Sharpening Skills

Cooking 101

September 28, 2005|By LIZ ATWOOD | LIZ ATWOOD,SUN REPORTER

ONE OF THE FIRST LESSONS ANY BEGINNING cook needs to learn is how to use a knife.

Here are the basic knives one should have in the kitchen:

The chef's knife. It's usually 10 inches to 12 inches long and is used for chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing.

The serrated knife, generally with an 8- to 10-inch blade, comes in handy for cutting bread.

The paring knife, with a blade 2 inches to 4 inches long, is used for delicate work, such as peeling apples, coring tomatoes and removing stems from strawberries.

Chef Greg Wentz, a cooking instructor at Baltimore International College, says the key to using a knife is to make sure it's sharp. Most chefs keep a honing steel at hand and use it frequently -- every half-hour if cutting continuously.

When a knife needs honing will depend on how much and what is being cut. "It's kind of a feel thing," Wentz says.

What to look for when buying a knife:

Hold the knife. It should feel substantial and yet comfortable. Check to see if it is balanced -- the handle and blade should weigh about the same.

Look for high-carbon, stainless-steel knives with riveted wooden handles that won't rust.

The blade should be tapered from the tip to the base of the handle.

liz.atwood@baltsun.com

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

SHARPENING / / To hone a knife, begin by placing the knife across the sharpening steel, tilted at about a 25- to 30-degree angle. Draw the knife toward you in a round, swooping motion from heel to tip.

Sharpen six to 10 strokes on each side of the steel, taking care to stop at the guard to avoid cutting the hand.

After sharpening down the side closest to you, proceed up the other side of the sharpening steel.

HANDLING / / Chef Greg Wentz shows the proper way to grip the knife. It rests in the palm of the hand and is gripped by the thumb and forefinger.

THE TECHNIQUE

CHIFFONADE

Roll herbs or salad leaves in a tight bundle.

Cut bundles into thin strips. Note that the tips of the fingers holding the herbs are positioned behind the knuckles for safety.

SMALL DICE

Peel onion and cut in half from stem end to root end. Keeping root end intact, lay on flat side, cut in strips almost to root.

Turn the onion one-quarter turn and cut across the onion, creating 1/4-inch cubes.

JULIENNE

Begin with a peeled carrot 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches long. Slice the bottom to create a flat base, which will keep the carrot stable in subsequent cuts.

Begin cutting slices 1/8 inch thick. Take care to keep fingertips and thumbs behind the knuckles.

Once you are finished slicing the carrot, cut the pieces into strips about 1/8 inch wide.

BRUNOISE

For brunoise, cut the julienne strips into 1/8-inch cubes.

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