Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Tip: Knife 101

As a culinarian, I get many questions regarding knives.  Here are the basics: what most people need, different kinds of knives, sharpening knives, and caring for knives.

{Wustof set of chef and paring knives I received as a gift; they are the knives that I use the most}

Knife Needs

There are sooooo many types of knives with sooooo many different styles, that it is mind-boggling; even for me!  However, unless you are doing some really fancy stuff, two good quality knives is really all you need: a chef knife and a paring knife.

{This is the large, clasic chef knife--about 12 inches!}

{This chef knife is about 8 inches long and more manageable especially since the blade is extremely thin!}

{A paring knife is about 3-4 inches in length.  This is used for small, detailed work.  I personally don't use it much in my kitchen, but it is good for cutting the tops of peppers and such.  Any time you want more control and detailed work.}

Knives are really all about preference; handles and styles are different.  I prefer the 8 inch chef knife because it fits better in my hand than the large chef knife, and I feel like I can control it better.  Not to say that when I have a melon or pineapple to cut up, I use the 8 inch---nope I use the big chef knife because it can handle those items better.  If anything invest in a good chef knife that feels good to you and a paring knife.

Some additional knives:

{Bread knife--it is serrated and extremely long!}

{Boning knife--used to butcher meat.  I have this because Ben goes hunting, and I have to break down the meat.  The blade is very thin and flexible so it can be easily manuevered.  This is the only knife that will not have a full tang (see below) and will be made with a plastic handle with texture so it doesn't slip from your hand}

Knife 101:  Knife Anatomy and Handling:

Everyone knows the blade of a knife.  However, the tang is what makes a knife!  What is the tang?  Glad you asked!

{The tang--the knife blade is one piece with two pieces on either side to make a handle}

A great quality knife will have a full tang meaning that the blade is one long piece going through the handle.

{NEVER hold a knife (ANY knife) like this!!!  This hold is very unstable; anything can push my wrist to either side; plus you have no control when you hold a knife like this}

{To properly grip a knife, move your hand all the way to where the blade meets the handle; strandle your index and thumb over the blade}

{This is the proper way to hold a knife when cutting and using it}

Knife Maintenance and Sharpening:

So how many of you have something similar to the picture below in your kitchen?

{Knife Steel}

Oh you do?  Great!  This is a honing steel; it is NOT a sharpener!!!  Let me repeat: A STEEL IS NOT A SHARPENER!!!  Many people make this mistake.  A steel, when done correctly, straightens a blade which makes the blade wear evenly.  Believe it or not, knife blades do bend/curl at the sharp edge.  Straightening the blade does make it cut better, but does not sharpen the blade.

{Not the angle needed to straighten the blade--just a pretty picture to show off the slimness of the blade of my Wustof chef knife}

How do you straighten the blade? Carefully run the knife from blade end to blade end at a 23 degree angle.  Watch this video on how to straighten the blade.  I do this EVERY time before using my chef knife.

To sharpen my knife when it gets dull, I prefer an electric sharpener.  I had to use stones in school, but I wasn't good at it; stones take patience and time.  I invested in a knife sharpener (and sharpened my knives at home rather than school), and I haven't look back!

I use Chef's Choice Asian Knife Sharpener; Asian knives are known for being super thin and sharp!!!

{Sorry for the stock picture--mine is currently residing at my mom's house because I needed to sharpen her knives but haven't had a chance yet.}

Knife Storage and Care:

Once you have your knives, and they are sharpened, how do you store them?  Storing knives can be done in many ways!

{In a knife block}

{With knife blade covers and put into a drawer}

{Or a drawer holder}

{Or a hilarious knife block like I got for my birthday from my brother!}

I have always wanted a magnetic knife holder, but with three curious (infuriating) cats, that would not be a good idea!

Knives should always be hand-washed and air dried to keep them sharper longer.  Plus the heat from a dishwasher could shorten the life of your knife by wharping the handle.

{NEVER put a knife in the dishwasher!!!}

As I said at the beginning of this post, there are many different styles and kinds of knives.  I do have one note about ceramic knives--they will keep a sharp edge for a long time; however, once they are dull you cannot sharpen them.  And please--only use kitchen knives for their purpose!!!  Don't open boxes and bags with your kitchen knives--get a box cutter or scissors!

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