Knife Guide

Joined May 18, 2001
After years of watching cooking programs on TV and observing cooks in restaurant kitchens, I've noticed that one can divide these "professionals" into two groups: those who know how to use knives and those who don't. I find it almost embassing to watch a cooking program where the host has losy knife skills. This got me thinking that when you buy a knife there's no manual for use — there's no instructions. Most of the professionals I've talked with who went to cooking school have told me that they received no special training in knife skills and care. Those that learned on the job say they had to pick up whatever information they have on their own.

So I decided to write a little manual about knives and their use. And since everyone has a different idea as to what the best knives are and how to use them, this my be my most controversial article to date. If you're interested (or curious), click here for the article.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Interesting post boulud.

My first class in 1978 at J&W was Moter skills.
This is we recieved our knives and knife roll bag ($65) back then for a complete line of russel dexter blades and the wrap.

First we had a detailed introduction to knife safty,then we went over every type of knife that was in our kit,there name and use.
We were instucted in the care of the knifes ETC.
We then started learning the proper way to hold a knife.

Then off we went to learn all the fundemential cuts,bruniose,juliene,batton.macidone ETC.Believe it or not this class lasted two weeks and there was a hands on final. (I passed)

I do understand your concern and enjoyed your imformation on your site. I don't know...maybe to much is covered in culinary school and less is paid to basics.
How to use a knife,proper cooking techniques,ordering/recieving
Sanitation and the like.You can't garnish a cake if you can't bake,you can't finish a bordalaise sauce if you can't make a fond de veau.

anyway I'm rambling on:chef:
Joined Jan 12, 2001
great observation bouland....

i too had basic knife skills as my first class in culinary school. besides learning the uses for various knives, we also were taught how to use a whetstone and a steel, and what they did to the knife. my experience was almost the same as yours capechef, only my knife roll was F. Dick brand and cost $75.

i would think most culinary school grads had similar experiences.

the problem with many of these T.V. chefs, though, is not that they don't know how to use a knife...but that they're out of practice. by the time you get to t.v., you've been schmoozing people, writing and costing recipes and cookbooks, doing appearances, and expediting (when you're actually at your restaurant) for so long that doing a brunoise is pretty far from your daily routine.

so when they actually have a knife in their hands on t.v., these guys are like "what's this?" like a new dad holding his infant. put a cell phone or a palm pilot in their hands and they'll probably seem more in their element.
Joined May 1, 2001
Excellent article, Bouland. Most of my knife skills were derived from watching Pepin on TV.

One question on care. How often should a frequently-used knife in a home kitchen be sharpened? I use the steel liberally, but have always been nervous about using the stone too often, having had as a bad example a friend who could reduce a chef's knife to a slicer in a year or two. As a result, my knives are probably less sharp than they might be.
Joined Aug 14, 2000
Very cool stuff Bouland! As a weekend warrior, I realized a couple of years ago just how important knives and knife skills were. I was using supermarket knives and doing unspeakable things to food. I have upgraded both my cutlery and my competence. I even took a knife skills workshop with an instructor who feels the same way you do. I now find that once torturous tasks, like dicing vegetables, are now relaxing, almost therapeutic. When cooking in groups I always volunteer to prepare copius quantities of mirepoix:)
Joined May 18, 2001
DaveB: I sharpen my knives when they seem to need it. The steel only "refreshs" an existing edge. Once the edge is worn or damaged, it's time to sharpen the knife. If you use a reciprocating diamond honer, such as the one illustrated in the article, you won't be removing much metal when you sharpen your knives. It is coarse whet stones that grind away the metal. Some people are now using "steels" coated with a fine diamond abrasive as sort of a middle ground before putting the knive to a sharpener.

KyleW: I agree, there's a certain Zen to preparing large quantities of mirepoix!


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Many culinary activities are zen, making bread, pastries....
Joined May 1, 2001
Thanks, Bouland. After reading your article, I decided to get myself a diamond hone.
Joined Oct 13, 2001
Hey Bouland great thread . I guess Ill add my 2 Pesos and state that I feel knife skills are one of the most important things you can master as a true working chef . Unfortunatley I was unable to go yo culinary school but I apprenticed myself to some very good european chefs at the start of my career and I was given proper direction from the get go . This ability to use a knife with speed and skill has helped my carreer tremondously.
I know how frustrating it is to see a T.V. chef who does not know even the proper knife for the job , or an attempt at using a steel
properly(OK Im going to say it , I saw Martha Stewart try to use a steel and it was scary).
As far as knife brands go I realy like Forschners . Most chefs in my area use them and for heavy knife work I just love the balance .
the easily maintaned sharp edge and the feel of it in my hand .
I think I am getting a little emotional now but my knives are my babies and I take care of them and they take care of me.
Happy Holidays.. ;)
Joined Jan 9, 2002
Thank you, bouland, for the wonderful article! I'm no chef, but I love cooking and have always known that my knife skills were woefully lacking. You've given me a wealth of information to help me begin with- thank you again! :)
Joined Nov 1, 2007
I have taking Culinary Arts at a vocational school while in High school and they taught me how to take care of my knives and how to hone it and described everything you should and shouldn't do but they don't do it in college. In college they do the same thing and ppl are required to take sanitation and become ServSafe certified. I am already so I don't need to take it but yea.. we also spent an horu and each knife cut and learned to do it fast
Joined Jul 16, 2005
The only thing they taught about knives at my culinary school was how to use a steel, the one chef showed briefly how to use a stone but wasnt in depth, he just showed us to go back and forth about 40 times on each stone working to finer stones each tome, which doesnt get your knives as sharp as they could be. being the person that i am i found out on my own how to make knives really sharp on my own on the internet.
Joined Feb 19, 2007
my first class which was nothing but knife skills lasted 11 weeks. We did it all and pat pat pat i good pretty good knife skills. my tourne could use some practice but its still not half bad.

knife kit cost like $1200 in tution and they are garbage. I ended up buying alot of my own knifes and stuff that more or less fit me.
Joined Jul 16, 2005
Just your knives cost 1200? We had a package that cost 1200 and that included all books, uniforms, and knives. But the knives were crappy so, like you i end up buy pretty much a new set of knives before externship.
Joined Oct 20, 2007
Have any of you guys ever heard of Atlanta cutlery? They make great knives...wondering if anyone ever uses them out in the professional realm.
Joined Feb 19, 2007
It was the knives with a bunch of stuff, the knife bag, I think the 3 jackets, 3 pants and stuff was included but I might be wrong it might have been a sperate part of the tution.
Joined Nov 6, 2007
Working on some knife skills video for the website... hope to have them up by January.

Joined Nov 8, 2007
For about a 1+ years I've been reading up on knives, quality, metals, etc.
(Yes, I'm anal retentive)

SPECIFICALLY(please), where can one "try out" knives before they purchase?

I'm interested in Shun, Wusthof, Sabatier, and Henckel.

I have not come across any store/dealer that carries all ofthese in order to compare.

But again, my main question is where can I try these knives out?

Specific stores??

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