Why the knife rules the kitchen?

Good cooking begins with a good knife! A superior kitchen knife is one of the handiest accessories you can own. They come in a wide range of styles and materials and each of them have specific uses, right from the smallest paring knife to a long chef’s knife. We tell you all you need to know about these sharp tools and honing your knife skills.

Types of knives – Kitchen knives are of several categories. A professional kitchen can have a specialized knife for every little cooking method. Here are the ones that are most useful in a home kitchen.

Chef’s knife or French knife – This is the most commonly used and multipurpose knife in the kitchen. The blade is shaped and worked so that it can peel and trim, slice, chop, mince, fillet and fabricate meats and vegetables alike. A good quality chefs knife should be well balanced, with the weight of the blade being equal to the weight of the handle. A utility knife is a slender and sleek version of a chef’s knife.

Paring knife – This tiny knife is one of the most handy knives in a kitchen. Tiny but sharp often with a curved blade you can use it to slice, chop, peel, decorate and even to zest fruits and hull strawberries.

Bread Knife – If you are part of the baking rage and love to bake your own loaf of bread at home, this serrated knife will help you cut perfect slices out of it. If you don’t own a bread knife a serrated one is your next best bet.

Carving and slicing knives –
If you do a lot of meat roasts and pies, you definitely need to own a carving knife. They are designed to cut thinner more precise slices of meat.

Cleaver – A cleaver or a Chinese cleaver is a rather heavy knife with a large single edged blade. It can be used for multiple purposes but mainly to chop and cut through bones.

A good knife set will give you all of these and more in one handy pack!

How to select a good knife – Buying a good knife can mean a lot of different things. A good finishing knife isn't a good bread knife, so you have to decide what you want to use your knife for. A couple of things you should look out for once you have done that.

Make sure it has a good grip. You don’t want the knife flying out of your hands while chopping. The handle of the knives play an important role in the grip. Wooden, stainless steel or plastic buy what you are most comfortable with.

Check the material the knife is made out of. Get a blade that stays sharp for a long time and doesn't corrode or rust over time. And it's essential that the blade can be resharpened. Stainless steel knives are your best bet!

Get something that looks nice. Aside from safety, comfort and durability, you want your knife to be aesthetically appealing to you. This doesn't necessarily make a good knife, but if you can get a strong, safe knife that looks good too, you might as well.

Knife accessories - Along with the right set of knives you could also do with some basic accessories to put them to the best use.

A good stable cutting board is important to make sure your cuts are perfect. Plastic or wooden boards are best as metal or ceramic surfaces dull the blade quickly.

A wooden knife block to store knives and drawers with inbuilt magnetic knife bars are very viable options to store knives these days.
Pair of cut resistant gloves is a good option to keep your fingers intact if you don’t trust your knife skills too much yet!

Cutting and chopping tips

The aim should always be to cut food into pieces of uniform shape and size. Not only do they look more attractive, but also cook evenly to give you the best dish in terms of flavour, taste, colour and texture.

Hold the item to be chopped with your non-dominant hand. Curl your fingers inwards to keep them out of the path of the blade when you begin cutting. Be aware of moving your fingers behind as you chop.

Place the tip of the chef's knife on the cutting board and leave it there as you rock the blade up and down over the food. Rotate the knife in a semi-circle to reach all the food that needs chopping, but always keep the tip stationary.

Cut large, round or oblong items in half and place them cut-side down on the board before cutting them smaller. Creating a flat surface for the item to lie on makes it more stable and easier to cut.

Place a wet cloth or paper towel under the cutting board to prevent it from sliding on slick surfaces as you cut – an industry trick.
Never attempt to catch a falling knife not to put it in your pocket.

Keep knives sharp and clean –
be sure to wash, rinse and sanitize your knife between uses and soak them in some warm water with detergent or lemon juice to clean them well.

Never use the same knife when switching from meat to vegetables, or from raw to cooked foods, unless it’s been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

Learning how to cut and chop can make that difference in your treating kitchen work as a joy rather than a chore and a good set of knives helps you do just that. So bring out the knives and let the fun begin.

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.