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Your Thoughts on The Most Important Knife Skills - Page 3

post #61 of 104


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

I think the subject of "Knife Skills" should be broken up into three general categories.  They are:  

 

  1. Knife handling -- including grip, posture, choice of knife, and so on;
  2. Sharpening -- including method and equipment; and,
  3. Board management -- including the board itself.

 

Furthermore, they are interdependent to the point that a limitation to one is a limitation to all -- whether the object is pure productivity or making cooking more fun and rewarding. 

 

Your thoughts?

 

BDL 

 

BDL I am a great fan of your posts but I have to disagree with you on this one.

 

I am not a knife enthusiast and I am certainly no expert on knives but when I think about the subject of "Knife Skills" I take the words "Knife" and "Skills" and I think about them. On that basis your categorisation is off the mark. Sharpening and board management are not "Knife Skills".

 

Sharpening may well be a skill involving a knife but that depends on how you interpret "knife skills". Sharpening can also be a "stone skill". Many cooks/chefs don't know how or have never sharpened a knife but they posess great knife skills.

 

Board management relates more directly to food prep or mise en place and could also be called, wait for it, "board skills". A board is a board and a knife is a knife.

 

Knife handling is about the closest to "knife skills" but if you want to break down definitions they are vaguely dissimilar. Knife handling does play a part in "knife skills" so that would be my first category along with butchering, filleting, slicing, dicing and, erm, cutting.

post #62 of 104

Hm, IMLE, a "knife" isn't worth much without being sharp AND working with a board or other surface!

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post #63 of 104


 

Quote:

 

Finally, and just for Chris Lehrer's sake:  Perhaps it would help to blend a Kantian with the Hegelian perspective of "categories."  That is, mine are as much categorical imperatives as a quadratic theory of knife skills.  For anyone else who gets that... you're very, very sick. 

 

BDL

I thought Hegelianism was a triadic theory.-

Kidding, I'm not sick, I actually had to look that up to know what you were talking about. Which might make me sicker-

Based on the above philosophical arguments of whether board management fits into knife skills sounds like the holistic ys synergy argument. While KY you seem more of the opinion that knife skills, while only understandable as part of the whole in cooking preparation, one can separate out that set in the equation and the individual set remains unchanged. While BDL's statements seem to conclude that the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts and one cannot remove or add greater emphasis to any single component, without significant impact upon the whole system. As an amateur cook, to be quite honest, it does not really matter how you define it as long is I can learn it. That being the case it seems a synergistic approach is more appropriate (at least for me) as it would help to cultivate a greater understanding of the symbiotic relationship between efficient prep and quality food.

   OK I have to admit I used the word symbiotic just to sound cool.


Edited by the-boy-nurse - 8/22/10 at 5:22am
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post #64 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

Hm, IMLE, a "knife" isn't worth much without being sharp AND working with a board or other surface!

 

Pete.

You are correct, but we are being asked our thoughts on the subject of "knife skills" and not a knife's worth or working with a board. This all sounds very pedantic and in my opinion, if "knife skills" needs to be categorised  it should be done accurately.

 

the-boy-nurse

Symbiotic, a very cool word. I'll google it one day.

post #65 of 104

That being the case it seems a synergistic approach is more appropriate (at least for me) as it would help to cultivate a greater understanding of the symbiotic relationship between efficient prep and quality food.

 

 

Actually, my concern is in communicating, in clear, concise English.

 

The argument is neither about taking an holistic or synergistic approach to cooking. It's about defining terms so that we're all using the same language.

 

If you want to take a synergistic approach, the way you use the term, then you'd have to accept my earlier example that the pot of boiling water is part of "knife skills." Do you actually think that's so?

 

My contention is that, for most people, if you say "knife skills" it's interpreted to mean "skill with a knife." Thus, again returning to an earlier example, a sharp knife is an essential part of that skill. But knowing how to make that knife sharp is not. It's a totally different skill set, and most cooks---amateur and professional--not only lack that skill set, are disinterested in learning it.

 

Or we can take BDL's argument and work backwards. If I send my knife out to a knife guy as necessary, than the knife guy is part of my knife skills. So the continuum would now be: knife guy, cut the potatoes, put them in the pot of water, turn on heat. Which, of course, makes the stove part of my knife skills as well.

 

The point is, you can make the term "knife skills" as baggy as you want. But, sooner or later (mostly sooner, IMO) you'll have crammed so much into that bag that nobody but you knows what's in there. 

 

 

 

 

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post #66 of 104

a "knife" isn't worth much without being sharp AND working with a board or other surface!

 

So then, Pete, my friends who peel veggies with a knife while leaning over a trash can, are using knives that aren't worth much because there's no board involved?

 

And, what if I had sharpened that knife before they started peeling? Does it also mean the knife isn't worth much because, although sharp, the user isn't the one who'd done the sharpening?

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 #67 of 104

How we adjust board height--- I am tall some of the guys  are short . Work all day with board to low and you will feel it at night or next day   Take the table and stand its legs on assorted size cans or bricks.  Or take a dish rack put it on damp towel on top of table  put another damp towel on top of that,  then put the board. No more stiff or aching back.   Works for us.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #68 of 104

Yes Ed ,

          I use the old towel trick myself it does work.         Padded flooring in newer kitchens help out with the back too.if we are so lucky to work in one.

Although some people may have a different opinion...boards, shapening and knife skills go hand in hand.  (How punny of me)

A crappy board can hinder your knife skills. (Unless of course you came into this industry to sit over a garbage pail for the rest of your life and peel potatoes or continuosly cut in mid air) Walk into a professional kitchen not knowing how to sharpen your knives ...well good luck with that...ain't nobody going to babysit that notion.

 

Just a thought

 

Gypsy

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post #69 of 104
Thread Starter 

Take a deep breath and think of my proposal more as one way -- but not the only way -- of viewing the knife-centric part of the  kitchen universe rather than a rigid Theory Of Knife Everything where a single inconsistency means the entire TOKE sucks.  

 

Obviously "relatedness" may be carried too far -- which just goes to show even Scalia can write and be right (HJ v. Northwestern, IIRC).  On the other hand, just because someone wins a set with a great serve and a big forehand, doesn't mean the backhand isn't an essential part of tennis.  

 

Durangojo and Gypsy:  I despair.  Whoever told you that you were supposed to keep your body square to the board and counter, and your feet lined up evenly with the toe boards lied.  For most people, most of the time, that's a terrible position.  It's not "classic" position, either. 

 

BDL

 

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post #70 of 104

bdl, 

you know, yesterday as i was madly prepping all day, i did take stock/inventory of my stance and all things knife related...i've decided i'm just fine, so please, don't despair! i don't stand straight to anything,(and i don't even have toe boards, or want to have them).... nothing in my 'historic' kitchen space is even remotely level....i adjust naturally...of course, there is always room for improvement, i'm just not gonna worry about it right now...right now, i got bigger fish to fry!...literally...thanks though

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #71 of 104

BDL.

           thanks for the concern buddy....After 30 years in a pro kitchen I have figured out that good posture is important....I do not remember mentioning anything regarding square to anything...Just my approach of standing straight to the board ...well after that when ya figure out what your going to do...... you can do whatever ya want ..."do a little dance make a little love.....get down tonight! " Throw food up in the air.... in your hair, hang out with the knife sharpening girls.... whatever ! Heck I know great chefs who stick their arse so far out when they are on the line it makes me wonder if there is a whole other person infront of them ...either that or they are in mating season!

 

 

 

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post #72 of 104
Thread Starter 

Hi Gypsy and Joey

 

If you're happy, I'm happy. Hint taken.

 

BDL

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post #73 of 104

 

KYH, I still don't follow. 

 

Different people have different ways of doing things -- that's a given, right?  But you'll still have to categorize.  Even if it's just one specific subject you'll still have to bracket information unless you think you can sell a book consisting of a one sentence truism.  Hopefully you agree with this much?

 

Now if I'm not mistaken, this whole structure isn't about knives, per se.  It's about connecting the various process involved when using a knife for the sake of work flow and all the enjoyment that comes with it.  And it's also about connecting those processes with enough background and depth so that people who aren't particularly proficient (or efficient) in certain areas can start thinking about the importance of process in a more meaningful way.  If you need to include elements that are one degree separated from using a knife in the kitchen then you do so.

 

Does that mean that every part has to conform to the habits of every user?  Course not.  Any comprehensive book, almost by definition, will not be all things for all poeple.  But to illustrate a point about the utility of broad categorization, I peel fruit and veggies over a trash can all the time.  Pretty much every day.  Still, I have no problem with BDLs structure.  Is it broad?  Yup.  Does that mean it's not useful?  Maybe, maybe not.  That's dependent on content to be written and how it's presented.  I can tell you this much:  despite the convenience of cutting over the trash I still use a cutting board for the majority of my prep.  And so do the vast majority of people who cook.  You can't effectively slice meat or dice onions or mince parsley or garlic over the trash.  So it would seem that the process of managing the cutting surface would be relevant enough for inclusion.  So long as it's only one degree removed from using the knife in your hand.

 

Same with sharpening.  If someone else does your sharpening then that's a category that doesn't necessarily apply the same way as to someone who does.  Maybe it doesn't apply at all.  But it doesn't obviate the importance of a sharp knife.

 

Note to BDL:  There's two things that this thread has demonstrated which, IMHO, are worthy of consideration:

 

1.  Categorization:  many people who are accomplished in their own right already have their own ideas about how all these parts fit together in the grand scheme of the universe -- people generally don't like to change the way they think and it's unfair to ask them to considering that theoretical frameworks are neither right nor wrong.  Some are just more useful under a given set of circumstances and some are just closer to Occam's mirror polished razor (another discussion, ha ha).  If you present it as definitive exposition it will probably be rejected by too many people who have their own framework.  And that's a lot of people.

 

With the above in mind it might be more -- palatable?  if the different subjects were left with dangling ends to be assembled as a "kit of parts" rather than a tightly woven treatise.  In other words, if people can take your advice and create their own system or assimilate it into their own system, using your methods as a starting point and a guide, I think would benefit both newbies who have very little experience and people who are 70% there but still need some help in specific areas.  I don't know how you do that and you very well might not agree but it's just my long winded 2 cents on that.

 

2.  The heading, "Knife Skills".  IMO, that's being interpreted too literally. You might want to reconsider that title to include or emphasize "Process" or "Methods" before people open the cover.  "Knife Skills" by itself apparently means different things to different people.  When you read Amazon reviews you see a lot of 1 star reviews beginning with "I thought this book was going to be about...."

post #74 of 104

Speaking of Occam's.  I unwittingly duplicated info just above but with many more words.  

 

I have one stone.  It's 1000 grit.

post #75 of 104

Doug, while much of what you say is correct, I don't see how it's at all germane.

 

Nobody is writing a book about this that I'm aware of. It's a tightly drawn thread on a forum discussion. The title of the thread is "Your Thoughts on the Most Important Knife Skills."  Which makes it very much about knives, per se, and how they are used.  

 

It's about connecting the various process involved when using a knife for the sake of work flow and all the enjoyment that comes with it. 

 

This is the crux of any disagreement. Look at the title of the thread. That doesn't imply anything about efficient work flow overall. It very specifically names knife skills as the only subject under discussion. So, it isn't about connecting various processes. It's all about what knife skills are. Period.

 

Within the opening post, however, BDL breaks "knife skills" into three parts. If that's how his thoughts on the most important knife skills run, fine for him. My thoughts, however, are that two of the three categories are, at best, only periferally related to knife skills. Can they contribute to overall work efficiency? You betcha! But they are not knife skills (a phrase that, for most people, connotes "knife handling").

 

Every thought I've expressed has gone directly to the topic of the thread; not to a topic you'd like the thread to be about. You can, for instance, argue (as BDL does) that board management is a knife skill, and be on topic. But once you say that board management is only a related process, you have conceded, definitionally, that it is not a knife skill---and, therefore, does not belong as part of this discussion.

 

If people want to change the nature of the discussion from knife skills to efficiency in the kitchen they are free to do so. But changing the shape of the playing field doesn't negate what I've said about knife skills; it merely broadens the discussion to include how those skills apply in an efficient kitchen.

 

What disturbs me is that some people do, indeed, change the shape of the field. And then smugly point out how a poster is wrong because what he said previously does not fit the new configuration.

 

You're kind of doing that yourself. You want the field to include everything that happens immediately before and immediately after I use a knife. Isn't that how you define "one degree removed.....?" Obviously, you want the field shaped that way just so your points appear valid and mine not.

 

That aside, look at it this way. Transferring prepped food from the board to a bowl is something everyone agrees is part of board management. You are arguing that it's therefore part of knife skills (one degree removed+cut the food, move it to a bowl). However, physically it is no different than my example of moving diced spuds to a pot of water. Using your structure, moving diced spuds to a pot of water is only one degree removed from using the knife in my hand. And thus is part of "knife skills."

 

You can't have it both ways. And if you keep shoving things into that bag, pretty soon it will be too heavy to lift.

 

Same with sharpening..............But it doesn't obviate the importance of a sharp knife.

 

Just a sly way of changing the shape of the field. Show me one place where I've said having a sharp knife is unimportant. I've got a hundred bucks waiting for every example you can come up with. One of the points I've been making right along is that having a sharp knife is an important part, to my mind the most important part (you do remember the subject of this discussion, don't you), of knife skill. But when you're standing in front of your board julienning veggies, how that knife got sharp is totally irrelevent to how well you do the job.

 

The heading, "Knife Skills".  IMO, that's being interpreted too literally. You might want to reconsider that title to include or emphasize "Process" or "Methods" before people open the cover. 

 

The best example yet of changing the shape of the field to meet your point of view. If the original poster wanted to start a discussion of processes or methods that's what he would have done. "Knife Skills" is being interpreted literally because that is, indeed, the subject under discussion.

 

Now then, if you want a broader discussion, one that talks about processes and methods that contribute to efficient work flow, feel free to start a new thread. But don't go attacking my position on this one just because it doesn't fit the shape you want it to be.

 

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #76 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post
...If the original poster wanted to start a discussion of processes or methods that's what he would have done. "Knife Skills" is being interpreted literally because that is, indeed, the subject under discussion....
Interesting observation, considering that the OP posited the three categories, probably as a "definition" of "knife Skills"?
 
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post #77 of 104

Not to beat dead horse's but, that never stopped me before.

   You're right KY part of being able to teach a subject is to bring to an audience in understandable terms. As such the biggest factor is therefore your target demographic. You guys can discuss board management all you want, I have to Google mise en place because at that point, I'm lost. Simple concept but what does it mean, how do I do it. Rather than regiment-ally define knife skills as "skill with a knife" or alternatively define it liberally as anything done in a kitchen that might have at one time impacted anything that has ever come in contact with a knife or will do so at some yet undetermined time in the future. I think a continuum of skill be the established philosophy, with categories of "knife skills" running the gamut.
For instance-

 

Fundamentals:

   -Knife handling- choice of knife, basic grip of knife and food, knife safety

   -Sharpening: use a sharp knife (duh). Basic edge maintenance, consider how you are going to sharpen it prior to purchase.

   -Board management- Choice of board, how to secure board

Intermediate:

   -Knife handling- Proper posture, arm alignment, angle of the board, slicing technique

   -Sharpening- Choice of stones, determining factory bevel angle, maintaining consistent bevel angle while sharpening, proper progression to an edge.

   -Board management- (Don't know enough about it to even guess at intermediate board management examples)

Advanced:

   -Knife handling- Advanced knife options, understanding of food anatomy (skeletal structure, fascial influences on cut)

   -Sharpening- Bevel angle options, knife alloy and construction advantages and limitations etc

   -Board management- (see above only replace intermediate w/ advanced)

 

This is clearly a rank amateurs guess as to what constitutes skills but I hope it helps to demonstrate what I mean.

For BDL this would also satisfy the Hegelian progression.

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post #78 of 104

KYH - I don't think we could resolve the bulk of this effectively through messages.  The spoken word is much more effective ;)  But I don't agree with the majority your interpretation.  And they are indeed interpretations.  So ending a sentence with "period" doesn't mean that you're right.  That being said, I can't defend much of mine either because it's also an interpretation.  It would be up to BDL to clarify the difference between us since we're looking at the intent differently on multiple levels.  I'm not going to get hung up on whether he wants to or not.

 

And it goes without saying that theoretical discussions cannot be entirely defended at all since they aren't empirical.

 

My impression was that BDL was looking for feedback on some thoughts, in both structure and content, that he's been ruminating about for a while and that would eventually make it's way into something he's been working on...  I could be wrong.  

 

But in the broadest sense, I don't think any of the topics or categories enjoy any kind of special exclusivity from the others.  Often a subject is best covered from multiple angles.  Board management is a topic that has many dimensions.  Using a knife over a board is just one of them.  But in that context it works under "Knife Skills".  Or at least, it works for me.  Other board uses don't.  

 

As for sharpening, I wrote:  If someone else does your sharpening then that's a category that doesn't necessarily apply the same way as to someone who does.  Maybe it doesn't apply at all.  But it doesn't obviate the importance of a sharp knife.

 

So I didn't put any words in your mouth there.  I'm certainly not suggesting that just because a sharp knife is important that you somehow believe the opposite.  How did you get that impression?  I've read lots of your posts.  You're incredibly knowledgeable and I wouldn't ever suggest or assume anything otherwise.

 

I need to shut down and get to work, but if there's anything constructive that can come out of this maybe we can pick it up later.  Otherwise "agree to disagree" as it goes.

 

+D.

post #79 of 104

Well Pete,

             I too, responded to the OP ... a three part question by BDL...and I answered it in a three parts as requested.

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post #80 of 104
BDL, a great thread. I haven't had time to read the entire thread, but I would like to interject my [limited] opinion on the matter. I apologize if I repeat anything already posted.



I have to say that I believe the most important knife skill is the knowledge of each ingredient to be broken down. You can take an otherwise oblivious culinary student, teach them proper grip, posture, and technique, teach them how to sharpen and select a knife, and teach them how to keep an organized board. But if you place a bonito or a pineapple in front of them, those skills are useless unless they know how to break down the ingredient.



As another example, I have many times watch my grandfather filet fish at the camp we have in Central Louisiana. His grip, stance, and posture are awful, he cuts with an old knife that probably hasn't been sharpened since the 50's, and cuts on a stainless steel table that he keeps covered in blood and scales. But that man can produce the most perfect filets in far less time than I can manage. While my "knife skills" are superior to his, his knowledge of the anatomy of a sac au lait or bluegill allows him to break them down much faster and more efficiently. Now, this is an extreme example of my point, and I agree that the three things you've listed are critical to mastering the use of a knife, but without knowing your ingredients and how to work with them, you will never be able to master "knife skills".
"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #81 of 104

wow!

a thread where we need both helmuts and firehoses!..cool!....i am guilty of not answering any of the original questions, only tangenting (if thats a word), to other things, that i thought were related...sorry, guess i didn't fully realize that this thread was only specific to skills...but it does seem to me to be a bit of hair splitting, oui?

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #82 of 104

I skimmed through things and could find this mentioned.....

 

A rocking motion when chopping instead of playing the drums.

 

I am as guilt of this as anyone over the years. It's that show-off technique of a rapid fire cut. But as I started to get more serious as a Chef (maybe too serious for my own good at times) and as I had to train more and more people........reacquainting myself with the rocking motion showed me how important it was....not only for quality of cut but for the longevity and care of the knife. I've had my Heinkel 10" Chef's knife since 1994 and the only reason it wasn't longer was that it replaced one from 1982 that was lifted by an employee on my first day at a new job. No respect even for a  member of the Chef Staff........that still burns me up!

 

Anyhow, no matter what cutting surface you use, banging any knife other than a cleaver...... repeatedly against the cutting surface is harder on a knife than anything else could be. The rapid fire, banging on a drum technique, as visually impressive and speedy as it is....... is one I no longer even use. Kills me to see many of the Celeb chef's or even the contestants on reality shows abusing their knives while using this technique.

 

As far as the foot on the bottom shelf???????

 

Yes...... stop them from using the shelf but provide an alternative.....maybe an empty crate or empty can. Reason being......it will help minimize back issues.

 

Nothing harder on the back than to stand in one spot and cut things for hours. Yet if you elevate one foot and then change sides from time to time....elevate left foot then right and so on and so forth.........it relieves back stress and takes pressure off you lower back. It will also improve how you feel and possibly aid in preventing some of the causes of serious back injury. Yes.... you will have to keep on yourself as well as your staff about pace but....... it will make a difference, especially for those that already have issues. Believe me when I say I wish I was allowed to use this during the first 25 years of my career....may have minimized or saved me from a whole slew of spinal/back issues over the last 7.

post #83 of 104
Thread Starter 

The thread was started with the idea of getting your thoughts about knife stuff -- either generally or whatever specifics you wanted to talk about.  No matter what I wanted, that would happen anyway. 

 

More please. 

 

BDL

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post #84 of 104

so off we go again!

my question is about steels.....i have an old 10" diamond one(which i'm looking to replace) that was great til it got a big nick in it...can it be repaired?...filed down somehow, or is it toast?...what happens to all the old steels anyway? fencing matches maybe? i sharpen a certain way, with my left hand on the handle, thumb against the hilt, elbow against my ribs(loosely), and the steel angled outward and a bit down from there.... what i see in books and from other pros, is that the steel tip is on a prep table(on a towel), except now the  new sexy steels have silicone tips...so they advocate putting steel tip down, hand on top of the handle, natch, and swiping the blade downward...this just seems awkward to me, and less precise, especially when you get to your big knives...and when i have tried it, it seems i lose count mo easily..maybe a persons height is the problem. i am on the shorter side and if i have to have to raise my arm so that my hand is on top , i'm already at a disadvantage, and have no leverage... in my method i can swipe both sides of the knife faster, and it it seems in a safer way...soo, like everything else, i'm sure there is a right and wrong way, but in the end, does it really make that much of a difference  to change.....or is it all just smoke and mirrors? what steels do you use, like?

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #85 of 104

The steel is dead jo.

 

That sounds very Dr. McCoy in Star Trek.

 

Basically, the diamonds are bonded to the exterior of your steel, not suspended in a matrix throughout the  steel.

post #86 of 104
Thread Starter 

Joey,

 

You don't need the tip in the towel technique.  It's easy to learn, but basically for people who can't learn to do it your way.  There's every reason to keep doing it the way you're doing it. 

 

John Juranitch said that in every meat processing plant with 100 butchers, he was lucky to find more than four or five who could actually use a steel properly.  Nearly all pros use way too many strokes, can't hold an angle, and bang the knife against the rod.  Those are the big no-nos.   

 

 

  • The angle should start precise and be held constant, which is a non-issue for you.  (The value of the tip in the towel is that it lets you see the angle; but after a lifetime of freehand sharpening, you shouldn't need visual confirmation.)   
  • At the start of each stroke, lay the knife on the steel.  Don't bang them together.  The only sound should be zzzzzzzzz. Remember what Joan Crawford told the chef, "No steel clangers!" Don't worry.  Slowing it down will feel unnatural at first; but after a couple of weeks month or so, you'll lay the knife on the rod with the same speed and rhythm you're used to now. (Home cooks, this will take you longer.)
  • Always hone the entire length of the knife's edge from heel to tip. 
  • The amount of rod you use depends somewhat on the lengths of hone and of the knife, but figure on using a length of rod equivalent to about 75% of the length of the knife.  It's actually important.
  • Touch should be firm but gentle -- your MO anyway -- and the only way to hold an angle for the length of a rod. 
  • No more than four or five strokes on each side of the blade.  After the third, you start doing harm; and by six, you're doing significantly more harm than good.   

 

It may help to understand what the rod is supposed to do and not do.  The edge of your knife folds over in spots from impact, and gets tiny dings along the side.  By running the edge -- from heel to point -- along the very small contact point of a rod, you create a tremendous force that straightens the folds and the dings.  

 

As your edge starts to wear, a rod hone with any texture at all will scuff up the bevels and reveal some fresh metal.  The fresh metal is a good thing, as it "refreshes" the edge.  Scuff is a mixed bag as it's synonymous with micro-serration (or not so micro with an aggressive steel), which give the blade some bite but also greatly weaken the edge so it will dull and wear very quickly.   

 

Time for a new steel.  If you haven't chipped or really dinged a knife on the gouge, it is only because Betty, the Goddess of Cooking, smiles upon you.  She is fickle though, and you will eventually.  The steel is dead and needs replacement ASAP.

 

Diamond steels are knife eaters, and to be avoided by nearly everyone for most purposes.  In other threads you've talked about how often you use your sharpening stones -- plenty often that all you want is something to true up a dinged edge.  Sister, you really don't need a diamond rod. 

 

Ceramics are the new wondersteels for both performance and price.  An Idahone fine ceramic if you can manage not to drop it or have it fall off a slanted counter: or a DMT CS2, which is not quite as good but is nearly unbreakable.  Both are $30ish.

 

If you're going to stay with your little vegetable cleaver (nakiri) as your main prep knife, a 10" rod is long enough, but if you're going to move on to a 10" chef's get a 12" steel.

 

For the benefit of anyone else who's reading this, if you've got a good fine steel you don't have to throw it out and buy a ceramic.  But if you're buying a new one anyway, ceramics are so much more bang for the buck it doesn't make a lot of sense to go any other way. 

 

I use two steels as part of my regular maintenance; A HandAmercian (ultra-fine) borosilicate glass rod for the first half dozen or so honings after sharpening; then an old, worn-down Henckels fine, for the last half dozen or so honings before going back to the stones.   I don't actually count -- just move on to the plan "B" when "A" stops working.

 

The HA glass rod is the best rod I've ever used -- by light years.  However, it's expensive and too fine to be the only steel for most people.

 

Worth noting that steels are also very useful for the "deburring" stage of sharpening.

 

Hope this helps,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/24/10 at 8:13am
What were we talking about?
 
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What were we talking about?
 
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post #87 of 104

So I've just read through this whole thread. A few comments.

 

First, a trivial point. Yes, right --- Harold Faltermeyer. Oops. Anyway....

 

It strikes me that BDL's tripartite classification makes best sense when conceived pedagogically, i.e. for teaching, especially teaching of relatively beginning students. In a sense, it's not unlike the old wheezes about martial arts masters who force students to wash floors and paint fences and so on, when the students really just want to get cracking on hitting things. The point, of course, is that there are things you learn by washing floors or painting fences that are relevant and important, and furthermore that great beating-people-up skills are dependent on a lot more than learning to hit things as such. Just so, BDL's classification makes the argument that using a knife really well depends on a lot more than just cutting things, including things like board management and sharpening that many people think are irrelevant or a completely separate skill-set. Thus a part of what BDL and KYHeirloomer are arguing about is whether, in fact, board management and sharpening are or are not essential parts of using a knife well.

 

If the aim of the classification is not strictly pedagogical, however, we come back to my original question: what is it for, in fact? There can never be an objectively superior choice for such classification, because such superiority will always have to do with aims: classification for what purpose?

 

Rather than muck around with philosophers, let me just put the same point concretely. Suppose I want to categorize the books on my bookshelves. If maximizing space efficiency is the dominant principle, then clearly it will be advantageous to shelve books by height. If maximizing my own ability to find things is dominant, then it is advantageous to shelve books according to a system I have worked out in reference to my usage patterns and habits of thought. If maximizing the ability of someone else to find books is dominant, then it is best to have a system that can readily be imposed upon all books regardless (e.g. Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, etc.). Now which is the right system? That's the wrong question. Right system for what?

 

What I was trying to get at in my first post, in my rambling way, was that this "for what?" question hasn't been addressed. I can accept something akin to BDL's system if the question is answered pedagogically, as noted above, but other than that it seems problematic in a number of respects --- as borne out by the discussions here. If the pedagogical aim is matched by the structure of BDL's Cook Food Good writing project, then the question is in a sense pointless: the intended audience consists principally of relative beginners to serious cooking, and they will have an entire volume to become convinced by BDL's arguments on behalf of --- and supported by --- his classification. But what if we're actually interested in a sort of taxonomy of knife skills?

 

In that case, there are any number of ways to proceed. I'll just sketch two.

 

In one approach, you start by deciding on a core principle upon which to focus, plus a passably large sample of undeniable examples of the broad class to be examined. Then you begin dividing into piles, differentially, aiming to distinguish among the various examples by a range of monothetic (binary) questions regarding the core principle. By battering at this, trying out as many possibilities as you can, you begin to discern families within the class, and in the same gesture you find certain questions to be of a higher order than others. That is, if I have 6 objects, I find one question that divides them into 4 and 2, then another that divides the 4 into 2 and 2, and then three more questions that split each of the 2's in turn. Because every question relates to the core principle, I can ultimately find a chain of questions that take me from any given example to the highest-order generalities, and I have a workable system.

 

At base, this is how Linnaeus' taxonomy worked --- which is not the way you were taught it in biology, chances are, because it has subsequently been radically modified by a number of things, most especially evolution and heredity, which were not known to Linnaeus. His core principle was reproduction, which turned out to be a brilliant choice in light of later discoveries.

 

The disadvantage of a system like this is that it is 100% imposed. It makes no claims to discern any internal logic within the objects classified, but rather imposes a logical system of relations upon them.

 

The other main way to do things is to take a vast range of potential questions and apply them indiscriminately to every data-point, then look at the enormous chart this produces. This allows you to find groups or clusters that may be useful to analyze on their own terms, but tells you nothing about where the clusters come from.

 

Another common method attempts to discern, within a kind of combination of the two methods, a common underlying logic that is not imposed but somehow arises from the objects classified. The danger is obvious: one tends to fall into the trap of seizing upon a logical principle that actually comes from the investigator and not the objects, and then seeing the fact that it pans out (and it always will) as confirmation of the system so constructed. Then again, it's worth noting that Darwin did exactly this, recognizing that a combination of heredity, environmental pressure, and really long spans of time would give a reason for Linnaeus' system not imagined by Linnaeus, and he was subsequently borne out by all kinds of things, most notably genetics and paleobiology. So it can work --- but it's rare.

 

On the whole, the only way to evaluate these different methods and the various systems they can produce is to decide what ends you want the classification to serve. Having done this, you'll find that some methods are more likely to be fruitful than others.

 

Which all comes around full circle. What's this classification for?

post #88 of 104

Whewee, Chris. Quite a rundown. But the fact is, this is not a matter of categorizing as you discern it. There is only one simple question under contention. And even contention is too strong a word, cuz all we're really doing is discussing differing viewpoints.

 

Goal: To cut an onion in slices.

Thesis: Doing so involves knife skills.

Question: Does "knife skills" mean knife handling or does it mean knife handling plus associated endeavers? That is the only source of disagreement. It's really not a deep, philosophical argument.

 

BTW, I do disagree with you, slightly, on how Linnaeus' taxonomy works. The fact is, any system that divides things based on commonality and exclusivity does, indeed, follow an internal logic. And that's what Linnaeus's system is all about.

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 #89 of 104

KY,

 

1. Who said that "how to cut an onion" was a good starting point? What makes it so? For what purpose? It's not an unreasonable question, but why should it be the right one?

 

2. I didn't say Linnaeus' system didn't have an internal logic, only that he never claimed --- nor should he have claimed --- that the logic in question arose from the plants being classified. The logic in question was imposed by Linnaeus, who chose it for excellent reasons: the nature of reproductive systems in the plant world ensures that such systems will tend to be extremely diverse and easily observed, making it as easy as possible for the observer to distinguish among plants. Until Darwin comes into it, nobody claims that such a system focuses on a logic that belongs to the plants. This is Goethe's big criticism, and the reason for his attempt at the morphology of plants. Once Darwin happens, it turns out that there is an internal reason why the most diverse and easily observed type of structure in plants --- the reproductive systems --- is so coherent when classified systematically, and that is because the plants "want" to distribute their genetic material and have evolved to make their reproductive systems as attractive and user-friendly (as it were) as possible. But Linnaeus' system, as he invented it, presumed from the outset that the logic of the system was imposed by the rational observer.

post #90 of 104

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisLehrer View Post

 Once Darwin happens, it turns out that there is an internal reason why the most diverse and easily observed type of structure in plants --- the reproductive systems --- is so coherent when classified systematically, and that is because the plants "want" to distribute their genetic material and have evolved to make their reproductive systems as attractive and user-friendly (as it were) as possible. But Linnaeus' system, as he invented it, presumed from the outset that the logic of the system was imposed by the rational observer.

 

Rationally observing attractive and user friendly plant reproductive parts. I feel dirty.

Nurses, we're here to get our gloves dirty, and wash our hands frequently.
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Nurses, we're here to get our gloves dirty, and wash our hands frequently.
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