Be Sharp About
Your Choice of Knives
By Lindsey Anne Baker
In a well-stocked kitchen, your knife collection should be, well, not much of a collection.
“Most home cooks think they need a block with 15 knives,” says Dave Utterback, head chef at Blue Sushi Sake Grill in the Old Market. But the average home cook, he says, just needs one knife. “Take one-third of that knife block budget and buy one good chef's knife.”
If you cook a lot, add a paring knife for intricate tasks such as peeling fruits and vegetables, as well as a bread knife, which will tackle a crusty loaf better than a chef's knife.
USING YOUR KNIFE
- Sharpen your knife once or twice a year. Don't use an electric knife sharpener – it can remove too much of the blade. Use a whetstone if you're sharpening it at home, or consider taking your knife to a professional sharpener.
- Hone your knife before each use. It won't sharpen the knife, but it will bring back a little of what you lose in everyday use. Pick a smooth sharpening steel – the smoother the better.
- Store knives in individual covers for edge protection. Never toss an uncovered knife in a drawer or wood block, which is a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Refrain from prying anything open with a knife. “Don't cut frozen foods with a knife, either,” Utterback warns.
- Practice. “Find something that feels comfortable, and then just cook more,” he says. “Don't buy anything precut. Try boning a chicken. Just go out and cook.”
- To correctly hold a knife, use a pinch grip. “Take the knife where the blade meets the handle and, as if you are going to pinch someone's cheek, pinch the blade," Utterback says. "Put your thumb on one side and curl your fingers on the other. You'll have more control over the tip.”
•As you're browsing, be aware that Western chefs' knives have rounded blades to accommodate the rocking motion that American chefs use when chopping.
Japanese knives have flatter blades for a more vertical cutting technique. Different lengths are available for varying comfort levels, but six to seven inches is the average.
•Select a stainless steel knife with a thin tip (good for getting into small spaces) and some heft at the base of the blade where it is meant to be held.
LEARN HOW to slice and dice ingredients for salsa in Metropolitan Community College's "Everyday Extraordinaire" series. The June 12 session will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at MCC's Institute for the Culinary Arts. Class fee: $50. Registration opens April 23; 402-457-5231 or mccneb.edu.
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