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Feb 22, 2011 01:19 PM

Do you value knife-skills?

I grew up learning how to cook and, more importantly, how to prep without gadgets.

If I needed to shred cabbage, it was cutting board and knife. Same with julienning veggies, dicing or mincing garlic, ginger, onions, etc.

That's what my mom demanded, at home and even at the restaurant.

Fast forward to present day and now I've come to sort of a fork in the road dilemma. I've agreed to take up the task of teaching how to cook with my newphew.

And while my uncle's kitchen has all the gadgets to slice and dice -- from the food processor to the garlic mincer to the French mandoline -- I can't help but try and impart on the kid how important it is to be able to wield a knife and shred carrots without giving yourself an unintended (and bloody) manicure.

Do you still value knife-skills? Or do you simply think it is better to roll with the times and rely on cooking apps?

Call me a Luddite, but I think knife-skills are not only a dying art, but an important one ... if for the aesthetics and nothing else.

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  1. I can tell that your knife skills are better than mine but I also think it's important and, IMO, aesthetics have little to do with it. I have a fair number of 'toys' in my kitchen but my knife is the most used. I'm not going to use a food processor for small amounts or for things that I want very precisely sliced or chopped. I would consider it un-Chow-ish to turn to gadgets too often :)

    1. Good knife skills are important to me for several reasons - mainly safety, of course. Secondly, for ease and speed of preparation. Thirdly, it is a very useful skill to know. One can never learn too much about cooking!

      9 Replies
      1. re: chefathome

        c oliver and chefathome,

        While I totally agree with both of you, what do you say to those (incl. my nephew) that "it is simply easier to use [insert gadget]?

        If I'm teaching him how to make carrot cake, it's hard to convince him that it is "not easier" to use a food processor to shred the carrots. It certainly is to some extent easier for me to julienne the carrots my knife and hand, but for him ... not so much.

        And truth be told, it takes time and patience -- for both parties (him and me) -- to teach proper knife skills.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          It is easier to use a knife. You only have the board and the knife to clean afterwards.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Don't make carrot cake :) But serioiusly, how can one not use a knife? When we have lox, bagels and the accoutrement, I cut the tiniest little pieces of red onion, all pretty much the same size. When I need to chop an onion, I'm not going to haul out the FP. The size won't be uniform and I'll have to clean the FP. When I make a 4X or 5X batch of Bolognese sauce I use the FP for the carrots because I have weak hands and it's really hard for me to chop that many. But I have to be careful not to puree the dang things. So then I'm chopping some by hand anyway.

            1. re: c oliver

              I was gonna say -using the FP is easier as long as you're not the one who has to clean it....

              Knife skills all the way.

              I have owned a mandoline...and got rid of it because it took up space and never got used.

              I have owned several food processors -- my giant Cuisinart was sent packing because it took up space, weighed a ton, and never got used.

              The fp attachment that goes on my Oster blender gets used about once a year, if that. I own a grater, but use it mostly for cheese (I NEVER grate cabbage with a grater) and the once or twice a year I make carrot cake.

              But my knives? I use my knives every single day and would be seriously hampered in the kitchen if I didn't have them.

              1. re: sunshine842

                I use my mandoline (still scares the bejesus out of me!) for thinly sliced, uniform potatoes as I don't manage that very well with a knife. FP gets used two to four times a month. Grater for cheese. And I don't make carrot cake :)

                1. re: c oliver

                  I have small scar on one finger that still throbs when the weather changes. My husband found me at the kitchen island weeping and bleeding and, after he bandaged me up, put the the mandolin in the Goodwill pile (carefully boxed and labeled). I haven't been able to pass one of those gadgets in the kitchenware department since without cringing. There's a reason why some people call them "guillotines."

                  1. re: mandycat

                    That's why I never could use a mandoline. First time I tried to use one, I *knew*...

            2. re: ipsedixit

              I really enjoy using a knife and use it to do all that stuff and rarely break out the gadgets. Mostly because they are a pain to wash up. Maybe he will hate doing dishes more than using the knife.

              I was going to post a thread and ask how often people cut themselves as it had been several years since I got a finger in the wrong place and of course last night I knicked my index finger.


              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                that's the good/bad side of mad knife skills -- when you've gotten good with a knife (and have learned to keep your knives very sharp), you very rarely cut yourself.

                But when you do, it'll be a doozy.

          2. I view them pretty high. I also shred cabbage and other vegetables with my knife and rarely use a grater, mandoline or food processor to chop, slice or shred. A gadget sure makes things go faster but what if you are in a pinch and didn't have your trusty gadget. Basic knife skill will get you where you need to go with minimal gadgetry.

            1. I hold knife skills in high esteem, but I must admit that I don't have any knife skills. My scared fingers are testement to that.

              1. Good, or decent at least, knife skills are essential to enjoying the cooking process, imo. And a sharp knife on a good cutting board is also the most efficient means of prepping a variety of products. If your nephew doubts that, sit down with him and watch an old episode or two of Jacques Pepin breezing through his prep work. In small or medium quantities, nothing is faster. There certainly is a place for food processors and mandolines, but in more of a support, not primary, role.