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As a girl, I (Alicia Shea) was impressed by the knife handling skills of Benihana chefs and circus knife throwers that tossed those blades so skillfully. They never faltered and had all their fingers.
Nowadays the need to “improve skills regarding knife techniques” is foremost in the recently published results of Bon Appetit’s 10th Annual Readers’ Survey.
I wondered what the results meant. First, I thought about how people wanted to use a knife the same way they see it done on TV. But what knife techniques do people really need to understand? Are there special things cooks do with knives I haven’t learned in many years of cooking?
Since there was no supporting information with the survey’s summary, I’m offering these suggestions to cooks who want to improve their knife skills:
1. Forget what celebrity and iron chefs do with knives – they’re professionals. They do it for a living. Sure, it looks real fancy when they go at almost the speed of light chopping onions or parsley, but those routines take much practice and special skills to perfect.
2. Purchase good knives and keep them sharp. Learn how to use a steel or honing stone.
3. Don’t hold a knife in such a manner that draws the sharp edge towards you. Too many people have been hurt slicing a bagel in half.
4. When slicing round ingredients like onions, first cut them in half. Then place the flat end on the cutting surface and slice or chop. Trying to steady round items while chopping or slicing means a trip to the hospital.
5. Always curl fingertips in and under your knuckles to hold the item you’re cutting.
6. Wield a knife at your own pace. Don’t worry about going slow. Keeping your fingers safe is more important.
7. Learn how to rock a knife rather than drawing it across the object like a saw. For example, when slicing carrots place the knife tip on the cutting surface and lift only the handle leaving the tip of the blade on the surface, then rock the knife. It’s this technique that makes celebrity chefs look so cool and fast.
8. Keep a first-aid kit in the kitchen in case you need it.
All in all, my suggestions pay special attention to safety first. Remember to use good knives, go slowly and keep fingers and hands out of harm’s way.
And don’t smoke! I did once, cut the tip of a finger off and went to the hospital. The ER doctor asked me if I smoked. I responded, “That’s a weird question.”
She explained. “If you did smoke, the capillaries in your finger tips would be bad and stitching them back together wouldn’t save your finger tip.”
If you need assistance or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can reach me e-mailing [email protected] or phoning 617-959-1358. I look forward to hearing from you.
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