Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hone Your Skills: Knife Sharpening

One of the first techniques you learn as a cook in any kitchen or culinary school, other than product knowledge and food safety, is knife handling. How to safely use a knife, clean a knife, sharpen a knife, and eventually how to obtain consistent knife cuts always.

Today, thanks to Big Kitchen, we'll be touching on the subject of knife sharpening: why we do it, how often we should do it, and how to do it. We'll also be sharing a few demonstrations of basic knife cuts that will get you started! And let me tell you, I won't be sharing any teeny tiny knife cuts! I rarely use them at home, so no point in them. Surely, if you're working in a fine dining restaurant, you definitely need tiny and precise knife cuts, and for that I recommend The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America, 9th Edition. Actually, I recommend the Pro Chef to anyone and everyone wanting to practice and read up on everything from the basics such as knife skills to sous-vide. Plus, not only does this new edition have gorgeous photography done by award-winning photographer Ben Fink, but it also includes new sections "seasonality and sustainability, barbecuing, sous-vide cooking, and plated desserts, to name a few."

Sharpening Your Knife
You all should know by now that a dull knife, is a dangerous knife. One of the fastest and easiest thing is to sharpen your knife (and keep it honed) as needed.Thanks to Big Kitchen Store, I review the Chef's Choice Diamond Hone Sharpener 310. Click here to discover even more Big Kitchen products!
 Here are some details about it:
  • Diamond abrasives hone blades to razor sharpness
  • Magnetic guides keep blades at proper angle, eliminating guesswork
  • Two-step process sharpens, then hones entire blade length
  • Works on kitchen, pocket, and filet knives
  • Suction-cup feet hold the compact unit in place on countertop

The sharpener is divided into stage 1 and stage 2. The first stage is for dull knives and the stage 2 is for resharpening. Here are the basic steps to using this sharpener:
  1. Make sure your're sharpening a clean knife. Dry off any excess moisture.
  2. Turn on the machine
  3. Place the blade against the blades. You'll feel the magnetic edge place the blade into place.
  4. Slowly pull the blade against the running sharpener. Do this as needed (depending on your knife's need.)
  5. Repeat on both side. Now it's time to hone with a steel.
One of my favorite details of this sharpener is that when suctioned in, it will not move. A must have safety feature!

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when using a steel:
  1. Make sure you have plenty of room around you. Hold the steel by place ALL your fingers below the guard.
  2. Draw the blade across the steel, so that every part of the blade gets honed. 
  3. Keep the knife blade at a 20 degree angle to the steel.
  4. Use light stokes, placing even pressure as you go down the steel. Not doing so could create a curve in the blade. 
  5. Wash your knife and remove all residue.

Knife Cuts
Chiffonade: a fine slice of herbs and leaves, Chiffonade is a delicate knife cut that is easily achieved and often used as a garnish. For large leaves such as spinach or large herb leaves, such as basil, remove stems and place leaves one on top of the other. Roll into cylinder and cut using thin, parallel motions.You can use this technique on doughs as well, as you can see in the picture. Wonton papers, rolled up, sliced and made into thin strips, which can later on me deep fried and used as a crispy salad topping.

Batonnet: the knife cut you want to use when making fries or roasting perfectly sliced veggies. To cut a potato into batonnet, peel and cut ends and sides until you have a rectangular block, making four straight sides. This will result in even, perfect cuts. Slice lenghtwise and then stack the slices. Cut the same thickness for batonnet. Use the scraps in soups, stocks, and purees.

Small, Medium, & Large Dice: after cutting batonnet and depending on the size needed, just line up the sticks and cut into dice. Great for roasting, sauteing, and frying!

Enter to win! Hone your sharpened knives by winning a 10'' steel from Big Kitchen Store.

To enter, visit Big Kitchen and comment telling me what kitchen item you need the most in your kitchen. The comments are the official entry, there is no purchase necessary, void where prohibited. US mailing addresses only. One (1) winner will be chosen randomly. Prize will be shipped by Big Kitchen. The contest ends Sunday, March 4th, 2012 at 11:59 pm Eastern. The winner will be announced on Monday, March 5th via email and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. 

Disclaimer: Big Kitchen Store facilitated this review by sponsoring it with a knife sharpener and steel free of charge. As always, opinions are based on personal testing. 

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