Knife Skills: Practice Makes Perfect
One of the key skills needed to become a master in your kitchen is to learn knife skills. For starters, having proper knife skills will prevent you from cutting your fingers instead of your food on your chopping board. Having good technique will also help you have consistent and precise cuts on food needed in soups, salads, and other dishes. Each type of knife has a purpose. Whether it be a paring knife or a multipurpose knife, mastering both types will make your time in the kitchen much easier.
Best Foods to Practice Paring Knife Skills
1. Peeled Pineapple
Pineapples are the perfect fruit to help you learn how to use a paring knife properly. Pineapples have a rough outer skin layer that must be peeled off before eating it. When cutting the pineapple, make sure to keep it facing upwards with the crown (the green leaves) facing the ceiling. With the paring knife, peel downwards away from you to start peeling the skin off. Make sure to cut off the “eyes” or circles left on the pineapple for a smooth finish. With that, you are on your way to having a delicious pineapple ready to eat or grill.
2. Mushrooms (whole)
Although there is a debate on whether or not peeling or washing mushrooms are worth it, they are the perfect target to practice knife skills on. Before you start to peel the skin, you need to remove the stems of your mushrooms. They should pop out relatively easily. After that, you can start to peel your mushrooms with your knife. Mushroom skin is very thin, so it may be a bit difficult to cut at first. If you have trouble with it, you can also use your fingers to help make it a little easier.
Last, but certainly not least, cucumbers can also be great to learn knife skills. Cucumber skin can be pretty tough depending on the type (English versus regular cucumbers), but the result is worth it for salads and other tasty recipes. Start by cutting off both ends of the cucumber. Then, you can cut the cucumber in half for easy access to start peeling it. Hold one of the cucumber halves with your non-dominant hand and then use your knife to slice away long strips. Just be careful not to cut into the cucumber too deeply.
Best Foods to Practice Chef Knife Skills
Have you ever wondered how the chefs on your TV cut into their vegetables super fast. With enough practice, anyone can start to cut their vegetables just as fast. However, you should start slow. Celery is a long stringy vegetable which is perfect for knife practice. Cut the celery stick in half and lay both halves down lengthwise. Then, hold one of the halves with your non-dominant hand. Shape your non-dominant hand like a bear claw with your fingers tucked into your palm and start cutting the celery with your dominant hand.
With carrots, there are multiple ways to slice them. Whether you want them in a salad, soup, or stir fry, you can elevate the dish by cutting your carrots into different shapes for each occasion. Since there are many ways to slice them, it gives you plenty of opportunities for practice. Peel them first with your paring knife and then chop them into rough 1-2 inch pieces for soup stocks. You can dice your carrot by cutting it into quarters and then chopping them for stews or sauces. Carrots are the perfect vegetable to try out multiple different cutting techniques and knife skills.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, so why not work on getting better knife skills every day too? A staple of every child’s lunch box- apples make great snacks to munch on throughout the day. Although apple slices are normally what you think of when it comes to chopped apples, you can also cut apples into chunks or thin slices for apple pies. To cut regular apple slices, place the apple upright and cut around the core. Then, take the remaining apple pieces and cut them into slices.
A Recipe to Practice Knife Skills
You can put your knife skills to the test with this vegetable soup recipe from Food Network:
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white part only (from approximately 3 medium leeks)
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds (approximately 2 medium)
2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
2 cups fresh green beans, broken or cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
4 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
2 ears corn, kernels removed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup packed, chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat until they begin to soften, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, and green beans and continue to cook for 4 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the tomatoes, corn kernels, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are fork tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Season, to taste, with kosher salt. Serve immediately.
Putting Your Knife Skills To The Test
There are many foods that can be used for repetitive daily knife practice. You can easily practice every morning by slicing an apple to go with your bowl of cereal. Throughout the day, you can practice with the vegetables and other foods you need to make delicious home-cooked meals. By incorporating some of these common food items into your meal schedule, you can learn how to make better cuts and strokes with your knife. Although practice might not make you perfect overnight, it certainly makes better knife skills.