101 Ways To Cut Yourself: Vegetable Knife Skills
The chinois, a conical strainer with a handle, is a useful, even necessary, chef’s tool, but not a glory tool. The glory tools are your personal set of knives. They are the tools you think of first and last when you think of a chef. Knives are usually the personal property of each chef in a professional kitchen and are guarded as such. The kitchen may have some general knives, but they are not usually of the highest quality. A prudent investment in fine knives early on in your career can be a lifelong one. It is no different for the home cook. A set of fine knives will make everything easier and more enjoyable in the kitchen. After all cooking and being in the kitchen should be enjoyable, should be fun.
Most knives are made of either high-carbon or forged stainless steel. These metals are resistant to rust and corrosion, besides they do not stain easily. One of the most important criteria when choosing a knife is the material it is made from. Some of the desirable materials are:
Carbon steel: an alloy of carbon and steel. Its primary advantage is that it holds a fine edge. Its major disadvantage it requires a high degree of maintenance as it corrodes quickly, isn’t suitable for salt-air climates or highly acidic food.
Stainless steel: a combination of iron and chromium or nickel. A very popular medium for chef’s knives. Resistant to abrasions and corrosion, but does not maintain a fine edge.
High-carbon: made up of many different materials including chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium. Most professional knives are in this class. Blades are less resistant to abrasion than stainless steel knives, but are much easier to sharpen.
Professional knife kits contain at minimum all of the following knives and tools:
Chef’s Knife: The most versatile of all the knives in your kit. Used for chopping, dicing, slicing, and filleting. The blade can range from 6 to 14 inches in length.
Utility Knife: Used for coring vegetables, slicing tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables.
Boning Knife: Used to bone various meats and poultry. Has a 6 to 7 inch curved blade that may be either firm or flexible.
Fillet Knife: A very sharp knife with a flexible blade that is essential to filleting.
Slicing Knife: Used for slicing large cuts of meat or fish such as roasts, hams, and smoked salmon. Blades range from 12 to 16 inches. May be round tipped or pointed.
Paring Knife: A small bladed knife used for peeling vegetables.
Serrated Knife: A bevel edged knife used for slicing breads, rolls, and other soft items.
Steel: A hardened fine, ridged rod used to keep a knife’s edge aligned.
Sharpening Stone: A natural stone, carborundum stone, or diamond studded block that is available in a variety of grits used to sharpen knives.
Cutting vegetables with proper technique ensures uniform size and shape resulting in even cooking. In a professional kitchen this allows more than one person to do the preparation. Practice, practice, practice is the only way to learn the cuts and yield uniform vegetables. The traditional cuts are as follows:
Emincer: to thinly slice.
Ciseler: to finely diced onions and shallots. This method keeps the juices from being forced out as standard chopping does.
Tronconner: to cut into 4 to 7 (1 ½ to 2 ¾ inch) centimeter segments.
Parer: to trim round slices of tronconneed vegetables to obtain a flat surface on every side.
Jardiniere: thin sticks, 4 to 5 (1 ½ to 2 inches) centimeters long.
Julienne: very thin sticks, 1 to 2 millimeters (1/32 to 1/16 inch) square and 5 to 7 centimeters (2 to 2 ¾ inches) long.
Macedoine: small cubes, 5 millimeters (3/16 inch) square.
Brunoise: minute cubes, 1 to 2 millimeters (1/32 to 1/16 inch) square.
Chiffonade: this method produces thin strips of herbs
1. Wash and thoroughly dry
2. Lay the leaves in a flat stack of three or four
3. Roll the stacked leaves into a cigar shape
4. Cut the leaf roll crosswise to form thin strips
Concasser: to coarsely chop a vegetable, usually tomatoes.
Hacher: to finely mince small bunches of herbs
Mirepoix: unshaped large chunks. These pieces are used as the aromatics, almost always strained out at the end of the cooking. It is important all pieces are of uniform size to provide even cooking. This term is often applied to a mixture 50 percent onion, 25 percent carrot, 25 percent celery.