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Basic Knife Skills

Learn basic knife skills in this video from EVERY DAY WITH RACHAEL RAY magazine, plus get tricks and tips on the best way to cut, chop, slice and dice. From our collection of Step by Step cooking videos.

Tue, 1 Apr 2008|

-Hi, I'm Tracey Seaman, the food editor here at Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine, and today I'm going to show you how to make some basic cuts all using your chef's knife. First, the most important thing to remember is that you have to stabilize your cutting board. So, if it's sliding around on the counter surface, just use a damp kitchen towel or a paper tower does the same trick and lay it underneath and that should hold it steady. We'll be using an 8 inch chef's knife. This come between 8 to 12 inch, and it's important to remember that the reason why the blade is curve is that you wanna cut things in a rocking motion and that will basically keep things kind of safety thing, also an ergonomic thing. In terms of the grip, wanna basically let the joint where your index finger meets your hand kind of rest on top. You've got basically these forefingers on that side and your thumb underneath stabilizing the grip, and this is pretty much a classic grip, but what's comfortable because to me that will make the safest grip for you. In terms of this hand, this is the hand you'll be using to sort of guide the knife. Depending on what cut you're doing. Sometimes, you'll be holding it up on top, but the fingers resting on top of the blade and the palm of your hand on the bottom to keep it steady and you'll be chopping back and forth like this. Other times, you'll have your fingers curved under. Be sure to have them curve down so that the blade is only touching the knuckles. Now, kind of guide the slices you work your way back with depending on what food your cutting, not just pretty much the safest way to make, just always kind of wanna work front to back. So, the first thing I'm going to show you is how to chop, which is like in recipes all rated as half an coarsely chopped or half an onion chopped and what that means is it's not a very exact type of cut. You just wanted all cut to roughly the same size so that it cooked evenly, and so with this onion, the first one we're gonna do is remove the loose paper skin, slice off a bit of the stem end. Because what you wanna do is keep the onion stable, so now it's got a flat to rest because, otherwise, it's a little bit wobbly and a little bit unsafe. So, now that it's flat, we can just take the knife, and slice straight through the root end, and we're gonna peel the outer skin. I like to peel the first layer of the onion off as well. That tends to be like the thicker part of the skin. I don't really like it. So, remove that first layer, and what we're gonna do next is just sort of slice off the stem end, and then from here, you're just gonna keep your fingers curled under, so we're gonna start slicing through just about 3/4 of an inch, gonna regroup it all together. You wanna keep all the parts evenly size and there you go, got coarsely chopped onion. So, we're gonna set this aside, and when scraping these together, be sure to use the back of the knife. If you scrape with the front blade of your knife, it tends to dull the blade and this isn't a good idea. So, the next thing I'm gonna show you how to do is how to finely chop, and you read this in recipes frequently as one clove of garlic finely chopped and what that means is just wanna cut into really, really tiny pieces so that quickly and evenly, and so I'm gonna remove the paper husk of the garlic and just going to cut like 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, and so the first thing we're gonna do is remove the skin of the garlic and I'm sure you guys have seen this before, but for those of you who haven't, this is so incredibly easy. You don't wanna sit there and try to peel it off. It takes forever with garlic clove and all you can do is just put it underneath the blade of the knife and give it a good whack and remove the skin, and we're gonna bring the garlic together. If you've got any of these tough bits be sure to remove those and just gonna cut those guys off. That's it. And from here, we're just going to start cutting up the garlic. One thing that was always really important to have, a really sharp chef's knife that's safety. Number one, it will keep it from slipping and two, it will just help you to just right though as opposed to having exert pressure from the top down, and this one of those cuts where you're going to wanna keep rest your fingers on top of the blade with your palm on the bottom that kind of guide the blade as it rocks back and forth, and so we're just gonna start finely chopping these cloves of garlic, bring it all back together with the back of the knife. Just keep cutting it over and over again until all the pieces have been finely chopped and are about the same size. Herbs are another great thing that you can finely chop and use them to scatter over pasta, on top of pizzas, your favorite potato salad. You can see that it's all very finely chopped, and next I'm gonna show you how to thinly slice. For this, we're gonna keep our hands the same position, which is the with fingertip curled under, with the palm of the hand holding it steady and you're gonna wanna slice for. It's the slicing motion that will cut through without having to exert too much pressure, and there we go, we've got nice thin slices, gonna show to cut potato into cubes, and again, this is one of those things which a little bit wobbly, so just to be safe, we're gonna thinly slice one side off, and so that keeps it stable, and then we're gonna cut it lengthwise into planks and I'm gonna go for ¾-inch cubes too. And so how you control the size of the cubes is that for each incision at this point you may agree to slice just wanna kind of measured out, and this looks like it's about ¾ inches and just gonna slice downward, and then keep the top of the knife straight. That will help you sort of guide the cut to know that you're going upright and it will stay nice and even throughout the slice. And here we're gonna cut each plank lengthwise again into another ¾ inch slice and work with an amount of potato that feels manageable. You don't wanna try to all these at the same time. You grab a few of these and turn them perpendicular and then make another ¾ inch incision or cut. Another trick if you wanna keep all the cubes like perfectly square. You can line all the pieces up and use your blade as a guide and then from here just give it a quick slice to cut up all the-- like the pointed ends, get rid of those guys, and then from here, start cutting again, and now you've got ¾-inch cubes. All right, so the next step I'm gonna show is how to make thin sticks, and we use those phrase a lot when we're doing quick stir fries or salad and just basically cutting in this case vegetables into like thin matchstick size pieces, and the easiest thing I've learn is and we'll never in this carrot pretty steady. Otherwise, it's a little bit wobbly. You wanna do that same technique where you sort of slice off one end to keep it on a flat plane, but the easiest way to deal with things like this to cut it into segments, so that you're only working with the 3-inch piece. I like starting from the thickest part of the carrots, so that we got the most evenly sliced sticks, so I'm gonna go. We'll whack up the top end of the carrot and then you're gonna cut it into 3-inch pieces and again just keep stable and gonna cut off a piece, and from here we're gonna use the same method that we used when cutting cubes just first cut them into planks. Because we're cutting them into thin sticks, we just kind of wanna make thin slices, and carrots is dense so required a little bit more effort, but as you can see if you slice forward, it will still go through. Once you got to the point where it's a little bit wobbly, I like to just turn on onto the flat surface, so that again, you got stable surface to work of it and just keep cutting and get rid of that pieces uneven. So, you've got these planks. We're gonna cut lengthwise again, the thin sticks, and again, this is one of those methods where you want your fingers Curled underneath to protect them. Also, every time I slice through, I'm moving it back slowly just to sort of help guide my knife to know how thick the next slice is going to be. I like cutting thinks like apples and cut pnto thin slices for like a quick slide. You can do this with cabbage, obviously carrots, and pretty much the same that's dense, and same with potatoes, if you wanna cut them into French fries or sweet potato fries, and so here we've got think sticks. You can make them bigger if you want, just start with like-- The first cut that lengthwise just keep thicker, so I'm gonna set this aside. Last type of cut is how to slice something into rounds. This is a zucchini, and this is great for cutting up cucumbers like if you wanna dip, you know, use cucumbers in dip. On radishes, if you wanna thinly slice radishes into rounds for using a salad, and just to kind of show you how to stabilize. You can begin thinly slice off a little piece just to keep it stable and this is the same grip with the fingers curled underneath and we're going to thinly slice this into rounds, something like this, so just to review all the cuts I've shown you today. Here we've got some coarsely chopped onion, finely chopped garlic, cubes the potato, some thin sticks of carrots, also known as julienne as you might read in a few recipes, thin slices of onion and rounds zucchini. So, you've learned all the basic knife skills today and hopefully you'll go home and try them yourself.