The thought of becoming a good cook around the kitchen goes through two stages; the first is “what recipes do I need to learn?” and the second is, “what tools do I need to get better?”
Earlier in the week we spoke about the essential kitchen tools that are required in any kitchen; from a simple whisk to micro-graters we got a bit more of an understanding as to what can really help elevate your food repertoire. But what really helps around the kitchen is of course a good knife.
Knives can make the difference between cutting through hard joints of meat on a good day, to being unable to wound a block of soft butter the next.
Yes, they are that essential.
One of the first things that trainee chefs buy is a knife bag. They are like a thick teatowel that you can rest the knives on and then wrap around your knife set. Some have pockets, others just have micro pouches where the tips sit; a worthwhile investment, especially for those who are looking to take up their knife game in the kitchen and keep things in order.
But that is the professionals, but what about you? Are you just a casual cook that is looking to get better? Are you looking to developing your slicing and dicing skills? If that is the case the best way to do it is to actually understand what knife should be used for every situation.
Here is our guide to understanding your knife set and how you can improve your food cutting skills.
The Big Four
Every kitchen should have these four knives, it’s a bit of Pareto’s law in action with this set; you can do 80% of your work with just 20% of your kitchen knife selection.
“A chef’s knife has a blade between 6 and 14 inches long and 1 ½ inches in width” The Chef’s knife is considered the most versatile as you will be able to go between cutting through beef and dicing vegetables, it is that flexible as a piece of equipment.
Serrated Utility Knife/Tomato Knife
This has a blade between 4 & 7 inches long, it looks like a bread knife; yes even the ones your parents used to have in the home – it’s just a little shorter and a little sharper. It cuts through fruit and vegetables without tearing them apart. It can also cut through bagels and is known as a tomato knife because it does the best job on, you guessed it, tomatoes.
Known to the catering schools as the “garnishing knife” it is a smaller version of the chef’s knife. It is smaller and prepares vegetables and fruit. Because it is smaller and more delicate, it can garnish vegetables quickly and with a level of intricacy.
Measuring between 5 & 7 inches, this flexible knife provides the kind of flexibility required that is required to, you guessed it, debone chickens and slice meat away from bones. Perfect for those looking to butterfly their meats at home and develop general knife skills.
The famous five
There are of course other knives that people will be interested in. Look at all the cooking shows on TV and you will see that chef’s and cooks will go through all sorts of blades; so aside from the four that we mentioned, we think the next five are the only ones you really need in your knife repetoire.
This is a chef’s knife but thinner. It is designed to carve, unsurprisingly. But a carving knife can be great for vegetable preparation on longer vegetables like leeks and aubergines. It is a flexible knife and one which work in 99% of kitchens very well.
The Italians are particularly fond of this kind of knife as it will allow you to slice up parsley (one of Italy’s five a day) and other herbs without too much fuss. The former River Cafe’ chef and co-owner, Rose Gray was known for introducing the knife to our television screens in the mid 90’s. Simply rocking through a motion, you can get through vegetables and herbs in no time. A must have for those looking for a simple slicing solution.
When it comes trimming meats and veg, then the trimming knife is what you want. It’s small, it’s meant to fit in the palm of your hand. Perfect for getting into those spots of meats and joints to take off excess fat or cartilage from your joints of meat.
Who doesn’t love cheese? No, seriously, who doesn’t love finishing a meal with a cheese board? No one, and therefore a good cheese knife is an investment that you cannot do without. Designed to be subtle on soft gooey cheeses like brie, but also put up with harder cheddar varieties, you can’t go wrong with a good cheese knife.
Bake cakes? Like being fancy with your frosting? How about your creme anglaise tarts? Well, a decorating knife is what you want. This will allow you the flexibility of working with your cake and tarts to give you the best finish that you need to give you the look you’ve always desired for your cake.
What knives do you think we’re missing? What would you be unable to live without in your kitchen knife department? We’d love to know, leave us a message.