March 2017 Healthy eating
Knives are probably the most used utensil in the kitchen and are,
therefore, the most important. It is precisely because of this that they must
be chosen carefully and you must keep in mind what they will be used for, and
remember that the quality of the products (even if they cost a lot) indicates
how trustworthy and practical they are. Good quality also means that they will
last for a long time. To get the most out of them, we do not recommend you buy
sets of assorted knives as some knives in the pack can be less trustworthy than
others. Furthermore, it is worth spending a little more on knives you will use
a lot rather than ones you will only use for certain occasions. The best knives
are made of steel and have a high content of carbon which guarantees they are
stainless. The higher the carbon content, the longer the steel will be able to
last and keep its shine. As far as the shape is concerned, the blade should be
the same length as the handle and be fixed to it by rivets. There are two types
of blades which depend on what the knife is going to be used for:
- forged blades are made from a semi-finished product and they are balanced and tapered;
- printed blades are made by cutting a metal sheet and are flat and thin.
To guarantee that your knives last a long time, follow these simple guidelines:
- Do not put knives in a draw, one next to the other, so that the blades do not
get damaged by the other ones. It is best to store them in wooden holders, which
are preferably dressed with dense nylon fibres which look after them, rather than
cracks which can scratch them.
- Do not leave knives in the sink otherwise the steel can get ruined. Similarly,
do not leave them in water for long periods of time either and, if they are good
quality knives, do not wash them in the dishwasher but rather by hand with warm
water and a sponge, but no soap, drying them well after each wash.
- Sharpen the blade before using it so as to realign the molecules on the edges
before cutting. Knife sharpeners are made of a material that is harder than steel.
Hold the sharpener up vertically and then lean the blade on it, sliding it up
and down at angle of about 20° with respect to the sharpener. Other instruments
which sharpen blades include the V-shaped sharpener and carborundum stone.
- Do not cut products with kitchen knives on materials such as glass, metal or
on work surfaces, but rather on wooden or plastic chopping boards.
- Do not use kitchen knives to cut card or rope.
The most common knives
Here is a list of the knives you should always have in your kitchen:
- Bread knife
This is made up of a long, serrated blade for cutting bread and other tender
foods. It must not be used to cut meat, vegetables or fruit (because it would
create a pulp if used on these foods).
- Chef’s knife
This has a wide blade, which is about 20cm long, with a sharp end. It is the
most commonly used knife in the kitchen because it can cut, slice or dice any
type of food.
- Serrated knife
This is a smaller version of a bread knife. The serrated blade allows you to
cut foods that have a hard exterior but soft interior, like salami.
- Paring knife
This is smaller version of chef’s knife. The blade is about 8-11cm long and it
has its own properties: it can cut things into very small pieces. It is particularly
useful for slicing garlic or peeling fruit.
- Vegetable knife
This has a short blade that bends upwards. It is used for peeling small vegetables
or round foods.
The aforementioned knives can be used for all basic culinary operations. However,
there are other knives which make certain operations easier and deal with certain
foods better. The names, shapes and functions of special knives are listed below:
- Shearing knife
The blade of this knife is about 20cm long with a serrated end and it is adapted
to cutting meat. It is used with a meat fork, which is shaped like a bayonet knife,
and it is good for keeping meat still when it is being sliced.
- Filleting knife
This is designed to smoothly fillet fish or chicken and it is made up of a thin
blade which is slightly curved and is flexible. It needs to be very sharp all
- Boning knife
These are small and very sharp and the blades can be flexible (ideal for removing
chicken bones) or rigid (for meat in general).
- Cheese knife
These knives have ridged and leaf-shaped blades and are used for breaking up
mature cheeses, like parmesan. You use it by embedding it into the cheese and
turning it. It can also be used as an oyster-opener.
- Salmon or prosciutto knife
This has a narrow, flexible blade which can cut thin and long slices.
- Oyster knife
This has a special shape, like a short yet wide arrow, which can force open oyster
shells by penetrating and coming out the other side.
- Frozen food knife
This can be single or double bladed and it has very pronounced and long teeth
(like a saw).
- Small cleaver
This is smaller than a normal meat cleaver and it can be used to break bones
and finely chop chives.
Knives, which are very useful, can be very dangerous if used improperly. Here
are some simple rules to follow which will guarantee you are safe:
- Never run your finger along the blade to check if it is sharp.
- When taking a knife into the kitchen, always make sure the end is facing down.
- Do not use knives with slippery handles; they can easily slip out of your hand.
- When leaving a knife on a chopping board or work surface, make sure the blade
is not near the edge.