I hear from lots of people who admire the cooking I am doing. They say things like "I could never cook for myself as much as you do!" And when I go over to their house for dinner, I can see what they mean. I watch them cook and it takes them forever to get through the task of cutting up a carrot or an onion. With a little practice and attention, you can speed up your vegetable chopping and increase your cooking satisfaction.
Making food from whole, fresh ingredients takes a lot longer if you don't know how to efficiently and effectively use a kitchen knife. Once you do know how to use a knife, you will never again be tempted to use minced garlic from a jar, or buy coleslaw in a bag.
Here are a few basic knife tips to get you started.
- Keep 'em sharp. The best thing you can do for your cooking is to learn how to sharpen your knives. There are lots of videos online for how to do this, but if you really want to master the skill, you need to understand what is happening when you sharpen a knife. Joe Talmadge's sharpening FAQ is a master class in knife sharpening.
- Practice. I'm not saying you need to sit down with a mountain of onions and reduce them to bits as Julia Child is rumored to have done when she was attending culinary school in France, but maybe plan meals with lots of diced potatoes or carrots for a few weeks and give yourself enough time to pay attention to what you are doing.
- Be safe. Proper knife technique will keep you from cutting anything but your food. Keep your fingers curled under so that you hold the food with the top of your fingernails while the surface of the knife blade touches your knuckles. Lastly, keep your thumb tucked under so that it can't sneak out under the blade as it moves up and down.
- Be symmetrical. This one's a little more technical, but if you cut with the shape and structure of the vegetable, your job will be much easier. For example, a carrot is long and skinny so you can easily make small pieces by cutting across the long axis.
With sharp knives, a little practice and proper technique, you will no longer need to fear a recipe with 4 cups of minced onions!