Learn Knife Skills for Safety – and Better Results
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Once again we are reviewing a Craftsy class; this one is the Complete Knife Skills Class, which you can sign up for and take for free! This was at the suggestion of my Craftsy contacts and at first I thought there wasn’t enough tie in with our focus on baked goods and desserts…of course the irony is that I was in the midst of cutting up fruit for a fruit salad and chopping nuts for cookies with a knife in my hand! So, simply put, knife skills are not just for butchers and culinary graduates. From cleanly and efficiently dicing a mango, to chopping dried apricots for granola, hulling strawberries to wielding a chef’s knife to make chocolate shavings, knives are essential everyday kitchen tools – and using them correctly or incorrectly can not only affect the result of your dish but affects your safety too. You like your fingers. Don’t you? And besides, like with all Craftsy classes, this class never expires and provides an interactive platform for you with the teacher, so it is like having the instructor right in your home. Brendan McDermott presents the Craftsy Complete Knife Skills class. His tattooed arms look flashy and a bit intimidating but his manner is very straightforward and encouraging and I think he will appeal to both guys and gals in the kitchen. And even if you have never picked up a knife, never fear because Brendan starts at the beginning.
The class begins with a Brendan showing you an array of knives but he hones in on the truly indispensible ones: top to bottom in image above, the serrated knife, the paring knife and the chef’s knife. I would agree that in our Test Kitchen that most everything we do could be accomplished with just these three knives.
There is great detail about what knives are made of, the pros and cons of different construction and what to look for when buying a knife. See the strong rivets in the image above? Those are one sign of a well-made knife. You can also see the “full tang”. That’s the metal part of the blade that extends all the way to the end of the handle; the metal is one piece. Again, this is a sign of good construction. And you will pay for it. Good knives aren’t cheap, but they will last a lifetime with good care, which he also addresses. He even talks about various cutting boards – wood versus plastic – how to clean them, the pros and cons here, too. (Hint: he likes wood; so do we). He describes how wood can be sanded and oiled to look like new. That’s why butchers use them! (As in “butcher block”). Wood is also gentler on your blades. Craftsy classes are always so thorough and this one is no exception. This is a free class and sign up is easy. Have you ever thought about how to use your cutting board? Probably not! You probably think, well, I place it on my counter and call it a day! He shows us the classic chef trick of taking a damp cloth and laying it down on the counter first. With the board on top of that, it won’t move, making your slicing and dicing experience much safer. And of course he touches on storage. Once you have purchased good knives, you have to take care of them. We like magnetic bars attached to the wall. This way your knives aren’t banging around in a drawer.
Now let’s get to the action part of the class. I concentrated on the lessons that most applied to me and my baking needs. That’s what great about Craftsy classes. You can pick and choose and the format makes it easy. I appreciated his explanation about melons and how their tough waxy skins call for a serrated knife. You might think to reach for the chef’s knife, but have you ever had that experience where the melon kind of slips out from under your hold? That’s dangerous! The grippy serrations of the serrated knife bite into the melon and cut right through the skin and flesh. He shows the same technique for butternut squash. Genius. He also mentions that if you are left-handed you should seek out a serrated knife for lefties. They do make them and they will work better for you. The chef’s knife is very all-round: dicing, slicing, cutting wedges of cake, you name it. The paring knife can hull a strawberry, halve large grapes for a fruit salad or tart, remove the eyes of a pineapple. Brendan spends some time showing you the proper way to hold a knife – and the wrong way! You want your hold to be natural and relaxed. As he says, let the knife do the work. Look below at the wrong way. My hand is too far back. I am not using the handle surface to my benefit.
He also makes a point of explaining that knives are for slicing, not chopping. The correct action is actually one of circular rotations.
The class also covers honing (above) and sharpening your knives, which can seem daunting at first but being able to see it in a video, which you can refer to again and again, is really, really helpful. He shows a trick that I had never heard of before that involves a Sharpie pen. Sound mysterious? For this alone you should sign up for this class! You have to watch the video to learn the trick but it will help you sharpen your knives perfectly every time.