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My Knife Skills Stink

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I have been cooking often for 25 years but my knife skills are still poor. As often as I cook a major meal (at least twice a week) the speed of my knife for prep work takes too much time. As long as I have been using a knife, it’s obvious I never trained properly.
 
I keep my knives very sharp and I practice the techniques that I see the professionals use but I still feel like I’m wearing oven mitts when I chop. I have a difficult time controlling the food with my fingers tucked back and I think Captain Hook chops faster then me. My hands are big but not that big.   
 
Can someone in the know guide me on how to improve?
post #2 of 18
Practice.

  For me, I was in the same boat where I have been cooking for many years, well versed with techniques but still was rough on the board.  That changed when a friend who is an executive chef offered me a job in his kitchen to do prep work.  All that practice suddenly honed my knowledge into skill. 

  Focus on the technique and go through the motions slowly, this will develop muscle memory as to which the muscles will eventually carry out the task accurately at a faster pace.
"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
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"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
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post #3 of 18
You know the old Q&A routine?

How do you get to Carnagie Hall?
Practice, practice, practice.

That's the whole secret. The more of it you do, the better at it you become.

If you're not actually cooking, grab an onion or a potato and practice with them. But, as Fr33-Mason suggests, concentrate on the skill set and speed will come with time.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thats the problem, if it just took practice and repetition, I would already be good at it since I've been doing it so long. Can someone tell me if there was any training for the use of a knife in chef's school? Was it extensive or was it simple? Are there any decent books, videos, CD's etc. that I can learn from to see what I'm doing wrong?

Thanks in advance!
post #5 of 18
Your last comment reminds me of a guy I used to know who claimed to have had 25 years experience at a particular job. Come to find out, he had one year experience 25 times.

What I'm saying is that, from your description, you haven't been consistently doing it all those years. You have, once or twice a week, used a knife as part of meal prep. That's not consistent practice.

Do baseball players only count their at-bat time? No, they are in the batter's cage all the time.

That's what you should be doing. Again, from your original comments, you have the moves down. It's just a matter of doing them over, and over, and over again.

Let me add two things:

First, why the emphasis on speed? It's not like you're in a restaurant and have to chop 50 pounds of onions. We're talking about making supper. So what if it takes five minutes longer than somebody else.

Second, many people do find the tucked-fingers grip awkward, especially at first. But if you ever want to safely improve your skills, that and a pinch-grip on the knife are the only ways to do it.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 18
if your really serious about it go buy a couple of bags of potatoes and practice on doing sets of 5. Time the first five being cut in med dice, then time another five and try to get faster.

You will (probably) never get as fast as someone in a pro kitchen environment.

First off, you don't have someone showing you what you're doing wrong and correcting you as you do it.

Secondly , you aren't getting your buttocks ridden by the chef wondering how long it takes the newbie to cut 50lbs of potatoes and onions and carrots etc, etc...

Third, most everyone I have ever cooked with spent their entire first week doing EVERYONE else's prep work.  That's it. All day, all week, chop chop chop and when that's done go make all the salad dressings. if you don't experience those things under real pro conditions you will never learn the zen like stance and hand movements that an experienced cook innately learns.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #7 of 18
And be sure to read Gunnar's next book: Zen and the Art of Onion Chopping.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

And be sure to read Gunnar's Sensei next book: Zen and the Art of Onion Chopping.

Excerpt "First draw then energy of the universe into yourself and focus your chi at a single point of your knife. Second put on your onion cutting goggles and prepare to slice the onion with each sweep of your blade. Feel the onion... Be the onion... Don't cut yourself." Page 743 Paragraph 3
"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kristopher View Post




Excerpt "First draw then energy of the universe into yourself and focus your chi at a single point of your knife. Second put on your onion cutting goggles and prepare to slice the onion with each sweep of your blade. Feel the onion... Be the onion... Don't cut yourself." Page 743 Paragraph 3

 

I swear to god I am so firing my editor. Somebody is obviously leaking rough drafts of my work.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #10 of 18
Now you're stuck, Kristopher. You get to write the review!
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 18
Can you be more specific about what your struggling with? Are you struggling when you try to do very specific cuts like brunoise, small dice, large dice? Are you ok chopping herbs? Is it just with vegetables you struggle with or what about butchering meat, breaking down a chicken, or fileting fish? Are you attempting more advance cuts like food garnishes?

Start very simple. I would suggest a cantaloupe or honeydew melon. Practice first peeling it with your knife. Cut off both ends so you have a flat surface. Then peel the skin with your sharpest knife. I have often used a serrated knife for this it works very well. Once you have it peeled cut the melon in half and remove the seeds. Lay the melon on the cut side and practicing slicing the melon into even cuts. When you slice your knife through be sure to look at the bottom of the melon where the knife will end up so that you keep your slices even.

You can certainly practice on onions or potatoes but you usually end up throwing them out. I like the melon because you can practice and eat what you practice on and avoid waste. The melon is also easier to slice through so you get a little better practicing on a softer material.

Just my two cents.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Venom View Post

Thats the problem, if it just took practice and repetition, I would already be good at it since I've been doing it so long. Can someone tell me if there was any training for the use of a knife in chef's school? Was it extensive or was it simple? Are there any decent books, videos, CD's etc. that I can learn from to see what I'm doing wrong?

Thanks in advance!
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks Nicko, my biggest problems are the smaller cuts such as julienne or brunoise. Mincing small pieces such as a clove of garlic, forget about it. I only spend about ten to fifteen hours a week in the kitchen and I’m just too slow.

 

My techniques are poor IMO and this is where I need to start. As I asked before, what kind of knife training is there in culinary school? Is there any decent educational material out there for this?

 

I found this http://rouxbe.com/how-to-cook/kitchen-knives-and-knife-cuts and it might help but I’m just looking for some good educational material.

 

Thanks in advance,

post #13 of 18
Since you mentioned the garlic, you know the trick to dicing them is to smash the **** out of the clove with the flat side of your knife right? Because of the structure of the clove (somewhat like an onion) when it's smashed it is 80% diced.. just a quick rocking of the knife across it a few times and you should have a pretty fine dice.

There are tricks with most vegetables.. for instance the method to dice an onion that involves bi-secting it across the root/stem, do you know that trick? There are also safety tips, like creating a flat surface on what you are cutting so that it remains stable on the board, being stable and safe, will result in more speed as you gain confidence from having not lopped a finger off.
post #14 of 18
 I forgot we did some really nice photo driven articles way back (2000, 2001). Take a look and let me know what you think.


Chef Knives How To Really Use Them



How To Use A Chef Knife Part I


How To Use A Chef Knife Part II 


How To Use A Chef Knife Part III With Photos


How To Choose The Right Knife



Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #15 of 18
Good article... I wasn't aware of how to hold items using the small finger and thumb. I did order "An Edge in the Kitchen" because I want to sharpen my knives more effectively and also wanted to increase my knowledge of cutting technique. I'm still waiting for it to get to me
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 

Excellent, thanks Nicko!!!

 

Eastshores, yes I’m familiar with the shortcuts. I prefer minced garlic in many dishes too as I love those little minced garlic bombs. I can't seem to get that with crushed, pressed or smashed garlic.  

post #17 of 18
When I am at home I just use a garlic press :D I can mince just fine garlic is just sticky and a bit messy and garlic press takes so much less time. 
"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
Reply
post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Venom View Post

Excellent, thanks Nicko!!!

 

Eastshores, yes I’m familiar with the shortcuts. I prefer minced garlic in many dishes too as I love those little minced garlic bombs. I can't seem to get that with crushed, pressed or smashed garlic.  


 Just use a fine grater for your garlic, it works awesome.
"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
Reply
"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
Reply
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