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Your Thoughts on The Most Important Knife Skills - Page 4

post #91 of 104

Wow, from knife skills to Darwinism, to Linneus (sp?) systems.....

 

How 'bout we just subsitute the name for this thread from "knife skills" to..........

(drum roll please)

 

"Cutting skills".


 

 

Well.... Why not?  Everything mentioned in this thread relates to cutting of food items, as well as the maintainence of cutting equipment--- not just knives.

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post #92 of 104

was imposed by the rational observer.

 

Pick me no nits, Chris. If the internal logic is there, doesn't matter whether the observer is aware of it or not. Why, in this case, isn't it the internal logic imposing itself on the observation? 

 

Besides. don't forget the immortal words of Jack Kerouak: "John Locke was wrong. But how were we to know, having never met a rational man?"

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post #93 of 104

Amazinggrace I can totally relate. I have my original set of Sabtier knives that I carried all through Europe and I would catch my dear wife using my smaller chef knife to cut a cake. She now has her own set of knives and everything is good.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by amazingrace View Post

The most important knife skill for me, is one that has taken years to perfect.  That is, *keeping my knives away from the desctuctive force at work in my kitchen*...mainly HubbyDearest.  To this end,  I have two sets of knives.  One set was very cheap (I paid under $30 for 15 pieces including the block).   I keep them readily available, within reach for whatever hacking he might wish to do.  And these more times than not, wind up in the dishwasher.  The other set, while not very high qualilty either (but adequate for my needs), is kept in a less convenient place for my own use. 

 

Before  this system was developed,  I would catch him sneaking my knives back into the kitchen.  Then..."oh no,  it was that way before I used it to pry the paint can open"...or some such other abuse. 

 

But, he's a good guy,  a real keeper.  So I've simply worked out ways around his less desirable traits.  These are only knives, after all.  They can be replaced.  He cannot. 

 

 

In regards to cutting straight, my experience has taught me that cutting straight comes from years of practice and eying the cut as you make it. In fact you have to look where the knife will end up to cut straight as opposed to just looking at where you are cutting. 

 

As for important knife skills I really believe these are the most important knife skills

 

-A sharp knife

-A good grip (holding it properly)

-And the right knife (not too big, not too heavy).

 

Why these three? Because if you don't pay attention to these three you will get carpal tunnel. I never ended up with carpal tunnel because I kept my knives razor sharp, I used a good knife that was well balanced and not to heavy for my hand and I help it properly. In my early days I would buy really expensive knives that were very heavy and when your using them eight hours or more a day you become easily fatigued. The right knife keeps you from getting fatigued and over working your muscles.

 

Thanks,

Nicko 
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post #94 of 104

I could not agree more in fact Hung Huynh emphasizes this in a video that is really amazing. He has alot of  confidence when using his knife. How he uses his knife, how he guards his fingers, his agility....just wow. 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwciXwM_5FA

 

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post #95 of 104
Thread Starter 

Nicko -- I'm a little surprised (but happy!) to hear you talking about lighter knives so positively.  I'd somehow gathered that you preferred heavier knives.  Anyway, your opinions very much line up with mine.  

 

Petals -- I love that video, thanks for linking it in this thread.  Hung is so amazingly good.

 

There are a few things to take away from the video.  Hung uses a "slicer" instead of a chef's knife.  The slicer is better at portioning and doing thin slices partly because the narrower blade doesn't stick in the cut, partly because the blade is thinner and more flexible, and therefore more sensitive. 

 

On the other hand, a slicer lacks the knuckle clearance of a chef's, and the power which is developed by its greater weight, arc and stiffness.  Hung gets around the clearance problem with a great grip.  He not only "pinches," which turns his knuckles sideways instead of down; but he arches his hand over the blade a little.  That does two things.  Only his finger tips are  under the handle (knuckle clearance), and it keeps his wrist straight so the knife point, knife edge, and his wrist, forearm and elbow form one straight line.  The benefit of the line is that you'll intuitively and accurately place point where your eyes look.  It's a way of cutting the years of practice Nicko talked about down to a couple of months.

 

Hung gets around the slicer's relative lack of power by keeping his knife very sharp.  There just aren't many knife areas in which sharpness doesn't trump everything else.  Yet so few people -- even pros -- use knives which are actually sharp.  That's frustrating because it's not that complicated, and doesn't really require a lot of effort.

 

Use the right knife (which won't be a slicer for most of us), use it right, use it sharp, and your cooking will not only be more fun, but probably improve as well.  

 

2 (more) cents,

BDL

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post #96 of 104

hey chris,

next time you run out of pot, call someone! you lost me halfway through with linnaeus or his system...think i prefer linus's theory......actually have nothing to add but a wee bit of estrogen in this obvious testosterone driven thread...no offense meant, chris, just humor...

joey


Edited by durangojo - 8/25/10 at 11:29am

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post #97 of 104

I don't have a comment at this point but I do have a question.  A non-categorical question.  And it's about knife skills ;)

 

A few posts above, Oldschool made the point about using the length of the blade to make your cut as opposed to the "machine gun" style push cut.  For my purposes I think Oldschool is right.  Especially since I never see any chefs or line cooks in open kitchens doing a push cut when they're at work.  At most they may use some kind of modified push-draw cut.  Not sure what you'd call it but certainly not the straight up and down chop that reverberates over the whole work surface.

 

But in the video just posted by petalsandcoco as well as just about every celebrity cook show I see the rapid fire push cut in all it's glory.  What do people here think about that?  

 

Tutorials on knife technique that I've read don't teach you to prep this way.  Is this just showmanship?  Is it a necessary skill for cooks under the gun to get X amount of work done in less than X amount of time?  Is it a useful skill?  A display of just how sharp your knife is?  Or something that's only useful with a lot of experience behind the board?  Or just a good way to eventually shave your knuckles off?  I could sort of see it being useful for small things like shallots but beyond that it seems like you're trading a marginal savings in time for substantially more knife maintenance.

 

+D.

post #98 of 104
Thread Starter 

Doug,

 

It's another of those highly caveated "whatever works," things. 

 

To some extent the knife profile will impose itself on the balance between push cut, the classicly French silent guillotine and slide, and/or rock cut.  A "German" profile favors rock cutting -- if for no other reason than because it will "accordion" (not quite all the way through the last part of the cut), if it isn't rocked -- which creates the characteristic pumping action.  A flatter profile as with a nakiri, or Hung's trenchelard slicer, favors push cutting.

 

Cooks from my generation who learned to cook in "classic" kitchens learned to go through the block, plank, stick and dice sequence by starting each cut with the tip down -- but not necessarily touching on the board; then bringing the handle down while sliding the knife forward (not "drawing it") in order to both finish the cut with the flat of the knife edge (a French profile is pretty flat from about the middle of the edge to the heel), and to keep the cut quiet.  No tap-tap-tapping for us.  We learned that good cooks did not make noise with their knives, whisks or other tools.  It's not particularly true, but that's how we learned.

 

Of course, to some extent you impose your style your on the knife too.  But the profile plays a sufficently strong role that it only makes sense to choose a knife that will work with your style, or one which will favor a style you want to learn.  For instance I'm looking for a knife which will be very different from current go-to Sabatier in almost every way other than the shape of the knife along the edge -- because as much as I want something different, I don't want to relearn basic skills.

 

Speed cutting pretty much requires making noise.  You can use a flatter profile and lift it straight up and down, or you can use the bellied tip of a chef's knife or slicer and use a slightly elevated wrist as a fulcrum and flick the point down so the belly hits the board square.  Because it negatively impacts most cooks' quality and consistency speed cutting is pretty much just show off stuff.  There are a few guys with the talent, who put in the time, and became sufficiently solid to make it productive, but not many.  They're better than the rest of us.  For sure.  Did I mention the noise?

 

You see something a lot like speed chopping with tip work done at regular speeds as well -- for instance when pros score onions and shallots, etc. 

 

It's either that or bringing the blade down onto the board, and lifting the handle so the tip cuts all the way down.  I.e., pumping.  This second way requires enough pumping to make it annoying under the best of circumstances, and still more of a PITA when using knives with German profiles or with knives with high tips.  (Shun Classic Chef's have both -- which is one of the reasons so many people don't like them.)  A lot of Japanese gyutos, Masamoto for instance, use a slightly dropped tip which makes a lot of things easier.  

 

As a professional you have to balance quality, consistency and speed; how you do it isn't important.  As a home cook, it's all about quality.  Either way you don't get graded on technique.  Technique's sole purpose is to serve results.  Form ever follows function, that is the law.

 

If you have great hand-eye coordination and are talented enough to make anything work (like Hung), it doesn't matter.  Similarly if you can't keep your knife sharp it doesn't matter or your board sufficiently organized to use the knife without cutting into piles of already cut food it doesn't matter very much either.  It doesn't take much awareness to realize that at least a gazillion great meals have been prepared with each of the three broad styles we're talking about here -- not to mention their variants. 

 

For someone who wants to learn or improve, I favor a compromise between classic French and push cutting.  It's relatively easy to learn and better suited to the normative western cuts; and also suited to chef's/gyutos (which are so productive for so many other things) than pure push cutting.  It better suits the French profile of French carbons and Japanese gyutos which have better blades than their German styled counterparts, nor does it require all that handle pumping.

 

But to each her own.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/25/10 at 3:09pm
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post #99 of 104

What do I think about the video or rapid fire celebrity cook fires ? I like em....not that I will ever yield a knife like Hung (as much as I would love to - but can certainly try) ....there is a bigger picture behind Hung....this is a man who grew up in his family's restaurant learning and mastering the fine (art) techniques of knife skills from his family, and with good right, because look at him now, the man can cut , in fact he can cut so well , the knife has become an extension of his hand. He is that comfortable , and that precise.

I would imagine he has cut MANY onions and the like , supply and demand, to keep the restaurant going. He went to CIA , he used to be the Executive  sous chef at the Savoy in Vegas.

And FWIW , anyone who enters the Bocuse d'or USA (in 2008 and 2009) must have something in their backpocket to bring to the forefront and this guy brought his best, he even won in the fish comp.

Not because he wants to show off, because he is good or rather he excels at what he does. And why wouldn't we give him the accolades for it ? Showmanship ? There is ego in everything n'est pas ? So he knows he can chop. He was taught , excellence....

 Is it a necessary skill for cooks under the gun to get X amount of work done in less than X amount of time? Yes sir ! If I am under the gun to produce a certain quanity of product in a minimal amount of time, sometimes with the boss watching.....I will produce as many onions as needed-no tears , just a big smile. Why ? Because that is what I am getting paid for , right ?

 A display of just how sharp your knife is? If anyone does not work with a sharp knife... a dull knife becomes work  and not pleasurable. I would hate to think that because my knife was dull I spent X amount of hours more cutting veggies for nothing and everyhting else  is on standby.

Or just a good way to eventually shave your knuckles off? No, we shave our knuckles off when we don't pay attention, when we are sidetracked, or not using the knife right or protecting our fingers properly (fingers curled in) . Accidents do happen though, regardless of who you are.

Knife Maintenance ? wipe, dry and sharpen. not long to do.

Is it just me  Doug ? Because I see life in a positive way all the time. The glass in never half empty , its always half full...is that my demise ?

You know I see so many great knife skills and what a video like Hung does to me is teach me that cutting is an art, an art with much technique and practice behind it that is wants me or inspires me to be a better master of the tool (and trade).

You asked some good questions Doug......

Maybe someone might think differently from me, and I am sure there are many who do.....but thats life.

 

Petals
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post #100 of 104

Can't resist... will strong, body weak...
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

was imposed by the rational observer.

 

Pick me no nits, Chris. If the internal logic is there, doesn't matter whether the observer is aware of it or not. Why, in this case, isn't it the internal logic imposing itself on the observation?


It's not a nit --- it's a whacking big Gordian knot. You're missing the point, KYHeirloomer.

 

Consider alphabetic classification of books or words or whatever. There isn't any internal logic here --- it's completely imposed in order to serve the desired function (finding things quickly). You can play around endlessly trying to find out why "Judaism" precedes "Juglandaceae" (the walnut family) in the Encyclopedia Britannica, but there is no reason except the completely arbitrary order of the alphabet. You learn nothing about these two things, or their relationships, by messing with the alphabet. Linnaeus was looking, in effect, for an alphabetic-like ordering for plants, and he chose what seemed to him an arbitrary but humanly convenient principle around which to arrange it. There was no internal logic to the order, just human convenience.

 

But why do I bring all this up? (I hear you cry.) Because if you're going to classify knife skills, or knives, or both, into one system, you are bound at some point to make a decision. Either you have to claim that there is some intrinsic logic to how these things interrelate, and that the aim of your classification is to draw out that internal logic, or else you claim that the logical principles you have chosen to impose serve some functional end. For example, pedagogy: you think that if these things are organized in the following way, it will be easier to learn good knife skills.

 

What I'm saying is that "the most important knife skills" is something that has to be discussed in relation to something else, be it a function or some intrinsic quality. When people talk about this kind of thing, they tend to talk as though there really were some natural, internal logical system that just had to be discerned. French rationalism being what it was, at the time Careme and Escoffier and so on were (re)formulating haute cuisine, they did not make this claim: they believed that they were imposing a rational system that achieved efficient ends.

 

If we're going to classify knife skills, and decide what does and doesn't fit into the category --- or rather, if BDL wants to do such a thing --- we're going to have to work out what the functional end sought might be.

post #101 of 104

I have watched the video as suggested and frankly Petals ....you know I luv ya gal......but i do not find anything fascinating about this guy ,,,except alot of noise while chop,chop,chop

 

What gives?

 

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post #102 of 104

I don't know Gypsy.....to be honest with you , in post  # 96 Chef BDL pretty much described what I enjoyed most about the techniques .....you know there are so many other great chefs with knife skills, I picked him because he is popular right now, but like everything in this world, ships pass in the night, if its not him today it will be another one tomorrow. The video was just an example of demonstrating some positive ways to handle some knives.  

 

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post #103 of 104

After thought Petals....

                                    We should applaud upcoming young Chefs  in all their talent & accomplished knife skills,

All the best to him and his future endeavors

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post #104 of 104

That is exactly why I enjoy him so much, he is young talented and full of potential. In fact there is so much hope for  up and coming young chefs, they have vision, they desire to be recongnized as such.

I applaud their teachers (whom ever they might be) who work so hard to teach them,  it says alot about endurance.

 

Yes, I applaud them all....they work so hard.

 

There is a book out by the CIA, " In the hands of a Chef ", it is another good learning tool.

 

Petals
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Wine and Cheese
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