September 29, 2011

Tavola Blogger Breakfast Part 1 - Kitchen Knives 101

Last weekend I attended the Tavola Blogger Breakfast which was held at their Jumeirah location in Dubai.  We were treated to a delicious breakfast spread, followed by a knife demonstration, Japanese plating and food styling demonstration.

All three demonstrations were very informative, but I thought the one about knives deserved a special note because I have a kitchen knife set, as I’m sure many of you do too, and don’t even use half the knives.  Well, that’s mainly because of two reasons 1) I didn’t have a clue what some of those knives were for and, 2) I’ve always had a favourite knife that I use for most of my chopping – the rest got neglected.

So, in case you were wondering what these knives are actually meant to be used for, here is a summary:

1.  Santoku knife with hallow edge:  Asian Chef's knife with multi-purpose.  This is the preferred knife (and mine too) because the hallow edge prevents the food from sticking to the knife when you’re slicing it.  It's also available without a hallow edge.

2.  Chef’s knife:  This is the most important knife in the kitchen.  Can be used for cutting fruit, vegetables or meat.  

3.  Bread knife:  I think we all know this one.  It’s the long serrated knife.  Works best using a gentle sawing motion.  Very handy for cutting rusks too…in case you are South African and like to make your own.
 4.  Carving and slicing knives:  this is the one you’re supposed to use for carving meat.  Usually used with a carving fork (that would be the giant fork).

5.  Filleting knife:  This is one knife I never use and but every now and then my husband likes to show off his knife skills by using this to carve his meat.  Well not anymore!  He was disappointed to hear that’s it’s actually used for filleting.  It has a flexible tip making it ideal for removing fish meat from the bone.  I think the guy at the fish counter does a superb job…
6.  Carving fork:  see 4 above.

7.  Paring knife:  A multi-purpose knife that looks like a smaller version of the Santoku knife or Chef's knife.  

8.  Utility knife:  used to cut anything with a harder skin and soft center for example, tomatoes, eggplant or sausages.

9.  Crescent moon-shape knife:  used for peeling and food decorating.  Handy little knife this…

How to care for your knives:

Never wash your knives in a dishwasher because it can damage the blades – how many of you have done that?  

The preferred knife sharpener is the stone sharpener, which I must be honest, I have never seen in any store.  The knife stays sharper for longer (provided you don’t throw it into the dishwasher!) and they recommend you don’t sharpen your knives unless you know what you’re doing because you can damage the knife.   If you can afford it, have it done professionally.

A sharpening steel or honing steel is used to reshape or hone the knife in between sharpening.

The manual knife sharpener is least recommended by the professionals – that’s the one where you draw the knife between two abrasive wheels.  Of course that's the one I bought a few months before doing this course...

As one blogger noted, do home cooks really need a knife to be that sharp?  Probably not as sharp, but they say a sharp knife is safer than a blunt one.  What do you think?