I do a program named “Shoppin’, Packin’, Schleppin’” in my office. It is about the grocery store, and preparing food for yourself and your family for the week. At the program, I prepare two meals for twelve people in about an hour and a half. The clients then get to eat one meal at lunch and take the other home.
We talk about our feelings about food and food preparation. I believe that cooking, and managing your food plan, is much more effective and much more fun when you have all the right tools to make your food preparation speedy and accurate. If you have a resistant resentful relationship with your kitchen, the problem may be related to things like dull knives or the wrong tools, making the simplest things difficult and time consuming.
Having a knife that’s sharp enough and has just the right weight and balance ensures that your chopping will be both faster and safer. I tell my clients, “If you cannot have a good knife, then buy your veggies precut.” There is nothing worse than having a dull knife mash your vegetables, or, worse, having the knife fall apart in your hand. You’re more likely to cut yourself if you’re struggling to cut something with a dull blade – that’s when it is easiest to lose control of the knife.
There are many different kinds of knives; each has its own purpose. Different types of knives are designed to work best for specific functions. A great knife can fail you completely if you try to use it for something it’s not suited for.
Good knives are expensive! You need to find the knife that is right for you. The weight and the balance are different in different brands; try it in the store; feel how it slices, feel how it rolls, feel how it balances in your hand.
You want a knife that fits well in your hand. You want the blade to be of forged, not stamped, steel, and the blade needs to go all the way back through the handle. This part is called the “tang” and most of us prefer full tang knives, that is the steel goes all the way back to the end of the handle. This gives you more power and balance.
The heel is the widest part of the knife, located at the rear of the blade where it meets the handle. This section of the cutting edge is used for chopping hard items like carrots, nuts or even chicken bones. Check that you have a good heel, wide enough that your fingers cannot slide onto the knife edge.
The bolster is the thick shoulder of heavy steel on the top of the knife at the front of the handle. The bolster also keeps your fingers from slipping on to the knife, preventing slipping, blisters, and cuts.
There are three more knives you will need, and a sharpener, but I will save that rant for next week. Then I want to start talking to you about the holidays, and support you in staying on your food plan.
So, think about this – what are the places in your life and the people in your life, who help you meet your food goals, and where are the struggles?
If you send them to me as comments, we can talk about them here.
Have a lovely week, go buy a good knife, leave me a comment, and…
Blessings to you,
Next you will need a Paring knife. A 3-4″ parer is the knife you use for the small fruit and vegetable preparation that needs to get into a smaller space: trimming strawberries and Brussel sprouts, peeling mangoes or avocado. If you plan on doing much in-hand cutting (holding a small food in your hand as you cut it) you need a sharp knife that works well. Since paring knives are small and meant for delicate work, but they still need to be of quality and durability. This little knife can do a lot of hard work! Again, feel it in your hand. Be sure there is enough heel and bolster to protect your fingers, and that the balance works for you.
Third, we need a slicing knife. This is used to slice thin cuts of meat, including poultry, roasts, and other large cooked meats. It is much thinner than a chef’s knife, enabling it to create thinner, more precise slices. The same criteria apply as to all knives, but this one is used with a back and forth hand motion rather than a rolling motion.
The fourth most important knife has got to be the 8” serrated knife. It’s perfect for a myriad of fruits and vegetables that have tough or waxy skins with soft interiors. Use it for tomatoes, eggplants and slicing the rinds of melons, pineapples and hard winter squash. It’s true that a sharp chef’s knife can do these jobs too, but a serrated knife is safer to use and usually more effective, especially at tough jobs like slicing off a pineapple skin. And I often use this knife for slicing thick meats like a large beef or pork roast.
The last thing you need to consider buying is a Sharpening Steel. As you use your beautiful new knives, the finest tips of their edges are getting pushed and mashed out of alignment; this quickly leads to poor cutting performance. But using a Steel will re-align the edge so your knives will feel sharp, cut cleaner and go longer before they need to be re-sharpened. Buy a steel that is longer than your longest knife. Steels also have a hidden talent. The tips are almost always magnetic and perfect for fishing bottle caps and other metal objects from a garbage disposal or under the stove or fridge. Serrated edges cannot be used with a sharpening steel, but are designed to cut effectively for a long time. The edges of quality serrated knives can be re-sharpened by a professional.
Hand washing is recommended for any quality knife. The dishwasher will cause wood handles to dry out, crack and degrade over time. And it will even dry out and dull high quality molded and resin materials well before the blade has been compromised. Once again, the most important aspect of the handle is that it feels comfortable to you and gives you a good sense of control over the blade.
Quality knives will reward you with safe, enjoyable performance every day and inspiration over a lifetime. And all the while your skills will grow using the right tools for the right jobs. And your food preparation time is greatly reduced.