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cutting techniques

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I was hoping that anyone could put forward and share their various cutting methods, shortcuts.

(any good sites too)

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  1. shortcuts? get a good knife, a bag of celery onion, carrots, potatoes and practice. you'll have plenty of soup.

    1. I keep my knife sharp all the time! This is the most important "tip" I can give to anyone. I have learned how to sharpen my own knife with a series of sharpening stones which saves a lot more money than having a "professional" knife sharpener do it. If you sharpen your knife regularly, it will serve you well. Sharpening a knife is different than "steeling" a knife, with a long stick-like steel that comes with a lot of knife sets.

      As for cutting tips, here are a few:

      When cutting fruit or veggies, make your first cut a stable cut. By that I mean to make a flat surface so you can place a stable, flat side on the board to continue cutting. For example, cut a potato, carrot, tomato, etc in half first, then place flat side on board and continue cutting.

      When cutting fruits with a "core" such as apples or pears, make your "stable cut" slightly off center to avoid the core. Turn the larger piece on one of it's flat sides, and make another cut just to the side of the core, continuing this way until all of the fruit meat is cut off, and the square cut core is left.

      When doing a lot of cutting, have a "waste" bowl for peels, cores, etc, as well as a bowl for what you are cutting. That will keep your board clean and let you use all the space on the board for cutting.

      Also, keep side towel folded on the counter next to you to wipe your blade. If working with sticky fruit, a slightly damp towel is nice.

      Make sure you have the right knife for your task. You don't need a lot of knives, so you don't need to get a set. I can get most of my cutting needs met with a chef knife, a pairing knife, and a 6-inch slicer.

      If cutting raw meat such as chicken or pork, make sure you wash your board and knife immediately when you are done working, being careful not to cross contaminate. DO NOT put your knives in the dishwasher. If you need to "disinfect" the blade, make a 10% bleach water solution and wipe down the blade.

      Another safety tip, NEVER leave your knife in the sink!

      For knife storage, if you have a knife block with vertical slots, put them in the block with the sharp edge up so the weight of the knife doesn't rest on the sharp blade and stress the edge. If you keep your knives in a drawer, line the drawer with a non-skid liner and keep the knives in a single layer, not stacked on top of each other. Keep ONLY knives in your knife drawer, and make sure it is appropriately secured with a child safetly device if you have little hands in your house.

      What part of California are you in, kare raisu? Let me know and I may be able to offer a recommendation where to have your knives sharpened/where you can learn to sharpen knives correctly.

      Hope this helped.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Non Cognomina

        Nice points. I will quible with your point that sharpening your knife at home is preferable to having a professional do it. I get my knives sharpened at a restaurant supply store in Chicago and they charge $3 per knife. Three knives, $9, maybe 2 times per year at most...that's pretty cheap. More importantly, though, properly sharpening a knife takes skill to do it correctly. I started with a small sharpening stone, but quickly found that I couldn't get the knives nearly as sharp and as even as the professional knife sharpeners could. They work with very large stones that rotate on a moving wheel.

        Some knife sharpening places are expensive because they simply mail out your knives to a third party. So you're paying a middle man, plus extra for shipping, and you have to wait a few days to get your knives back. So I say look for a restaurant supply store, or a place that does sharpening on site. It will be cheap and quick.

        Regarding knife skills, check out Jacques Pepin's books (esp. his book on techniques), and his website has video demonstrations: http://www.jacquespepin.net/members/t...

        Madeline Kammen's "The New Making of a Cook" has a section on knife skills.

        Another good website to learn knife skills is http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s...

        Below is a link to another thread in which I wrote a more detailed post about buying knives and related issues, which may be useful: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. re: Darren72

          Darren72, you have a valid point about knife sharpening at home versus taking it to a "professional." Because kare_raisu lists home board as "California" and may not be near a major city, it may be more cost effective to learn how to do it oneself. I learned how to sharpen my knifes from a professional cook who learned from a sushi master. He was actually excited to show me how to do it, and spent some time with me so I could learn how to do it correctly. When I lived in Seattle, I had paid $25-40 to have my 10" chef knife sharpened. I found I could do as good a job, and not endure the hassle of picking up, dropping off, and being knifeless for up to a few days.

          BTW, great knife tips on your post under "knife recommendations?" thread.

          1. re: Darren72

            The problem with assuming that the "professional" is going to know what he's doing is that many don't. I need my Japanese steel hand-sharpened on a water stone, and that just doesn't happen at $3/pop. Most places use electric grinders and the guy that does your ice skates and scissors will be using the same stone turning at the same rpm to do your $500 Hatori. Ever seen what happens to the blue-steel edge and even the high-nickel damascus cladding at those temperatures?

            I do have a local guy that hand sharpens - he keeps the thing for 2 weeks and charges $25. But I learned to use the Japanese water whetstones, and then translated the technique to diamond stones for my Sollingen steel knives (Forschner/Victorinox and Wustoff).

            The real joy of learning to sharpen is that it's a real Zen experience. Traditional Japanese chefs always sat down with their knives, a bowl of water, and their stones at the end of every day, and took their time to prepare their knives for the next day. I don't do this every day, to be sure - but the satisfaction I get from the down time I'm forced to make for myself as I move that blade on the stone - and see the edge develop - well, it's just one of those things. I highly recommend it to anybody wanting a fairly easy to acquire craft or skill.

            Personally, I do not recommend home versions of the electric grinder, such as the Chef's Choice. I would never, ever use this on Japanese steel (blue or white), but I used to use one on my Sollingen steel for many years. These things really do eat up the metal, and they are incompatible with using a honing steel to keep the edge straight. If you steel a knife that's been sharpened on a Chef Choice, you must redevelop the edge, and go all the way back to the first wheel the next time you use the device - hence grinding off that much more metal. You are supposed to keep the Chef's Choice out and use their fine (ceramic) wheel instead of steeling, to keep the edge. I don't have that kind of space on my counters, and I've found that just steeling keeps me going for a long time - then, I'll take my stones out and sharpen the knife.

            1. re: applehome

              "The problem with assuming that the "professional" is going to know what he's doing is that many don't."

              Agreed -- you do have to use your own brain a few times times in the process. :) I use a place (Northwestern Cutlery) that sharpens knives (no ice skates!) for many chefs in Chicago. They know what they are doing. They know the different ways to cut different styles of edges, etc.

              I should have been more clear: using a professional sharpener that is good is better than doing it yourself if you aren't as good. I am not saying that one should use a crappy professional when you could do a better job yourself. I presume that was implied, but it always helps to be clear.

              "...he keeps the thing for 2 weeks and charges $25"

              To me that suggests that he is either incredibly busy or, more likely, mails the knives out. If it is the latter, most of your $25 is simply paying for a middle man and shipping charges. Not saying you should change providors, but it is important to keep that in mind when comparing costs.

              1. re: Darren72

                Nah - this guy's a fellow knife freak. He sold me my Al Mar, and carries lots of other really fine custom steel. He sharpens like I do, from stone to stone (by grit), keeping the special Japanese water stones in a bowl of water. Everybody that buys from him brings their knives in when they need work. I can't imagine charging any less than $25 if you're doing it by hand.

                Here's a good reference in case anybody's interested:
                http://japanesechefsknife.com/HowToSh...

                Another from Korin - they also have a great DVD for beginners:
                http://www.korin.com/knives/knife_sha...

                This guy, Joe Talmadge, is a legend in the custom knife world - his techniques are for all knives and cutting tools:
                http://www.knifeart.com/sharfaqbyjoe....

            2. re: Darren72

              Darren: Sur La Table does free knife sharpening for 3 knives every April. If you buy your meat at Paulina Meat Market, they too will sharpen a few knives for free when you make a purchase.

          2. Here are some videos demonstrating basic skills. Cheap and handy.

            http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/ck_dm...

            1. agree with the sharp knife comment and please use the right knife for the task. For sharpening I use the Chefs Choice machine about every 6-8 weeks. keeps the knife really really sharp. with respect to the right knife i almost sliced my arm off two weeks ago using a boning knfie to dice onions, blew right through the onion.

              1. Adding to the tip about cutting raw meat: meat cuts way better when it is still frozen a little, especially chicken. And I don't necessarily agree that you don't need a whole set of knives. Yes, you can do a lot with the three mentioned, but I have a set and I use all of them for many different cutting jobs. One tip I have is not about knives, it's about your cutting boards: get several and designate one for meat alone, and also one for aromatics- garlic, onion, shallot and leek. Make sure they can go in the dishwasher. I have two small boards and one is solely for aromatics so it cannot contaminate anything else, and even when it comes out of the dishwasher it still carries a faint smell of garlic. And another tip- don't stick your knives in a dish rack to dry. Lay them flat on a towel and the tips (and your fingers) will be safer.

                8 Replies
                1. re: cooknKate

                  Good idea with designating cutting boards, although I'm assuming you mean plastic boards--I don't ever put wood in the dishwasher.

                  Also, I'm curious about what you mean by "meat cuts way better when it is still frozen a little, especially chicken." I don't freeze my meat and don't buy frozen meat, so I'm not sure how you mean it is easier. Could you clarify, please?

                  1. re: Non Cognomina

                    It's of course nice to be able to put plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher. However, if you prefer to cut on wood, you shouldn't worry. Just wash wood boards with soap and hot water and you will be fine.

                    1. re: Darren72

                      Here here!

                    2. re: Non Cognomina

                      Yes I mean plastic, or laminate or whatever type is purchased. I have long, long known that wood does not go in a dishwasher. Some people are fine with just using soap and hot water to clean a wood cutting board and others are not. Count me in as one who is not. I have a large butcher block cutting board that I use for veggies only, one board for meat and one for aromatics. Then a general sized one for general use. The small ones store nicely on top of my fridge and all the laminates go in the dishwasher regularly (along with my kitchen sponge) for disinfecting

                      1. re: cooknKate

                        cooknKate, another good kitchen sponge disinfecting tip is to put it in the microwave on high for 1 minute. The sponge is sanitized and the steam created in the process softens up any grime on the inside of the microwave which can then be easily cleaned up with a paper towel!

                        1. re: Non Cognomina

                          i've heard that one too.....:-)

                      2. re: Non Cognomina

                        I'm not cooknKate, but I can tell you that an old Chinese trick my mom taught me is to freeze meat such as flank steak or chicken for a few minutes to partially stiffen it so that it will slice thinly, easily, and prettily for stir frying.

                        1. re: Claudette

                          glad I am not the only one who finds this to be easier