Monday, August 13, 2007

Knife Skills Class

I took my first ever cooking class tonight at The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square. As I guess I should have expected, there were no incredible revelations, but a lot of good information on technique and knife care. We worked through a variety of vegetables: celery, zucchini, carrots, green peppers, jalepenos and onion. We got to practice with several different styles of blades and representatives of each style by Global, Friedr. Dick and Chroma (Porsche design). I started out liking the Friedr Dick best, but I think that might have been because the weight reminded me of my Chicago Cutlery. But ultimately, I gravitated to the Global 8" chef knife as my all-over favorite.

My technique did need adjustment - I grip the knife handle too far back and I don't follow through on my slice. I also balance the top of the blade with my forefinger, so I need to get a full grip and rotate my hand almost 90 degrees toward my body. I guess I thought I was getting better control of the direction of the cut, but a) that's not really true and b) it explains why my hand gets sore faster. This is going to take a lot of practice to change my habits. I think I might buy a bunch of veggies a couple of times and just practice while listening to the radio a few times.

I had started doing the "claw" in the last week or two, having noticed it on Top Chef, so I was on the right track in preserving my fingers. I just need to practice that some more as well.

Also, I've been taking very poor care of my knives. My sharpening tools and technique needed work and I've put them in the dishwasher a LOT. Handwash and air dry them is apparently the way to go.

I did just buy a new wood cutting board this weekend and the care instructions on it match with what they were recommending. Again, no dishwasher - a dilute bleach and water solution (1 tbl bleach to 1/2 gal water) followed by hot soapy water. So, I'm off to a good start with that.

I got out of there pretty cheap. I have a good number of knives, even if they are Chicago Cutlery. As a lower quality, they dull more quickly, apparently. But I figure I need to improve my sharpening and knife skills before I upgrade my meager collection. They're good enough for now. I ended up buying a MicroSharp Universal sharpener and the Food Lover's Companion - essentially, a food dictionary. It retails for only $16.95 ($11.53 at Amazon) and is already an interesting read. I think I'll start asking for Globals for Christmas.


mg said...

I'm glad you posted this info abou the knife class at the chopping block -- I seriously need to work on my knife skills again. I am planning on attending this class. Did you feel you learned enough basic technique in just two and a half hours? Of course you are going home to practice also but just curious what you thought?

Hal Shipman said...

I think you answered your own question there. Yes, they pretty well covered the basics. In looking at a culinary school textbook (On Cooking, I think) recently, I couldn't see anything obvious that we didn't cover. But it does require a LOT more practice afterward.