Hello my Foodie Friends. Foodie moms are the easiest to please on a special day – especially Mother’s Day. If she’s into cooking special meals for you or she’s one who simply loves to eat, there are so many exciting ways to give her a treat these days. Creating a “foodie” theme for your mom can be a fun way to tell her how much you appreciate her cooking. There is one tool that is considered the “heart” of the kitchen for the culinary connoisseur; it is the chef’s knife. The Chef’s knife is also known as a cook’s knife or French knife even though the knife style originates as the German cook’s knife. The chef’s knife is an all-purpose knife that is curved to allow the cook to rock the knife on the cutting board for a more precise cut. The broad and heavy blade also serves for chopping bone instead of the cleaver making this knife the all purpose heavy knife for food preparation. Chef’s knives are most commonly available between 6 and 12 inches, though 8 inches is the most common size.
As a child, I was not allowed to touch my mother’s chef knife. That honor was given to me as I was taught how to properly handle the knife. Learning proper knife skills helps ensure safety in the kitchen, keeping food, not fingers, on the chopping block. For another, proper knife handling can ensure precision and consistency in food cuts, which can result in more even cooking and more professional results.
However, many of us who never attended culinary school never learned the proper way to hold a knife. There are several ways to hold a knife: The first is a method where the hand that is holding the knife is not simply clutching it within a fist. The thumb rests on the inside of the knife, safely above the sharpened blade. The forefinger is slightly bent, and gently “hooks” the outside of the knife, right around where the blade meets the handle, but once again, at a safe distance from the sharp blade. The positioning of the thumb and forefinger allows the chef to properly direct and guide the blade, so that the knife can be used to cut exactly where he or she wants. Where is the hand that isn’t holding the knife? While it’s not as active in knife work, it’s no less important: it can be used to help “aim” the knife in the right direction, provide stability, and keep food in place while you cut.
With the handle grip, the dominant hand is curled around the handle of the knife, almost like how you would hold the handle of a jumping rope. This is a common grip for people who have smaller hands, or to chefs who are new to knife work. While it’s not a terrible grip, it should primarily be considered a starting point. For many children, they begin to write by clutching pencils and crayons like this, but as they become more practiced and dexterous, they graduate to a grip, which allows them more control. A proper knife grip is kind of like that. Once you’ve graduated from this handle grip, you can move on to the more refined grip described above.
That having been said, this handle grip is very effective when you are using the knife aligned sideways to smash a fairly soft ingredient, such as a garlic bulb. The non-dominant hand would be used to put pressure on the sideways blade from above, which would result in smashing the item in question.
THE FINGER GRIP: This grip is characterized primarily by the positioning of the forefinger on the knife. Where is the hand that isn’t holding the knife? While it’s not as active in knife work, it’s no less important: it can be used to help “aim” the knife in the right direction, provide stability, and keep food in place while you cut.
The 6” or 8” Chef knife is a wonderful gift to give Mom for Mother’s Day. At Compliments to the Chef, we also give lessons on how to hold a knife and we sharpen knives on site! So a great gift could also be the gift of giving mom a sharp knife!
Whatever the gift is that you give your Mom on Mother’s Day the greatest gift is the smile and hug you’ll give her at her front door!
Remember my Foodie Friends and Mom’s: “Life Happens in the Kitchen!”
Take care, John and Paula