Now that the holiday gorging has begun, I have one question: who has weight loss on top of their New Year’s resolution list
As important as going to the gym is (of which I highly recommend HIIT training, look it up), true abs are made in the kitchen. To help you venture (back) into this room without setting anything on fire, I’m starting to focus more on the #FoodTips part of my blog to help you all in the kitchen.
The Piquey Eater has turned into a hub spot for people to find information about different foods and there is so much left for me to cover. My goal is make food more approachable, and open the world of culinary discoveries all on the website. If just one person starts expanding their culinary palette and tries something new in the kitchen or out in a restaurant, I have accomplished my goal.
To kick off this back-to-the-kitchen initiative, I’m starting off with a 5-part series on a tool that you can find in practically every kitchen, the kitchen knife. Although this tool is so common in the kitchen, it is rarely understood fully. Hopefully this article will shed some light on this mysterious tool to help you learn what makes a great knife and how to maintain one.
For most people, as long as the knife can cut, it’s good enough. If you’ve ever gone shopping for knives, you’ll notice that there are some priced around $10 each and some going for a whopping $300. Sadly, most people don’t know the qualities of a great kitchen knife and worse yet, many people don’t know how to properly care for and use their knives. This lack of knowledge results in people using this tool poorly and/or dangerously.
The good news is all of the knowledge and skills of knife handling are not far away, nor are they expensive to acquire.
Obviously, you’ll need a set of knives to begin your training. Most people would set out to buy one of those knife sets for $30-$100 with all the knives included.
In general, it is best to avoid these sets as most home cooks only need 2 knives to start with, and at most, 4 knives to accomplish 99% of your daily tasks in the kitchen. Even for most professional chefs, 5-6 knives serves to cover 99% of their needs. When buying knives, the most important thing to remember is function over beauty, for if the knife can’t function adequately, it can become dangerous. If selected properly, a home knife set can easily last a lifetime with some very basic care and maintenance.
So which knives do I think should be part of every cook’s arsenal?
- Chef’s Knife
- Paring Knife
The Chef’s knife will form about 75% of the time you do any cutting or slicing in the kitchen. The paring knife will be used between 10-15% of the time for smaller, more detailed cutting.
The classical chef’s knife that we know in the west comes from European origins. The purpose of the Chef’s knife is primarily for breaking down larger cuts of meats or vegetables down to cooking size. Because of this, the chef’s knife will tend to have a slightly thicker blade steel and have a larger handle for a better grip. Gaining popularity in this category of knives is the Japanese Gyuto which is shaped similar to the classic European chef’s knife with a slightly less curved belly and slightly thinner blade. These differences between each type really comes down to personal preference on how you use your chef’s knife as all styles will get the job done very well. In later articles we will go into greater detail on these knives to help you select properly.
The paring knife is meant for detail work on smaller objects. This knife comes in handy when making decorations with vegetables where fine control and a smaller blade is needed. Because of the lighter duty demanded of this knife, the steel can be thinner and therefore giving the user more finesse and control when doing detailed cuts. Most of the work with the paring knife will be done off of the cutting board therefore the grip on this knife will be smaller to allow the user to hold the knife comfortably with the knife edge facing the user. For many people, this knife will become your go-to knife from peeling an apple to cutting up some mushrooms.
The next pair of knives are a little more specialized, but still make common kitchen tasks easier:
- Utility Knife
- Bread Knife
The Utility knife which is really a smaller version of the Chef’s knife is great for tasks that require boning meats like chicken, or the breaking down of larger primal cuts of meats with bones. The smaller size of its blade allows you to get into the tight spots to separate the meat or tendons from the bones. The smaller size is also handy when working with cutting up smaller vegetables such as shallots.
For cutting soft or crusty breads, the bread knife’s long sharp and serrated cutting edge makes fast work of this task without worrying about crushing the bread in the process. Here’s a quick tip, when cutting some crusty breads, it helps to tilt the loaf on its side and cut downwards to avoid squishing it. The long blade also makes this an ideal knife to power through roast beef (hot or cold).
There you have it! If you are budget restricted, start off with just buying the Chef’s Knife and the Paring Knife and start working on your skills with these two. As you start improving your skills (and have a larger pool of funds) you can pick up the others later on. If you are extremely budget challenged, the Chef’s Knife is the one to go with.
Now that we know what type of knife that we’re looking for, the next post will look at what to look for in a good knife and how to shop for knives in what can be a very confusing assortment at the stores.
-The Piquey Eater