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March 2017
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KNIVES

KNIVES

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.
Special knives

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 the time.
  • 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.

Safety

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.

KNIVES

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