This is the first installment of a new series of posts called Kitchen Gear. The plan is to introduce novice cooks to the various tools chefs and accomplished cooks use in and around the kitchen. I believe that as with most things in life, using the right tool for the job will make things a helluva lot easier, save a LOT of time, and you may even lose fewer fingers in the process.
I cringe when I see people spending upwards of 5 minutes frustratingly dicing an onion, using a steak knife or other random knife they find lying around (no judgies, I used to do this too). Cooking is supposed to be fun, but if it’s going to take you that much time and energy just to sort an onion out, I can understand why some people prefer to just get takeout and be done with it.
Never fear though, I have a number of new series’ of posts planned that will deal with the gear, lingo, techniques and basic concepts of cooking. These tools and techniques have been refined over hundreds of years by French, Italian and other fancy chefs with huge floppy white hats, no need for us to go and reinvent the wheel. I’m just going to take all these fancy foreign terms and weird sounding techniques and break them down into plain and simple concepts anyone can understand.
The chef’s knife (sometimes also called the cooks knife) is without a doubt the first tool I would advise you to get your hands on. Once you get accustomed to using it, it will become like an extension of your hand and you will wonder how you ever got by without it. It is a general purpose knife, sort of an all rounder, and the one you’ll be using most of the time.
The two main things that make it stand out from other knives for me, is the slight curve in the blade and the heel that sticks out quite a bit below the handle. Have you ever seen someone chopping herbs at lightning speed by holding down the tip of the knife with one hand and rapidly rocking the handle up and down?
Those two things are what makes that possible. With out the curve in the blade you won’t be able to get a nice rocking motion going, and if the heel didn’t stick so far out below the handle, you would be hitting your knuckles to smithereens on the cutting board with each downward stroke, no fun.
So as you can see these two seemingly minor differences in the knife, has a huge impact on what you can do with it. This is the kind of stuff I want to point out to you guys in the coming Kitchen Gear posts. Hopefully this will help you choose the right tools for the kind of cooking you want to do, make your time in the kitchen easier and grow your knowledge and skills as we go.
Kitchen knives are generally divided up in Western and Japanese style knives. The Japanese equivalent of the chef’s knife is called the Santoku. Both will get the job done, but there are slight differences when it comes to maintenance, sharpening etc. I wouldn’t worry about that too much right now though, rather choose one that looks the coolest to you. You are going to be spending a LOT of time with this knife in your hand, so it will help if it’s easy on the eye.
More important here is the size of the knife compared to your hand. You want it to rest comfortably in your hand and feel balanced, not overly heavy or too dainty. This is one of the few occasions where online shopping may not be the best idea, unless you already know the size you want. You need to get a feel for the knife and online shopping doesn’t quite offer that yet.
To get an idea of the various options, have a look at the selection available on Yuppiechef or visit your nearest kitchen store.
I will deal with knife techniques, sharpening and maintenance in a follow up articles, for now feel free to Google it, there is a wealth of knowledge out there :)
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below or via the Contact page, I’d be happy to help you out wherever I can.