If you’re browsing recipes on this blog, chances are that you know your way around a knife and cutting board. That’s what we thought of our kitchen skills, at least, until we attended a knife skills course this week. The class, which was held at our Williams-Sonoma location in San Francisco’s Union Square, was led by Wüsthof Executive Chef Mike Garaghty, who walked us through cutlery basics using the company’s newest line, the Wüsthof Legende collection.
As Chef Mike demonstrated everything from how to properly hold a knife to how to craft a mouse or rose garnish, we quickly realized that we’ve been doing a number of things wrong all along. Here are five pointers about working with knives that you probably didn’t know.
1. Don’t cut in a straight up-and-down motion. When you cut this way, you won’t achieve clean cuts; in fact, you’re more likely to mash up your food. Even worse, you’ll dull both your knife and board.
2. Instead, cut using a down and forward motion, keeping your knife and its tip on the board. You should not hear your knife banging down on the board — if you do, it means you’re pushing down too hard.
3. Use a forward-and-back motion when slicing with a serrated knife. Ever tried to slice through baguettes, only to emerge with flattened crostini? Avoid this problem by focusing on zig-zagging forward and back with your knife, rather than downward. Most serrated knives, in fact, are designed to cut through bread and other objects without a need for pressing down. It may take a few extra strokes, but you won’t wind up with flattened food.
4. The tip of a serrated knife is your best friend. Bread crust can be stubborn, and slicing through the bottom crust with a knife is often the hardest part. But the tips of most serrated knives are designed to bust through the crust, so keep the tip of your knife on the board and you’ll find it slices right through even though toughest crusts.
5. You can, in fact, “sharpen” serrated knives. Serrated knives actually don’t need sharpening; what they need is honing. Honing re-aligns the microscopic teeth in the blade, but doesn’t remove steel to create new edge the way sharpening does. Carefully feel along the jagged blade of your serrated knife for any misalignments; because most serrated knives are only beveled on one side, you need only hone them on one side. When you’ve located a tooth of the blade that’s out of line, carefully pull the blade at an angle against a honing steel. (See more information about honing on Wüsthof’s helpful website.)
What’s your biggest piece of advice when working with knives?