking after your blades will not only ensure they stay nice and sharp, it will also make them safer to use.
Sharp knives make it easier to cut food so there’s less chance of injuring yourself, while looking after them will also mean you can easily tell if the handles are broken or getting weak, which can make your knives slip.But it isn’t just the knives themselves that make it a breeze to chop, slice and dice food; you also need to know how to use them.
We’ve been helping you to improve your techniques in the kitchen with our Tefalphabet posts and now we’re going to help you sharpen up your knife skills. Here’s what you need to know to wield those blades like a master while also staying safe:
Keep your blades sharp
To start with, you want to be sharpening your knives regularly in order to get the best results – think every two to four uses for stainless steel knives. If your knife is already blunt, it’s too late to do much, so never let it get to that point. Luckily, there are a few options when it comes to sharpening your knives, neither of which is very expensive or difficult.
You can use a honing rod to align the blade of your knife, which creates a centre edge for better cutting. This doesn’t technically sharpen the blade, it just seems sharper because it works better.
Use it by putting the end of the rod against a flat surface and placing the blade of your knife against it, starting close to the handle. Keep the blade at a 20 degree angle as you move it down the rod, moving the knife back towards you as it goes down the rod. Do this on both sides a few times to improve your blade.
A really easy way to keep your knives sharp is to get a countertop sharpener, which uses a suction pad to stay in place. Simply run your blade through this a couple of times when it’s needed and it will stay nice and sharp.
Once you have a sharp knife, you can start chopping things in your kitchen – ideally NOT your fingers! A good thing to start with is herbs, which need to be chopped finely when you’re using fresh varieties in order to better release the flavour.
You want to cut herbs carefully so you don’t just crush and tear them, so using a rocking technique is your best bet. Start off by roughly chopping your herbs with a large kitchen knife – going big with your knife makes it much easier.
Gather the herbs into a small pile and place your knife so the pile is towards the middle of the blade and the tip is touching your chopping board. Hold the tip in place lightly with your fingers before simply rocking the knife up and down as you move it through the pile. Gather up the ingredients again a couple of times as you chop to get even finer pieces.
As you get used to this, you’ll find you can do it faster while still being safe, helping you to look like a proper chef in no time!
When we slice most foods, we do so from front to back. However, some items benefit from being back sliced, as this can create finer slices and will minimise how much more delicate food items get crushed. Just remember to be extra careful of your fingers when using this techniques as it isn’t always as easy to see where they are in relation to your blade.
All you need to do to get super-fine slices is to set your knife up so the tip of the blade is against your cutting board and the food you’re cutting is toward the back of the blade. Use your free hand to hold your food in place, lightly resting the flat of the knife against your knuckles as a guide.
Don’t chop downward, instead, hold the knife at a nice low angle and just move it backwards towards you, using the entire blade to cut. This will help it to slice really easily through your food and result in fine pieces. Just don’t try and go to fast with this technique at first, we don’t want any trips to A&E!
When it comes to cutting up bigger ingredients, you’ve just got to give them the chop. This is a great way to create precise pieces of meat or vegetables fairly easily and quickly. Some people get on really well with chopping while others prefer slicing, so it’s all about finding the right style for you.
If you’re trying to cut up meat into chunks or get through a pile of potatoes for the family dinner, this is a good technique to have up your sleeve. Start by creating a flat surface for your food, which will mean cutting circular veggies or fruits in half so they can rest without moving.
Keep the thing you’re cutting in place with your free hand and carefully rest the flat of your knife against your knuckles to guide it without cutting them. Simply press the knife straight down without moving from front to back or vice versa. Then just move it up again to line up the next cut and keep going until you’re done. Easy!
Now you know how best to care for and use your knives, why not try whipping up some of the great recipes from L’atelier des Chefs at home?
If you fancy taking your chopping technique to the next level, why not book yourself onto a knife skills class at L’atelier des Chefs? Tefal fans get 10% off by using the code SLICE10 before 31st December 2016.