Improve your home cooking – Buy a good knife, keep it sharp and look after it | The world of food and cooking

In the last post Most common cooking mistakes explained we wrote about the mistakes we’ve made over the time. We collected them, wrote them down, did some internet research (just to be sure that we are not aliens and others go through similar experiences) and put them together in a post, in which we described popular cooking mistakes and explained how to avoid them. These are the ones that thought us something and overall made us better cooks.  We hope you’ve found them useful and will appreciate any comments and questions related to the topic. We are currently gather more similar tips which we plan to post soon.

In this post, similarly to the previous, we would like to share what we think will improve anyone’s home cooking. Because there’s just so much we would like to share, it will be impossible to put it in one post. The post you are about to read is the beginning of a series of articles that will describe our views on how to improve your home cooking. Finally, all of the bellow cooking tips and tricks are knowledge we gathered through the years, some of it learned the hardest possible way, other parts of it are from learning from pros and more experienced cooks.

This post will not include cooking tips and tricks. It will be about one of the most important tools in the kitchen and the one that will help improve your cooking. You want to get into cooking and you are thinking, “What’s the most important tool I should own?” The answer is a good chef’s knife.

Buy a good knife, better a couple, learn how to properly use them and look after them.

You may stop reading here, because this is what our tip for all that want to get into cooking is. All we are saying in this post is that there is no way to become a good cook, without owning a good knife and being able to properly use it.

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The knife is the second most important thing in cooking, after heat. Knife work is so important that it is the first thing a classically trained chef must learn. I don’t even know how many times a day I use knives, but I know it is a lot. I use them to cut fruits and vegetables, to slice cheese and meat, to chop onions and herbs, and when I think about it, for pretty much any job in the kitchen, you name it. There are many days that I do not use the blender or the crock-pot, or even pans and casseroles, but rarely is there a day that I do not use my kitchen knives..  I really use them more than any other tool in my kitchen.

For years I had bad experience with cheap, weak and dull knives. I had a mixed matched set of knives that I bought here and there. They were hard to sharpen, would not sharpen well, and if you could get them sharp, they would not stay sharp. Moreover, several of them had thin blades, so they would easily bend when I was using them. I was struggling but I just kept using them. If you ask me why, I’ll tell you that truly did not think expensive knives would make much difference. After all a knife is a knife, right? Or so I thought…

Two years ago I got myself two knives and they were nice ones. After I used them once, I was amazed at how much difference these knives made, and after just a few days of using them, I was convinced in the importance of high quality kitchen knives. These were so sharp and sliced through things so easily. Overall, they worked so much better than any other knife I had ever used before.

To expect good results from your cooking and make the cooking task much easier and more pleasant you must have at least a couple of good knives.

Cleaning knives

First of all, don’t let food dry on the blade. Best way to keep your knife clean when in use, is to put the blade on a flat surface and with a wet cloth or paper towel, carefully wipe one side, then flip the knife over and wipe the other side.

However, if it’s been used to cut poultry, meat or fish, wash the knife with detergent and hot water after use. Hot water won’t hurt the knives, but will get rid of the remaining bacteria. If you just rinse them with cold water, most of the bacteria stay, and if there is any oily residue from kitchen chores, the cold water will make it stiffen.

Clean well the handle, too, so it’s free of grease to prevent your hand from slipping next time you use the knife.

Do not place delicate knives in the dishwasher because the force of the water jets and the placement of the knives in the basket can cause them to bump up against other utensils, damaging the cutting edge.

Do NOT soak knives in a sink because someone could put their hands in the water without seeing the knife and cut their hand or arm badly.

Take proper care of high quality kitchen knives, just as you would with any other good dishes or glasses, and they will last a lifetime.

Sharpening knives

There is a mantra in the food industry which says the most dangerous piece of kitchen equipment is a dull knife… Dull knives make dull cuts, if they cut at all. Using excessive force to counteract the effects of a dull blade often causes more accidents in the kitchen than the use of a razor-sharp blade.

A sharp knife also means a better, faster and easier job. It will also enable you to work neatly and accurately.

Sharpen your own knives regularly – little and often is the best approach. As soon as your knife feels slightly blunt, it should be sharpened – after about every five uses is a good guide for a home cook.

After sharpening, always clean your knife to remove any filings that might be on the blade. The safest way to test for sharpness is to cut a soft tomato – a sharp knife will slice through easily and with little pressure. Don’t test on paper as this blunts the knife.

After a long while you may find you won’t be able to sharpen your knife with a steel because the edge will get too thick. This is when you’ll need to have it professionally re-ground. There are companies that specialize in knife grinding or ask your local cook shop or butchers if they have a grinder on the premises.

Storing your knives

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Store your knives in a purpose-made case, a carrying wallet, a knife block or on a magnetic rack. Never throw your knives into a drawer or box. They should be stored so that they are easy to find without having to search through a pile of cutlery.

For the home kitchen use a knife block or a magnetic wall rack to store your knives. If you have to keep them in a drawer, then make sure they are separated from each other so that the blades don’t rub and become blunt.

Never store a knife on a high shelf where someone might not be able to see it. Someone could reach up for something else and knock the knife off or grab it while feeling for something else.

We hope that this article was convincing and will help you make the right decision and change your knives if you haven’t already done so.

We are already working on the next article which will include the types of knives you need, cutting techniques, tips on sharpening knives and more.

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