The knife is king
The Knife is valued by chefs as the most important tool in the kitchen. A knife typically has a tip, a cutting edge, a spine, a heel, a bolster and a handle; additionally, some have rivets. I use a taper ground full tang knife exclusively. It is cut from one piece of high carbon stainless steel and it has ground tapering to its cutting edge. A tang is a continuation of the blade to the end of the handle. These knives have rivets which hold the handle to the steel. They are well balanced and their edges stays sharper longer. My personal preference is a knife with a 10-inch blade.
My chef knife has a very fine grain rosewood handle. It fits my hand comfortably and that improves the ease and speed of my work. The bolster (where the blade meets the handle) of my knife is extremely wide and keeps my pointing finger calm and relaxed. I use this well-made knife for a variety of dicing, slicing, chopping, and filleting and—next to Bonnie—it is my closest friend in the kitchen.
Here is an explanation of the various types of cuts you can make with a knife:
Mince: “Mincing” is the smallest chop of all, less than 1⁄8-inch, achieved by first dicing then rocking the knife’s tip to heel back and forth across the ingredients, hand on top of blade, all the while rotating the blade around on the cutting board. To “paste” the ingredient, use the side of the knife and press the ingredient against the cutting surface over and over till it forms a paste.
“Finely chopping” creates pieces just a little bit larger than mincing.
Chop: You want to wind up with piece of about a 1⁄4-inch when you chop.
Coarsely Chop: This means you chop randomly, not looking for any particular size. The results are roughly between ¼ and ½ inch chopped.
Dice: We are looking for every piece to be the same size here, and that size is based on cooking time. Most recipes that call for a “dice” indicate the preferred size for cooking in the time allotted (e.g., “cut into 1-inch cubes”). Ignoring a suggested size changes the cooking time.
Cube: This is nearly the same as dicing and large pieces will result.
Slice and Thinly Slice: The term “Slice” is subjective and situational; a slice of apple will be thinner than a slice of chicken or Turkey, which ought to be no thinner than 1⁄4 inch. To “thinly slice,” however, means to cut the food as thinly as possible.
Finding the right kitchen knife is like finding the your soul-mate. You have to shop around for your perfect match but, once you find that special piece of cutlery, the two of you will enjoy a long-lasting, happy and very healthy relationship.
Phil Anderson, executive chef, devoted husband and host of the “Uncle Chef” video series is featured in over forty online cooking videos. In over 30 years in the food industry he’s studied in the US and abroad and done cooking demonstrations throughout the country.