If you only ever take one cooking class, make it a Knife Skills class. The most basic tool in the kitchen, if you can wield a knife with confidence, you can prepare almost any type of cuisine.
Cover the Basics
Whether you take a class from me or not (you can check out a list of my classes here), you should learn some basics. The anatomy of a knife, understand the tang, the handle, the materials and the type of construction. Your working area should be clear, and your cutting board secured. (A damp paper towel under your board will help keep it from skidding around!) Your stance is also important to keep your body aligned and keep you from getting fatigued. Keeping your fingers curled, your hand in the right position, and using the blade in a fluid motion rather than trying to push down with it are all part of the process as well. Who knew there was so much to learn?!
Book a Class
If you are interested in booking a Knife Skills class for a group, let me know! I provide the cutting boards, the knives, and the food, and we even end up eating our work!
Cooking Terms Used in Knife Skills 101
Chef Christy’s #1 Rule – No Flesh, No Blood, No Fingernails in the Food!
Slice – To make long thin cuts in food.
Dice – To cut food into small cubes about 1/8 to ¼ inch wide.
Chop – Using quick, heavy blows of a knife or cleaver to cut food into bite-size (or smaller) pieces. A food processor may also be used to “chop” food. Chopped food is more coarsely cut than minced food.
Mince – To cut food into very small pieces. Minced food is in smaller pieces than chopped food. Garlic, mushrooms, herbs, ginger and other aromatic foods are often minced before adding to a recipe. Minced foods tend to blend into foods.
Chef’s knife – A wide pointed blade with a rounded edge for ease of using a rocking/chopping motion. Offset handle for knuckles to clear the cutting board.
Santoku – Japanese style knife with a blunt nose and flatter blade angle, best for slicing cuts of meat and chopping/mincing.
Paring knife – A small knife between 3 and 4 inches for doing small work and garnishing cuts with fruits and vegetables. Bird’s Beak = hooked-nose paring knife
Slicer –A thin blade up to 12 inches long used for slicing large pieces of meat such as hams and roasts. A serrated slicer is used for cutting neatly through crusty breads.
Filet knife – A thin blade between 6 – 8 inches long, used to filet fish and cut around bones in poultry and meats. A filet knife has a flexible blade, while the same shaped knife with a stiff blade is called a boning knife.
Peeler – Vegetable peelers have two-sided blades for ease of peeling with a back and forth motion. The cutting blades can have different depths, making some more useful for thin-skinned vegetables such as carrots and others better for thicker-skinned squashes and eggplants.
Garnishing tools – Microplane for small grating, zester, butter shaper, ripple cutter, apple corer and many other specialty tools are available for decorative cuts.
Sharpening Steel – A long, pointed, thin round rod attached to a handle, ideally about 12 inches long, made of extremely hard, high-carbon steel or ceramic, used to keep a fine edge on sharp knives. Knives are honed by drawing them (while applying slight pressure) across the steel at a 20- to 30-degree angle. Doing this 5 to 6 times on both sides of the blade prior to each use keeps the blade razor-sharp. Dull blades will not be helped by a sharpening steel; they need to be resharpened on a whetstone and then fine-honed on a steel.
Whetstone– Rectangular blocks made of the extremely hard carborundum (silicon carbide). They are fine grained, often with one side slightly coarser than the other. Knives are sharpened (metal is removed) by drawing them across the oiled stone at a 20 degree angle on first the coarse and then the finer side. Fine-honing is then done on the steel.
Sharpen and Hone – Sharpen a knife by using a stone, removing metal and straightening the edge. Hone a knife by using a steel, aligning the microscopic burrs along the edge to make it razor-sharp.