Lesson 11: Knives and Knife Cuts

Knives and Knife Cuts

Knives and Knife Cuts

Knives

There are 4 knives that you absolutely must own. They are:

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1 Chef ’s Knife
A chef’s knife is the most versatile tool in your kitchen. It slices. It dices. It chops. It minces. It can do just about everything. Think of your chef’s knife as an extension of your hand or an extension of your will. Mastery of a chef’s knife is absolutely mandatory as you learn how to cook.

There are 2 popular forms of the chef knife. They are:
1 The French Chef’s Knife
2 The Japanese Chef’s Knife (Santoku Knife)

These 2 chef knives perform the same functions. They are different in shape though and that difference in shape changes how you use them. I recommend experimenting with both to see which one you like better.

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2 Bread Knife
You absolutely must have a bread knife. A bread knife allows you to precisely cut breads of all shapes and sizes without squishing the bread. Be careful with a bread knife, as I have cut a finger in half with one, because I was looking the other way. So use lots of caution when handling any knife.

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3 Boning Knife
A boning knife is used for one specific purpose and that is to remove meat from cartilage, fat, and bones. Th is knife should really be called, the de-boning knife. Th e boning knife is unique in the fact that you use exclusively the tip of the blade to do the work, where as other knives you utilize the length of the knife to do the work.

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4 Paring Knife
A paring knife is a vary specific small knife that is excellent at miscellaneous small tasks. It is perfect for peeling or cutting vegetables into smaller pieces, but is not ideal for actions like chopping or mincing. A paring knife is great to use when you have delicate work and control is of the essence.

Generic Knife Cuts Everyone Should Know

As you cook, you are going to run into many words that describe the exact manner in which a food should be cut by a knife. All of these cuts can and should be done by a chef’s knife. Th ere are 2 main categories of knife cuts. They are:

1 Uniform Cuts
Uniform cuts are cuts that are required to be a specific and refined size. These cuts have specific measurements that you are aiming for and you want each piece to be the same size. These types of cuts are most often used when you are trying to capture a specific presentation quality, uniformity, or mouth texture.

Dice
A dice is a cut, that when finished, looks like playing dice. They are perfect cubes all of the same size. A dice can be as small as ¼ inch or as large as ¾ inch. This depends on the recipe and which size it calls for.

Cube
A cubed cut is larger than a dice and usually has 1 inch or larger sides cut into perfect cubes.

Julienne
A julienne is a long stick like cut. Think carrot sticks or celery sticks. A julienne can be thick or thin depending on the application, but it must always be longer than it is thick.

Slice
A slice is probably the easiest cut to visualize. Think slices of deli meat. Slicing can also be a word that means to remove a piece from the whole. So use your best judgment as to how your slices are to be implemented in the recipe as a whole.

2 Irregular Cuts
Irregular cuts are any cut that does not have an exact finished size or consistency to the cut. When finished, if all of the cut food is not identical in size and shape, it is irregular. Irregular cuts are the most common and the most often used in home style cooking.

Mince
A mince is a tiny irregular cut where you slice or chop an item into little tiny fragments of the whole. This is most commonly used to either incorporate an ingredients flavor without visual detection or to tenderize tough cuts of meat. Originally tough cuts of meat where minced raw and then formed into patties, which is how cube steak is still made today. This stopped with the invention of the meat grinder which allowed large quantities of tough meat to be ground up, which naturally tenderizes the meat. These days we mostly use the mince cut for garlic.

Chop
A chop is a broad repetitive slicing motion that creates small irregularly shaped pieces smaller than ¾ inch, but larger than ¼ inch.

Quarter
A quarter is an irregular cut where an item is sliced in half once and then that half is sliced in half to form a quarter. This is most often used with onions and potatoes.

Peel
Peeling is the action of removing the skin from a fruit or vegetable.

Shred
Shredding is done with a cheese grater and is where you either shred tough root vegetables or cheese for easier cooking. Think shredded cheese or shredded carrots.

Chiffonade
This is a French word which basically means to roll fresh vegetable leaves and slice into thin slices. Think thin slices of basil, lettuce, cilantro, or mint.

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About the Author:

Chef Ryan Callahan is an award winning author and chef. He is the author of Chef Ryan's How-to-Cook Cookbook, Cooking for Chemo ...and After!, Cooking for Kids with Cancer, and Chef Ryan Callahan’s Tasting Journal. Chef Ryan won a 2016 Gourmand World Cookbook Award (Best Health and Nutrition USA) for his ground-breaking book, Cooking for Chemo ...and After! Chef Ryan Callahan is a hospitality industry veteran with over 15 years of hands-on culinary experience in the kitchen and front of house. When he isn't cooking, eating, talking or thinking about food you can usually find him nestled up with some manga or playing video games on his computer.