Knife DNA 101

The Cutting Edge the sharpened, honed edge of the blade. It should be razor sharp. Chef’s knife blades come in varying degrees of curvature, designed for various tasks, such as cutting, slicing, filleting, butchery.

The Back, or Spine, is the long side opposite the sharp blade. This is where you hold your non–knife hand when rocking the knife back and forth for rapid mincing. It can also be used as a makeshift bench scraper for moving pieces of food around on your cutting board. Never use the knife cutting edge for this.

The Tip is the sharp point at the end of the blade. It’s used for precision work.

The Heel is at the bottom of the blade. In Western-style knives, the metal thickens significantly at the heel. This is to make it easier to grip.

The Bolster is the part of the blade that meets the handle. It is thick and heavy, providing a good balancing point for the blade and the handle. The center of mass should be somewhere near the bolster, so that you can rock the knife back and forth with minimal effort.

The Tang is the extension of the blade that runs through the handle. It provides balance as well as sturdiness.

The Handle is where your hand rests if using the handle grip, or where your three smaller fingers rest if using the blade grip. Handles can be made of wood, polycarbonate, metal, or various exotic materials.

The Butt is the fattened section at the very bottom of the handle.


Toasting Dry Spices


Toasting Dry Spices

Spices are at their peak fragrance just after toasting.  Toast in small batches as needed. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the spice in an even layer on a sheet pan and toast until just fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes on average.

Alternatively, warm a dry pan over medium-high heat, add the spice to the pan, and toast, tossing occasionally as it heats, until just fragrant. Timing will depend on the spice, but should average 5 to 7 minutes. Allow to cool completely before grinding.


Salt: When, Why, How much – A Primer

There are so many kinds of salt available now that it’s become difficult to know which to use for what. Some generalizations can be made:

  • A box of inexpensive kosher salt is ideal for salting large amounts of water for boiling vegetables or pasta.
  • Fine salt, either bought fine or ground, is best for seasoning foods in which the crunch of coarse salt would be too much.
  • Sea salt, ideally the rather gray looking sel de Guérande, contains essential minerals and a delicate marine flavor.
  • Fleur de sel is ideal in tiny pinches placed on delicate foods.

What is fleur de sel?

Fleur de sel is a kind of sea salt that is harvested in some parts of France by trapping sea water in lagoons and letting the water dry. As the water evaporates, salt begins to form on the surface of the pond in a characteristic flower pattern. The salt is raked off, allowed to dry slightly more, and marketed as fleur (“flower”) de sel. If you look closely at a pinch of fleur de sel, you’ll see that it’s made of flat crystals.

Fleur de sel has a delicate flavor and looks great on top of small servings. It’s expensive, so use it at the end.

When do I add salt?

It varies, if you have plan ahead, season fish and meat a couple of hours before cooking and then pat them dry before browning. This gives the salt time to penetrate the food. Because salt draws water out of foods, which can interfere with browning, the foods need to be patted dry.

If you don’t have time to salt meat ahead of time, salt just before browning or just before serving.  Broths and sauces should be salted just before serving in case you want to reduce them to concentrate them. Boiling down liquids increases the concentration of any salts they contain.

Why is some sea  salt wet?

Sea salt is what’s called hygroscopic (a substance tending to absorb moisture from the air).  To prevent this, some companies add a magnesium compound to the salt to keep it dry. This also makes it easier to pour.


Preservation Techniques


Definition: Keeping Of perishable foods in a consumable form for a long period of time.

Dehydration: Draws moisture from the product and eliminates any medium for bacteria. Used for fruits, herbs, beans and other vegetables.

Alcohol: Alcohol kills active microorganisms. Used for fruit.

Sugar: Density of sugar retards the growth of enzymes due to a lower ratio of water. Usually 60% sugar in preserves. Used with fruit.

Liquid Cure / Brine: Submersion Of Food in a brine, an intense solution of water combined with salt and sometimes additional spices.

Pickling / Fermentation: Preserves Food by impregnating it with acid.  Vinegar is common and creates an environment that encourages fermentation. The item is generally precooked or soaked in a brine to draw out excess moisture.

Dry Cure / Salt: Surfaces are rubbed with salt and then left to cure. Usually a preliminary step to smoking, as are liquid cures.

Cold Smoking: Item is first cured, usually in a brine. Smoke is applied at a temperature bellow 100 degrees (38 degrees Celsius). Product remains uncooked. Example Scottish smoked salmon.

Hot Smoking: Cooks the product with the heat of the smoke. Item is usually cured first. Chicken, turkey, pork and trout are often hot smoked.

Pasteurization: Rapidly cooling liquid that has been heated to 180 degrees. Primarily used for milk and cream.

Sterilization: The container is sterilized before it is filled. Filled container is then brought to a high temperature. Safe for long term storage. Primarily used for canning fruits and vegetables.

Refrigeration: Enzyme activity is slowed at 32-38 degrees. Humidity level must be controlled.

Freezing: Holding temperature must be below 0 degrees. Changes the texture of the thawed product due to water evaporation.

Quick Freezing: Products are immediately cooled to -40 degrees and held at -4 degrees.

Freeze Drying: Total elimination of all moisture, repeated freezing and dehydrating. Product does not require refrigeration. Used for coffee, potatoes.

Sealing & Coating: Confit is a classic example. Today it is used more for taste than preservation.

Vacuum Pack: aka cryovac.  Eliminates all air from a plastic bag or container.

Thinking Of Opening A Restaurant: Equipment


Large Appliances


Open Burner: Direct, adjustable heat.

Flat Top: Thick Steel plate over the heat source that provides indirect heat.  Requires flat bottomed cookware and time to adjust settings.

Ring Top: Concentric rings and plates that can be removed to expose the burner.  Indirect or direct heat.  Has a higher BTU than an open burner.

Conventional Oven: Indirect heat source located at the bottom with adjustable shelves.

Deck Oven: Food is set directly on oven floor.  Single or multiple levels available.  Think pizza oven.

Convection Oven: Fan blows hot air through oven allowing food to brown more efficiently.  Often used for pastries and baked goods.

Combi Oven: Temperature, moisture content and air flow may be controlled.  Used for cooking and holding food.

Salamander: Open Box like apparatus with heat source located in roof.  Generally used for intense browning (glacages)

Grill: Heating source (built in or added) is located below a heavy duty cooking rack.

Walk-In Refrigeration: Used for cold storage or freezing.

Reach-In Refrigeration: Larger version of a home refrigerator/freezer.

Under Counter Refrigerator and Refrigerated Drawers: Used primarily around the work areas.  Some drawers designed to hold specialty products such as fish.

Small Appliances

Ber Mixer: Immersion blender either electric or battery powered.

Electric Blender: A machine that purées, Emulsified and crushes. Composed of a solid housing containing motor base and the blending jar  Never fill more than 2/3 full.

Electric Food Chopper or Buffalo Chopper: Heavily built machine with a rotating bowl that passes under a hood where vertical blades chop the food.

Electric Food Processor: Heavy motor encased in plastic or metal housing with a detachable bowl and cover and various blades with specific functions.  It can chop, blend, mix, purée, knead, grate, slice and julienne.

Electric Meat Grinder: Freestanding motor housing, as well a feed tray, and blades of varying sizes.

Electric Meat Slicer: Substantial machine with a metal encased motor as the foundation and a circular cutting blade attached.

Mandoline: Hand slicer supported by folding legs with a number of different sized blades used to cut vegetables into a variety of shapes, sizes and thicknesses.

Steam Jacketed Kettle: Used to make large quantities of stocks, soups, sauces and pastas.  Two quarts to one-hundred gallons.  Steam circulates through the kettle walls to provide heat.

Tilting Shallow Kettle: Large stainless steel unit with a hinged lid for making large quantities of sautés and braises.

Hand Tools

Channel Knife (Canneieur): Small Knife used to channel fruits and vegetables into decorative patterns.

Chef’s Fork: Longer handled, longer toned fork that keeps the chef’s hand from the heat.

Chinois: Conical strainer with a handle.

Chinois Etamine: Bouillon strainer.  Constructed with fine metal mesh.

Perforated Chinois: Used when fine straining is not necessary.

Food Mill: Metal basket utensil with interchangeable discs and hand crank used to separate solids from skins, seeds, etc.

Kitchen Scissors: Sturdy shears to cut butcher’s twine. Or kitchen paper or for trimming fish or poultry.

Needle Nosed Plyers / Tweezers: Used to remove fine bones from fish.

Parisienne Scoop: Melon baller.  Used to cut fruit or vegetables into small balls.

Pastry Spatula: Long thin spatula used to assist in cake decoration.

Ricer: Basket or cone shaped utensil with small holes and a plunger used to force small foods into grains.

Scales: Essential in pastry making.

Scrapers: Numerous styles:

Metal Bench Scraper: To clean off workspace.

Plastic Bowl Scraper: To remove dough from mixing bowls.

Spatulas: Large metal ones used to flip vegetables, meat, poultry.  Rubber, composite, wood spatulas also used for various techniques.

Spider: Long handled device with a shallow almost bowl like shaped disk of mesh or perforated wire.

Spoons: Wide variety of sizes and shapes and materials.

Stem Thermometer: Measures degrees through a metal stem two inches from the tip.

Tamis: Used for fine straining of liquids, aka tammycloth.

Tongs: Helpful in turning, lifting and plating food without puncturing it.

Trusing Needle: Long skewer like needle used to truss poultry.

Vegetable Peeler: Small fixed or pivoting blade with a handle used to peel vegetables and fruit.

Whisks: Thin, flexible wire whips used to incorporate mixtures. Balloon whisks have large somewhat spherical centers to incorporate air into foods such as egg whites.

About Emulsified Sauces


  • Made by combining two normally incompatible liquids through the incorporation of a binding or emulsifying agent.
  • Egg Yolks: Classically most common emulsifying agent.
  • Sabayon: Egg yolks and flavoring components whisked into a foamy mixture over a hot water bath until they are thick and airy.  Clarified butter is then added in a steady stream and whisked until smooth.
  • Clarified Butter: Butter that has been slowly melted, allowing most of the water to evaporate and the milk solids to separate and settle in the bottom of the pan.
  • Warm emulsified sauces will break or curdle if not prepared or held properly. Ideal temperature 120 degrees (49 degrees Celsius)
  • Possible reasons for failure:
    • The sabayon was I sufficiently cooked.
    • The sabayon was overcooked.
    • Clarified butter was incorporated too quickly.
    • Excessive heat made the butter separate from the yolks.
  • If sauce broke, ways to restabalize:
    • Beat a few drops of water into the sauce, working it in from the bottom inner edge of the bowl and using a small wire whisk gradually bring the whole sauce into the process.
    • If the sauce broke because it was too hot, add a few drops of cold water.
    • If the sauce broke because it was too cold, add a few drops of warm water.
    • If the sauce appears about to break, dip the bottom of the bowl into ice water bath and whisk constantly until the sauce smooths.
  • Warm Emulsified Sauces
    1. Clarify Butter.
    2. Cook sabayon over hot water bath, whisking constantly.
    3. Slowly add warm clarified butter, whisking constantly.
    4. If too thick, add drops of warm water, whisking constantly.
    5. Season with salt, cayenne and lemon juice.
    6. Hold at 120 degrees (49 degrees Celsius).

Cold Emulsified Sauces


Mayonnaise: Egg yolks, mustard, oil, acid.

Verte: Mayonnaise and green herbs.

Rémoulade: Mayonnaise, capers, cornichons, chervil, tarragon, parsley, chives; chopped onions and egg are optional.

Gribiche: Mayonnaise, hard cooked eggs,  mustard, cornichons, parsley, chervil and tarragon.

Chantilly: Two parts mayonnaise and one part whipped cream.

Aioli: Mayonnaise, Garlic, sometimes saffron.

Rouille: Mayonnaise, White Bread, Garlic, paprika, saffron.

Andalouse: Mayonnaise, tomato coulis, diced peppers.

Warm Emulsified Sauces


Hollandaise: Egg yolks, clarified butter, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper.

Mousseline: Three parts Hollandaise and one part whipped cream.

Mortarde: Hollandaise, blood orange juice, blanched mandarin orange zest.

Mikado: Hollandaise, mandarin orange juice, blanched mandarin orange zest.

Béarnaise: Egg yolks, clarified butter, salt, tarragon, chervil, Reduction Of white wine vinegar, shallots, tarragon, peppercorns.

Foyot or Valois: Béarnaise and meat glaze.

Charon: Béarnaise and tomato concassé.

Paloise: Béarnaise with mint instead of tarragon.

Tyrolienne: Béarnaise with a neutral oil instead of clarified butter.

Béchamel Sauces


Mornay: Béchamel combined with Gruyère cheese and egg yolks.

Crème: Béchamel with heavy cream and lemon juice.

Soubise: Onions sweated in butter and added to Béchamel.

Smitane: Classically but no longer made from Béchamel. Chopped onions sweated in butter, moistened with white wine and reduced; sour cream added.


French White Sauces


Supréme: Chicken velouté combined with cream and seasoned.

Ivoire: Sauce Supreme combined with meat glaze.

Albufera: Sauce Ivoire mounted with pimento butter.

Chaud-Froid: Chicken Velouté combined with cream and gelatin.

Bercy: Shallots combined with white wine and reduced with fumet; added to a fish Velouté, finished with chopped parsley.

Aurore: Fish Velouté combined with tomato coulis.

Bretonne: Julienned leeks, celery, onions and mushrooms cooked à l’etuvé, deglazed with white wine and reduced; added to fish Velouté.  Finished with heavy cream or creme fraiche.

Chaud-Froid: Bound Fish Velouté combined with heavy cream and gelatin.