Knife skills in the kitchen aren’t just about impressing, although that’s a fun part of the learning process, they can also have a significant impact on how your dishes cook, look and taste.
Essential Knife Techniques
Excellent knife skills can mean the difference between lumpy, unevenly cooked meals and beautiful looking dishes with top-notch flavours and immaculate presentation.
Knife skills are a vital part of taking your cooking skills to the next level and are a great way to impress visitors to boot! So, with all that in mind, let’s dive into the five knife skills you need to know.
This cutting technique is useful when you need to prepare fresh ingredients like basil and lettuce. The result is curled strips that you can use to garnish or flavour food.
- Gather your basil together, heaping the leaves on top of one another and ensuring they are flat.
- Take the flat, heaped basil leaves and place them on a chopping board. Starting from the top of the pile, use your thumb and forefinger to roll the leaves into a tight tube.
- Using a sharpened knife, start at one end of the roll and cut downward, using your other hand to keep the basil in place.
- Once cut, gently pull the basil apart to reveal perfectly cut, curled strips.
The appeal of the brunoise technique is that it delivers delicate, finely cut squares of ingredients, making it an ideal cut to use when you want to add some vibrancy and style to your dish.
- Clean and peel the vegetable you want to prepare.
- Holding the vegetable vertically or horizontally on the chopping board, make four flat cuts on each side of the vegetable. You should now have something that resembles an elongated rectangle.
- Placing the vegetable on its side, cut downwards to make thick slices.
- Now pile your slices together, on top of one another and cut downwards to repeat the above step.
- Next, turn your thick, sliced sticks of vegetable sideways on to yourself and, cutting along the length, cut it into smaller, more delicate pieces.
The julienne technique is great to use with meat, fruit and vegetables and it provides striking, uniform results which are perfect for a range of hot and cold dishes.
- First, wash and peel the vegetable if its necessary.
- Make cuts across the vegetable, ensuring each section is about three inches in length. If you’re working with a rounded vegetable that is hard to handle, cut one side to create a flat surface first.
- Using your non-cutting hand to hold the vegetable in place, make thin cuts with the tip of the knife pointed downwards at the cutting board and working lengthwise. The vegetable should now be in chunky slabs, about 1/8 of an inch thick.
- Take a few of your veggie slabs and, again ensuring the tip of the knife is pointed downwards, draw the knife toward you to create thin, identical strips – you’ve just julienned your first vegetable!
Practice makes perfect when it comes to de-boning chicken, but with a few runs and a good-quality knife, you should be able to get the hang of it in next to no time.
- If you want to, take off any extra fat present – sometimes this can make it a little easier to find the bone.
- Make a cut alongside the bone on both sides, ensuring you don’t go too deep. Also, make sure you don’t put too much pressure on the knife – the idea is to make a delicate, skilful cut.
- Run your knife underneath the bone, working gently to separate it from the meat of the chicken leg.
- Work the bone free and there you have it – one perfectly de-boned chicken leg!
Filleting a Round Fish
Filleting a fish is a daunting task for many and it is quite an involved job. But once you’ve got the hang of filleting, it’s a skill you’ll want to use more and more.
- Make an angled cut across the body of the fish, just below the gill flap.
- Holding the fish in place with your non-cutting hand, make a light, shallow cut that runs from just behind the head of the fish right down to its tail.
- Working the same cut, gently push the knife over the bones to cut away the top fillet of the fish, using your free hand to gently grip the fillet as it comes free.
- Flip the fish over and make another cut just below the dorsal fin – again working head to tail – and free the second fillet in the same way you did the first.
- Trim off any excess fat from the fillet’s belly side and you’ve just filleted your first full fish.
If you’d like to learn all these skills in-depth and with expert tuition, consider a Seasoned Knife Skills Course. You can master all the essential skills you need with confidence, learning everything about technique, best practice and safety.