Worms and Flowers

Many Words about Knives

Posted in Kitchen by Lzyjo on August 28, 2009

Last Sunday I was diligently working in the studio, finishing up eight pillow covers for my MIL. Four for gifts and the others she bought, anyway, I just love NPR’s fabulously funny Sunday programming. Last Sunday’s Splendid Table featured an interview with domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, who shared several delicious ways to enjoy in season fruits and even make jam, her recipe “Handsfree Raspberry jam” is featured on the Splendid Table website.

Next, weekly Splendid Table guests and food/travel writers Jane and Michael Stern shared tales from their travels sampling Kansas City B-B-Q. I really had no idea, but Kansas City is a likely home as any for B-B-Q. Kansas City barbecue is known for it’s spicy orange sauce, colored by tomatoes. The sauce in Kansas City not as sweet as other types of BBQ sauce. According to Jane and Michael the holy grail of BBQ in Kansas City is L.C.’s their description leaves nothing to the imagination, a small restaurant, with TVs blaring, and rolls of paper towels on every bare-top table. According to the experts don’t bother with any of the side dishes what you want is the barbecued meats, particularly a sampling of burnt ends, the charred ends of the beef briskets. Almost enough to make a vegetarian’s mouth water….almost.

Next up in the show was Chard Ward, author of An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives — How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro.An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives — How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro Knives

An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives -- How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro

Knives always put me on edge, no pun intended. They are often costly, and require a certain respect and caution to be used safely. As the host Lynne Rossetto Kasper introduced the knife man my heart filled with dread, I felt like he was going to say, much to my chagrin, that all the knives I had were crap and that had no clue what I was doing when I used them. Fortunately, that is not at all what he said.

The knife man clearly and concisely explained the misconceptions and truths about knives. One of the first things he said what that most of out preconceptions about knives are comparable to medieval medicine. He debunked many myths about pricey forged cutlery, once a gold standard. According to the knife man, in this day and age it is unnecessary to buy unaffordable hand forged knives. I was positively excited when the knife of all knives he recommended was the very Photobucketknife I own!!!!! According to the knife man the very best knife for the value is by Fibrox by Victorinox/Forshner, (the Swiss Army knife company) A chef’s knife from this line costs about $20-$30 . They are stamped from a sheet of steel, making them cheaper to produce, but according to the knife man, the steel is high quality and holds an edge very well.
When it comes to keeping those knives sharp and in tip-top shape the knife man really broke it down. Electric knife sharpeners remove metal at an alarming rate, they should be used for emergencies, like if a knife has been severely dulled (Knife man used the example of a child dulling a knife on the sidewalk!) For maintenance a knife steel should be used before and after use. A knife steel does not actually sharpen the blade, but smooths out microscopic bends in the edge.
I have watched this “How to Use a Knife Steel” video on About.com numerous times just to make sure my technique is proper. I love the way this chef explains the process, the folded paper example is wonderful! Do check it out.
I bought most of my Victorinoxes from Cutlery and More they have a fabulous selection of Victorinox. The knife man says all you need is a chef’s knife, a few paring knives, and a serrated bread knife and he says you’ll be happier with those than “blockheads,” people who buy a set of knives in a block with a pear of shears for 39.99., or something, you get the point.
PhotobucketOn the left are my Victorinox parking knives, all about $4.95 each. A sheep’s foot paring knife( in the front) 3.25 inch paring knife, serrated knife, and two four inch paring knives. All, except the serrated, I keep sharp with the steel.
Most jobs in the kitchen are easily accomplished with these tools. Not to make an example from a mistake, but DH used the paring knives to chop green chilies on a regular kitchen plate with slightly cupped edges. Needless to say, he cut him self due to this unfortunate cutting arrangement. I took over cutting, after we covered DH’s cut, and immediately noticed how dangerous it was cutting on a plate. By all means use a flat cutting board surface, I don’t nag, but I really wanted to say, “what, are you trying to do? Chop you hand off, or make the knives really dull, cutting on this plate!!!” But I didn’t.

Have you noticed people using knives in TV shows? Often they look pouty as they angrily pound a chefs knife on the cutting board, using it like an axe, gosh, that makes are horrible noise. Loud walloping of the knife is not how this utensil was meant to be used. If you look at the photo on the right you can see how the tip of Photobucketthe knife does not touch the cutting board. The point of the knife, an inch or two below the tip should be used like a pivot point. It is unnecessary and quite dangerous to lift the knife all the way off the cutting surface. Depending on the diameter of the item to be cut, move it further to toward the handle for a larger cutting angle. Always try to use the natural curved shaped of the blade to your advantage, rocking as you chop.

After your are done chopping, put the knife in a safe place where it is out of the way. I know that is common sense, but an ounce of prevention,… well, you know…I like to wash the knife as soon as I am done using it, if not I put it out of the way on the side of the sink. Never in the sink. I always take any knives out of the sink before I start doing dishes. I know this because I HAVE cut myself reaching into murky dish water.

After the knife is clean, steel it a few times on each side of the blade, wipe with a clean towel and put your baby in the drawer. With proper care your knives can stay sharp for a lifetime and with respect you will always chop safely.

5 Responses

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  1. tina said, on August 28, 2009 at 12:33 PM

    I hope your husband is okay. Paring knife cuts are never fun.

    Thank you for the well wishes, his cut has healed, right by the thumbnail….Funny, it’s the SECOND time HE has cut himself, but I have yet to cut myself? He just looks dangerous with the knife in his hand. I saw him chopping potatoes yesterday and it was just scary!

  2. ourfriendben said, on August 28, 2009 at 5:39 PM

    My serrated Victorinox paring knife is pretty much the only knife I use. I love it! And I have some gorgeous Trident, French handmade, and etc. knives. But I love the lightness and ease of use of my “little Vicky” and find that the serrations help me keep the knife on target. Of course it’s perfect for cutting bread as well. No doubt if I ate meat I’d need additional knives, but as it is, I use my Victorinox to make every meal and practically sob when I have to cook in someone else’s kitchen and they have no serrated paring knives. Maybe I should just start taking it everywhere…

    Incidentally, I love your overview of the barbecue show. I’ve been a vegetarian almost half my life, but the smell of good barbecue still makes my mouth water. Growing up in Nashville, I loved the heavy, sweetish, literally stick-to-your-(spare)ribs Tennessee barbecue sauce. But I also loved the thin, vinegary barbecue sauces that were authentic to North Carolina and Virginia pulled pork. I constantly challenge myself to come up with something I can eat barbecue sauce on as a vegetarian, but have dismally failed so far, since the texture of the dish is as important as the flavor. Maybe if Ben and I ever figure out how to use the secondhand grill our friends were kind enough to give us, I might break down and grill some barbecued veggie burgers. Sigh… —Silence

    Hello Silence, Great to hear from you! Sometimes I catch myself thinking of bbq, or Jamaican jerk chicken, when I pass by a restaurant or Bar-B-Cutie (DH and I had our first meal together there, okay it was take out, but still bar-b-cutie!!!) It’s such a weird feeling. You should try Morning Star’s Hickory Riblets (fake)!!! Their bbq sauce is really sweet and smokey, very high calorie servings, but a little bit does a long way, it’s quite rich.
    Here you can find where to buy them.

    You have my personal guarantee they will totally satisfy your BBQ craving!! The texture is very much like BBQ’d meat.

    I love that you have a nickname for you knife, that’s so cute. Incidentally my rich-ass mom, whom I hate, actually bought her first Victorinox at a goodwill (you know how rich people stay rich right?!) Once you go Victorinox you never go back. Who wouldn’t want a handcrafted French knife, those things are beautiful enough to put on display! But price is a little bit of an issue 😉

    Go out and buy those Hickory riblets. You HAVE to!!

  3. Faith said, on August 29, 2009 at 6:28 PM

    Great knife tutorial. I feel sharper already. I have a drawer full of knives and only last year did Michael buy me my first real sharpener.

    You know what? I makes a huge difference! LOL


    It really is dangerous using dull knives! That’s so nice you Michael to have bought you one, he’s a keeper!

  4. Jen said, on August 30, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    Thanks for the great info and review! I’ll have to look for the Victorinox. We got a very nice chef’s knife (Wusthof) from my husband’s father last year – I can’t believe we survived so long without one. I sometimes buy the paring knives at the dollar store that come 4 to a package and use them in the garden. Then I don’t have to worry about leaving them outside! But I really should get some new good knives for the kitchen – what a relief that it doesn’t have to clean us out financially.

    Jen, your Wusthoh, sounds great, I’m sure it’s marvelous. We didn’t have a real Chef’s knife until last Christmas too. It surely is a relief that it doesn’t have to be expensive, God knows there are some super expensive ones at Linens ‘n Things or wherever! I love the idea about garden knives! Good thinking!!

  5. gail said, on August 31, 2009 at 12:19 PM

    I have a Victorinox Chef’s knife that I bought after Cook’s Illustrated gave it a great review~~it’s a wonderful knife and was totally affordable. Now I think I want to get the small paring knife. I’ll check out your source! My kitchen shears are Fiskars garden scissors that cost about $8 at a big box store. I have several pairs…for the kitchen and garden. Highly recommend them!


    Interesting tip about the garden scissors! I would NOT have thought to do that. I think there is a Victorinox chef’s knife that has the Cook’s logo on the side. Really can’t go wrong with any of their products, esp for $5, you won’t regret it. Thanks for stopping by!

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