(pic-teaching basic knife skills in a cooking class in Knoxville)
Knife Selection and Cutting Techniques
In today’s world, there are so many choices to consider when purchasing a knife; I am going to attempt to simplify the process some, and I cannot stress the importance of choosing the right knife for the right job, but here are some pointers when trying to decipher what is what...
There are generally two main types of knives, although with the aid of alloys in today’s market there are a thousand variations of each. The two main types of knives are carbon steel and stainless steel. The carbon steel is lighter, easier to sharpen and in some cases can rust if not properly cared for. The stainless steel knives are a denser knife that is not as easy to sharpen. Personally and professionally I use both types, I have some that I seldom use and others that I use all of the time.
If you are going to purchase a set of knives, the most commonly used blades are the stainless steel and here is a list of knives that are important if you are going to purchase a set.
Paring Knife- excellent for a variety of purposes from peeling potatoes to doing intricate fruit and vegetable garnishes.
Chef’s Knife- a large broad bladed knife that simplifies the rocking motion of slicing, dicing, and general cutting techniques.
Boning Knife- slightly larger than a paring knife with a very flexible blade that enables the operator to weave in and out of bones with the flexibility of the blade.
Slicer- A long, thin bladed knife that makes the slicing and carving of meats and the peeling of large fruits easier.
Offset knife (also called the Z knife) -The offset knife is called the Z knife because it is shaped like a Z with a high end handle that slopes down to the thin serrated blade. This is by far my favorite knife in my professional kitchen, it allows me the mobility to rock my knife back and forth, has a serrated edge so that it is efficient in slicing and cutting as well, and is perhaps one of the most versatile knives in the kitchen. The downfall to this is that because it is serrated it can tear a product instead of cutting it, like all the other knives, each one has a purpose and it is up to you to decide which knife is appropriate for which task.
Meat Cleaver- A heavy, thick bladed knife that is used frequently in the Eastern/Asian styles of food preparation, they are good for everything from slicing and dicing vegetables to cutting through bones.
Although there are a huge variety of knives to choose from, personally I feel that these are the most important. One point I would like to make though is that the more expensive a knife is does not necessarily reflect on its quality. Each knife is different. I have knives that are worth several hundred dollars, but I am just as happy with the $25.00 knife I bought at “Cook’s Corner”. Find one that suits you, feels good in your hands and most importantly, will suit your needs. I also recommend buying a sharpening stone and sharpening steel so that you can continue to care for your new purchase.