Kitchen Mechanics by Gary O'Hanlon: Knives

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Straight Board, Straight Knife, Straight Slice
I’ve been late in submitting this one. You’d think it’d be the easiest piece to write and topic to cover but as it turns out it’s anything but.
You see, everyone has different ideas on knives. I can’t think of another essential element of the kitchen that divides opinion more than knives.
Some Chefs are happy to batter away with a few essentials, others not so. I’m pretty convinced that Daniel my Sous Chef would prefer for you to run away with his girlfriend than to see you touch, let alone use, his knives.
There are simply so many. If it’s confusing a Chef just imagine what it’s doing to the regular household cook.
For the Home cook I’m going to go all Happy Gilmore on this one. Yes you play a whole round of Golf with a full set of clubs and yes, they all serve a purpose but which clubs would we really keep in order to get through a round. I mean, the absolute bare essentials and lets use the same thought process with regards Knives.
I’m going to go with a Driver.
Big Bertha. For brute force off the Tee, durability and distance.
In kitchen terms, The Chefs Knife. A.k.a. The Chopping Knife. This gives you a good cut, a strong base blade for anything from cracking through a chicken carcass to chopping parsley and carrots. My number 1 go to knife.
Next up is the 7 Iron.
A 7 Iron will give you both distance and loft so you get to eliminate a vast array of clubs. Which leads me to the Pastry Knife.
A Pastry Knife has a serrated and slightly curved blade. It’ll slice everything from joints of meat to cheese and cakes and even works as a chopping knife.  Very versatile.
Next up we have the Putter. Smooth, delicate and it’s essential to the game. A must have in any bag which brings me to the Paring Knife.
A paring knife is simply essential. From cleaning a Girolle to peeling potatoes or doing intricate jobs this is a knife that you simply can’t live without.
Now when it comes to a professional kitchen, clearly there are many more tasks being done so thus a few other essentials come into the mix.
A Filleting knife for Fish work is needed. A flexible blade that bends and gives way. Ideal for skinning fish and also giving a sharp, cutting edge slice.
A Boning knife. Butchery is an everyday task in most Pro kitchens. This knife has a very sharp point and narrow blade allowing precision boning especially in larger cuts. The blade is strong, stable and wont bend easily.
So there you have it.
For the home cook simply narrow it down to one good chopping knife, one serrated pastry knife and a paring knife.
For the Pro Chef there are a few more there but you are all aware of what suits your own game.
One thing I would say is to invest in a good water stone and steel.
And remember, Straight Board, Straight Knife, Straight Slice.


Read more from this series:

The Food Critic
The Next Generation
The Front of House
The KP
The Vac Pack
The Chef