Top 10 Knife Hacks for Dicing and Slicing Your Produce
The taste, texture and presentation of any dish often boils down to the quality of the cut. Two chefs can use the same sets of ingredients to prepare a dish but the two dishes will taste totally differently depending on what kind of ‘hand’ worked on the ingredients. The difference is often in how the cuts were made. The correct chopping and cooking process will result in delectable meals.
If you want to be a great cook, you must acquire the correct knife-sets and knife skills that will help you handle every ingredient in the correct way. In this article, we take you through ten handy knife hacks that will help you make the perfect cuts on your food and become an excellent cook. Apply these simple hacks and you will quickly learn to make cuts and prepare your food like a Michelin-star chef.
#1 Perfect Your Knife Grip
Generally, the best grip on your kitchen knife is the one that will feel most comfortable to you. If you can hold it comfortably and control it with relative ease, then you are on the way to mastering the grip.
Do not hold your kitchen knife handle in a death grip; that is, too hard. Instead, relax your hands and allow the blade to do the work for you.
Learn to position all your ten fingers such that it will simply be impossible to get hurt when making a cut.
The hand you are using to hold the knife should also be used to grip the handle and the knife’s blade.
Depending on the profile of the edge, use the knife in a rocking motion from the heel to tip.
Finally, make sure that the knife is at the same height as your elbows or below the elbows. This will improve your cutting efficiency as it allows the whole of your upper body, and not just your hands, to apply the downward pressure on the kitchen knife during the cutting action.
#2 Use Cutting Boards that Won’t Dull the Knife
Even professional chefs at the peak of their careers avoid having to sharpen their knives on a frequent basis. One way to keep your knives sharp for longer and ensure an extended edge retention is by using a cutting board that won’t easily dull the edges of the knife. Glass is likely to have a high attrition on those delicate edges. The best cutting surface is one made of wood. If you don’t have a wood surface, use a cutting board made from thick plastic.
During the cutting action, ensure that the cutting board is firmly positioned by putting a kitchen towel beneath it.
#3 Use the “bear claw” to protect your hands
Given the hardness and extreme sharpness of Japanese kitchen knives, a small loss of concentration and an accident can be devastating. A good way to protect your fingers when chopping your ingredients is folding them into a “bear claw” by tucking the fingertips underneath the knuckles for protection. This will ensure your fingertips are well protected when you are chopping your food.
#4 Score Eggplants Before You Slice them
Slicing an eggplant can be hard even with a powerful vegetable knife that is fit for purpose. You can make perfectly even slices of your eggplant by scoring (making small effortless cuts) first. Score to mark out the thickness of the slices you want to produce out of the eggplant. Finally, continue slicing the eggplant along the marks that you scored earlier to make perfect, even slices of your eggplant.
#5 How to Slice Meat Thinly
To achieve those ultra-thin meat slices out of your rib eye, top sirloin, tenderloin or striploin, put the meat in a freezer for a few minutes to make it firmer. If the slicing knife or chef’s knife can smoothly glide through the meat and the meat is lean and firm enough to slice thinly, then it is ready for slicing. If the meat is too soft, you will have some difficulty slicing it and you are unlikely to achieve clean and even cuts.
Proceed to slice the meat against the grain in a gentle drawing or sawing motion. Look at the fibres of the beef as you are slicing and see if they are leaning in one direction. Slice or carve the meat in the opposite direction, that is, against the grain.
#6 How to Hold the Ingredients
When chopping or dicing, your helping hand should hold the ingredients in a bear claw. Curl your fingertips under the knuckles and press down on the ingredients being cut to prevent them from sliding or rolling.
Your fingertips are at their safest when they are relative to the cutting blade of the kitchen knife. Another way of safely holding the ingredients is by bunching your fingers together and then resting the pads on the ingredient being cut.
As you are slicing back and forth, move your helping hand across the ingredient in uniform increments so as to create perfect slices. You will need some practice to achieve this synchronized coordination of the cutting hand and helping hand to generate uniform slices of the ingredients. This isn’t even a requirement for home cooks but if you are a professional chef, practice will make perfect.
#7 Chopping a carrot
You will need a chef’s knife, a santoku knife or a gyuto knife to chop up your carrots.
Start by chopping the carrots crosswise to form equal length pieces then cut these pieces lengthwise. Lay the cut-side pieces down on the board and then slice them to form half-moons.
If you want to make a rough chop of your carrots, you can slice the half-moon pieces across to form roughly even-sized quarter moons. If you want to make a medium chop, you can pile together the smaller half-moon pieces and use a “bear claw” grip to push the pieces to the knife and chop them up in a rocking motion. You can repeat this process to obtain finer chops.
#8 How to Dice an Onion
There is an array of kitchen knives that you can use to dice your onions. These range from the chef’s knife to a gyuto and santoku knife.
Use your chef’s knife to first cut the onion in half. Cut it in half from its stem to the bottom root. Make sure that the onion root is still intact when you begin cutting. The reason for this is that the onion root contains most of the gas hormones in the onion that make you tear up. Slice your onion far enough away from the bottom root so as not to shed too many tears when chopping your onions.
After cutting your onion in half, peel it off while ensuring its root has remained intact. Put the flat half side of the onion on the chopping board while resting your palms or fingertips on top of it. Use the other hand to cut horizontal slices starting from the stem towards the root tip of the onion. You can make these slices ¼-inches thick. Ensure that you stop at about ½-inch before you slice the root of the onion.
With your helping hand, grip the onion and curl your fingers around it into a bear claw to protect your fingertips and knuckles from any accidental cuts. With the cutting hand, cut ¼-inch slices downwards. Start slicing from the stem of the onion as you head towards the root. You will be sliding your “bear claw” gradually towards the stem of the onion as your other hand moves the knife. With some practice, the coordination of the two hands will come to you almost naturally as you slice and dice your onions into small diced shapes.
#9 Simple hack for your peeling garlic
Peeling garlic is one of those dreaded little tasks. Most probably, your fingernails are going to take a hit as you remove the rough outer layers that adhere too closely to the bulb.
One way of peeling your garlic without ruining your fingernails is by using a small pairing knife to pierce the bulbs while the skin is still attached to them. You can then turn the bulb around to pull out of the garlic from the peel.
Alternatively, you can use the side of your chef’s knife or pairing knife to crush the garlic. Crushing the bulb will help peel it easily and also enables you to easily break it down into tiny pieces and mince it once you have pulled it out from its skin.
#10 Slice meat against the grain
If you want to cut clean slices out of your steak, the best way to go about it is by slicing it against the grains. Inspect the steak to determine where the grain lies. The “grains” are the lines that you can see on your steak meat. Cut perpendicular to these lines in order to make the juiciest of meat slices.
When you cut your meat with the grain, you will produce very chewy slices of steak which don’t make for a pleasant bite.