Knife Skills 101

Essential Knives and Accessories


I firmly believe that for the bulk of the human race, there are only a few utensils needed to be able to make good food fast. This post focuses on those that cut, chop, shred, peel and otherwise breakdown food into bits.

Chef’s Knife–  A chef’s knife is your kitchen BFF.  You can spend $20 to $500 on a chef’s knife. Choice is up to you and your budget. Go to a reputable knife seller. They should let you try it out before you buy it.  A chef’s knife should feel heavy in your hand but controllable. Chef’s knives can breakdown chicken, chop veg and fruit, slice steak, etc… If you are a kitchen ingénue, a shorter knife will probably be more manageable. The best way to hone your knife skills is to chop onions.  To chop an onion, slice off the end that doesn’t have the root, so you can stand it on its head. Slice the onion in half through the root-end so you have two halves with a root attached. This will keep your onion together while you slice it. Cut several slices vertically through the onion. Then, keeping one hand on top (while keeping fingers out of the way) slice through the half horizontally a few times.  You can now easily chop the onion into pieces of your choosing by cutting through the onion vertically again.  Try it. It beats the hell out of slicing the onion into thick slices and then chopping the onion into bits and pieces haphazardly.

Bread Knife– Bread knives are long, light-weight knives with a serrated edge. Once you use a bread knife to slice bread (especially our famous San Francisco sourdough) you’ll never want to go back to any other method. It makes breaking down a baguette into crostini-sized slices a snap.  I used to hate to slice bread before I discovered a sharpened bread knife. Now it’s one of my fave things to do in the kitchen (I’m serious).  Bread knives are also great for slicing tomatoes. 

Paring knives (often sold in sets, it’s useful to have multiples)- A paring knife is ideal for peeling and coring. I use my paring knife to slice garlic, score and cut mango, and hull strawberries. 

Sharpening Steel– If you are going to own decent knives you need a sharpening steel. I hold my steel upside down on my counter and hold the knife at a diagonal to steel and run it across.  I try and do this each time I use my chef’s knife and paring knife.  NEVER try to hone

your bread knife using the steel.  Take your knives to get sharpened once a year by a professional. It makes a big difference.

Kitchen Scissors– Scissors are a great tool to have in the kitchen. I cut string, herbs, scallions, and even use them to chop up tinned tomatoes in the can (much cleaner than putting my hand in the can and pulling them apart).

Microplane– I HEART MY MICROPLANE!!!!!!!  For some reason, I HATE chopping garlic. I HATE it.  So, I often substitute microplaned garlic for finely chopped. When I do this, I generally reduce the amount of garlic as the microplane releases a lot more juice so the garlic flavor is more intense. Try it the next time you make garlic bread. You’ll enjoy the wonderful perfume and won’t miss the little nubby bits of garlic.

Knife block/Covers for your knives– My kitchen is the size of a yoga mat. Well, maybe a little bit bigger but you get the hint. I have a galley kitchen (single girl city living, baby) so space is always an issue. That being said, I understand the importance of sheathing my knives. 😉 I don’t have the room for a block, so I bought handy, dandy plastic covers for my knives.

What’s Next:

I’m headed to an Oscar party on Sunday and I’m bringing dessert. S’more brownies. Yes, I said S’more brownies. They aren’t a very elegant choice but a girl can’t live by champagne and foie gras alone. For those of you that are hosting a swankified Oscar party this weekend, check out my blog post on hosting an easy, yet stylish cocktail party.  Another Oscar-worthy choice are my pate’ bites.  YUM.  

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About Carrie Tacla

Candymaking B2B marketer with a penchant for all things culinary.
This entry was posted in cooking, food, knife skills and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Knife Skills 101

  1. Finally just got a microplane and don’t know how I lived all these years without it. I’m with you on needing just the right knifes.

  2. Pingback: 4 Kitchen Knives You Should Own | Bear at Home

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