Knife Skills

Discussion in 'General Culinary School Discussions' started by terrarich, May 15, 2002.

  1. terrarich

    terrarich

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    Ouch.

    We are just getting started with basic cuts in the intro class I am taking. I have to say that it is not so easy getting the perfect dimensions on a reg. julienne and a small dice. It was pointed out to me that my cuts were not perfectly square (close though!) and my dice were slightly large. I guess I am going to need to get a 20lb bag of potatoes to nail these cuts for the final within a week and a half!

    terrarich
     
  2. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Maybe you can give me some pointers. I just went through a 5 lb bag of taters and I just found out I don't know how to cut an onion. :rolleyes: :D

    Jodi
     
  3. terrarich

    terrarich

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    Jodi,

    What do you need to cut onions for? There are only so many ways that you really need to know. Julienne, slice, dice, mice, and rings. For most of these there is the very basic mise en place of peeling the onion, trimming off just a bit of the root end and the sprout end, and then slicing the onion in half through the root. From there you have to determine what kind of cut you want to accomplish. For julienne you first need to make a little "v" notch cut to remove the hard part where the stem is. Then lay the onion on its flat face and make vertical, narrow cuts following the curve of the onion. For dice, take the half of a trimmed onion and lay it on its flat surface. The thickness of the following cuts determines the size of your dice. Make a series of vertical cuts following the curve of the onion. Make a few horizontal cuts into the onion. Lastly, slice through the onion to achieve the dice cut.

    It is important to use a very sharp, knife and the longer (10 inch) the better. Watch out for your fingers. Keep them tucked under.

    I hope this helps and that it is clear enough for you. Remember that I am only an intro student. Although I believe that what I described to you is correct, there may be others that will dispute my method.
     
  4. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    Carrots are the great equalizer when it comes to knife cuts. When I was married the second time, I used to brunoise a whole bag of carrots, just for the therapy. But I digress...

    Are you squaring off your veggie before attempting perfect julienne or brunoise? Shave off the rounded ends on 4 sides and you'll have a much more stable veg to cut.

    Are you resting the side of your chef's knife blade against your bent knuckes? This will get you closer, smaller slices, hence finer julienne and tiny brunoise.

    One more thing...Practice practice practice...Good luck :chef:
     
  5. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Okay....this will definately show how much I know about knife skills (never took a class...been doing it the trial and error way). What is the correct way to hold your hand when using a knife?

    I have no formal training and try to mimic what I see. Ive tried repetitively, but (this is embarrassing :blush: ) the darn onion keeps shooting out from underneath my fingers. And I had my fingers curled like the guys I see do. I know Im not supposed to use my fingernails to stabalize the dang thing but when Im at home I say what the heck. Ive even bought the CIA's Professional Chef's Knife kit....minus the knives.

    Any suggestions on what Im doing wrong here? The potatoes and carrots are easy. Square em off, slice, cut into logs then make horizontal cuts for dice. Why is the onion eluding me? Why is the dang thing so slippery! ARRRGGGHHH! Ive taken to just quartering them or strictly slicing, just to get it over with. Im only having problems dicing.

    Thanks for explaining the methods both of you. :) And Terrarich...my dice is a little large too so you aren't alone. Gotta keep practicing....my kids are starting to hate eating potatoes though so Ill have to switch to another veggie.

    Jodi
     
  6. terrarich

    terrarich

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    Yes, I do square off the veggies and keep the blade guided with my knuckle. I just need to practice eyeballing the proper measurement. I get almost square rectangles sometimes on the julienne and my dice, although square mostly, are just a little off in size. Thanks for the advice.

    terrarich
     
  7. ziggy

    ziggy

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    I'm struggling with getting consistent, even sizes as well...I find the more I practice the better I get.

    What I completely bombed on my knife skills test was turning! ARGH! Try and try and try as I might I just can't get that down!!
     
  8. chrose

    chrose

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    I think most of you will find it difficult to get the cuts right and consistent the harder you try. You will however do it again and again and again and one day all of a sudden without thinking it will be there. Especially tournees, it just happens.
    A little exercise I learned long ago to prove a point.
    Write your name down on a piece of paper as if you were signing a check.
    Now, take that piece of paper and copy your signature exactly as you just wrote it.
    What happened? More likely than not, the signatures don't match. Sure they're close but not consistent. If you come back in an hour and just sign your name normally and compare them you'll likely find they match pretty well.
    The point is, the harder you try and imitate something you have learned the more likely you are to fail it. You have learned a skill, work on mastering the technique not copying the last cut. You'll find I think that sooner rather than later the cuts are automatic and consistent.
    Now learn to brunoise a mushroom cap and you'll learn the meaning of intricasy!
     
  9. terrarich

    terrarich

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    So essentially you are saying, like yoda, do or do not, there is no try. There is a zen to knife skills that inlvolves the elevation of the task to an art, utilizing skills intuited through practice. you get over the need to cut perfect julienne and just cut julienne. I'll try this approach.

    terrarich
     
  10. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    Re: Turning (why do I remember that being spelled as tourning?), that is best done with a bird's beak knife. Unbelievable tool perfect for the purpose. There is actually a great Chicago Cutlery bird's beak at a reasonable price available...now sit down...at Wal-Mart! DH bought me one for a surprise gift. (He's the best! ;))

    You know, people talk about cooking while they're drinking wine and I can't cut worth a [email protected] if I am the least bit impaired. My brunoise come out so big you could roll them in Vegas. I find I need to be completely unimpaired and have wine with dinner instead of as a prelude.

    As for how I hold my knife, specifically my chef's knife, I hold it very high on the handle (a batter in baseball would call this "choking up") so my index finger is actually resting on the back of the blade. If you develop a knife callous while doing this method, you're doing it right :) Don't ever hold a knife with your index finger pointed on the back of the knife blade. Actors do that while "cooking" in movies and it drives me batty. (And why is everyone in movies cutting carrots??)
     
  11. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Wouldn't holding the knife with your index finger pointed on the back of the blade be a little uncomfortable?

    I wrap my four fingers (my thumb counts with me here) around the haft with my index finger alongside the back of the blade. But all this still depends on what Im cutting. I hold my knife three ways.

    As for the actors, I think I saw one shredding lettuce once. :rolleyes: :p
     
  12. leo r.

    leo r.

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    ShawtyCat,here`s a suggestion which might help.
    When you dice onions place your thumb at the root end,place your fingers in the middle of the onion,bent inwards like an eagle`s talon.Keep the tip of the knife on the board and use the knife as a lever when making vertical cuts.
    This applies to all basic cuts:Brunoise,Macedoine,Jardiniere and Julienne.Stick with it,you`ll get there.
    Cooking is like riding a bike,the more you practice the easier it becomes.
    p.s. i still manage to get the occasional cut/nick after 18 years as a chef,particularly when i`m in a hurry!!:chef::p