New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

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Jhonmicky
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New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by Jhonmicky » Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:47 am

Hello everyone,,
I'm a noob in the kitchen and want to become more efficient with my cutting, as currently it takes me a while to do and usually means I'm holding up the process when cooking with my gf. Are there any beginner level dishes that pair well with this desire?

I've done fried rice already which worked pretty great as everything needs to be small and uniform. Looking for other dishes like that and just other knife tips in general would be great. Thanks!

Cutuu
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by Cutuu » Wed Jul 31, 2019 12:11 pm

Mirepoix can be used in a lot of dishes: chicken soup and many other soups like black bean, pan roasted chicken, jumbalaya, fried rice which you mentioned, crab cakes with remoulade sauce - use fine diced veggies like peppers, short rib garnish, this is just the tip of the iceberg obviously.

salemj
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by salemj » Wed Jul 31, 2019 1:11 pm

Study a few manuals for how to cut specific things. I'm not a pro, but I definitely feel - very strongly - that "great" knife technique is more about knowing how to approach an ingredient to get a specific end result than it is about any other factor. When you know exactly how to approach a given ingredient to get a particular result, your confidence, accuracy, and - eventually - speed will come naturally. Otherwise, do not worry about speed. People who start by wanting to develop speed usually sacrifice everything else (accuracy, safety, quality of cut, consistency, precision)...and all just to look fast. When you see someone REALLY fast with excellent skills, they almost look like they are moving in relaxed slow-mo yet they simply fly through produce.

I don't have great skills, and I'm also generally modest about my skills, but I can say with confidence that I am 2-6x faster than anyone I have ever cooked with when it comes to cutting things up. That's a lot faster in most cases. It doesn't come from me powering through 20# of onions quickly. It comes from the fact that, even when I dice up garlic, I know exactly how I want to cut it to go from a quick break-down to a micro-dice to a mince in three stages, back to back. Or it comes from knowing exactly what bias to cut the onion to get the skin off and set up the approach for whether I want a slice, julienne, or dice. Or it comes from knowing whether I want to core, section, or roll a bell pepper in order to 1.5", 2", 3", or 4" strips without waste. Or from peeling a carrot for a dice, but not peeling it for a brunoise or matchsticks. Or that breaking down a chicken is often faster with a small knife precisely through a joint and tearing with your hands than by trying to find every curve with a soft fillet blade. And so on. These techniques come from all sorts of sources, but they often start by watching or reading specific instructions by seasoned technicians...even in those cases, it is often "what what I do, not what I say," as when they are doing silly instructional videos, they are often designed for home cooks with poor skills and dull knives.

As for dishes, things like fried rice are great. I also think anything with a blended base is good (for example, when I make indian food, I always blend the base into a paste, which means i get to practice cutting up all of the ingredients first to sauté them, but then they all go into the blender anyway so I can make mistakes without caring...same for a mole or many sauce bases). Otherwise, I agree with Cutuu that soups and such are great. Practicing how to make a mirepoix that is precisely sized so that all of the ingredients cook just right in the same amount of time can be very slow at first, but it is excellent practice and teaching you a lot about the "geometry" of different ingredients depending on the size, shape, and variability. Finally, mashed potatoes can be good, too: again: something to practice cutting all sorts of ways (including peeling), but it all gets mashed and blended regardless so precision or evenness isn't a big deal in the end!
~Joe

Comments: I'm short, a home cook, prefer lighter, thinner blades, and own mostly Konosukes but have used over a dozen brands.

gladius
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by gladius » Wed Jul 31, 2019 1:22 pm

If you haven't already, peruse the many online articles and videos...

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=learn+knife+s ... fnt&ia=web

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Altadan
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by Altadan » Wed Jul 31, 2019 1:36 pm

And for an inspirational experience, enjoy the too few videos of Charlemagne from a few years ago. They will show you what Joe described so well - a seemingly slo mo flow through product that is, in fact, a very fast preparation.
https://www.youtube.com/user/CGuarin1987/videos

Kalaeb
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by Kalaeb » Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:19 pm

Sounds like a cool GF...

Just keep at it. It takes practice.

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Jeff B
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by Jeff B » Wed Jul 31, 2019 8:24 pm

As Joe articulated so well it helps to know how to attack a product but passed that it is as Matt put it,"it takes practice".
If God wanted me to be a vegetarian he wouldn't have made animals taste so good.

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lsboogy
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by lsboogy » Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:45 pm

I think that what people talk about as "skills" are akin to "muscle memory" when sharpening. I manage to cope with a high volume kitchen while learning to cook - I'm the low man on the totem pole so I get all the onions every time I show up, but my skills with onions are now pretty darn good, and I'm working on carrots and hard veg now. Buy a few 5lb bags of onions and dice them, and then repeat with slicing etc. The basics can be learned at slow speed, but the ability to do 1mm diagonals with carrot is something you accomplish through repetition - and that's the kind of stuff you need for cooking well.
I still love to do some asparagus (5mm - 2") and mushrooms (good buttons sliced at 1.5mm or 1/2 inch) in some oil with minced garlic and some fine diced onion, add some decent pasta and put in a tub of marscapone (pasta water as needed) and top with good parm and some parsley for display - serve. My daughter's standard dish since she was 10. Very easy and very showy - always a good thing for crowds
1 bunch asparagus, 8 oz mushrooms, 1/2 lb pasta, 1/2 medium onion and 3 cloves garlic, tub marscapone - good for a 4 person main dish (or 2 if hungry) - have a great time.
Scallops, pasta, garlic/onion, good olive oil and parm is great as well.
Italian is easy - always simple veg, pasta, and seafood - olive oil and parm or reg with some parsley or basil on top. Always sensual, always a good meal. Sometimes when it's hot just skip the pasta.

Steel+Fire
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by Steel+Fire » Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:34 pm

It is like every other skill set performed with your hands or body. 10,000 reps to become a proficient. Use videos, as has been suggested, to figure out the best technique and method for the ingredient you use. After that it is a function of repetitions to develop the synaptic pathways in your nervous system to get your motor skills up to your level of desired performance. After that it is like riding a bike or any other skill you spend time developing. Don't do it for a while and the skills will be rusty but will come right back to you with a bit of practice. Human motor skill and coordination is all pretty similar whether we are talking culinary knife skills, golf swing, shooting, archery, driving a manual vehicle, etc...

I will say that knife skills are hard at first as many of you intuitive assumptions are wrong. Do use the sharpest knife possible because sharp knives go where you put them rather than steering in unexpected directions. Usually you will be in contact with the side of the knife if you are doing it right, knuckles are you version of a blade stop, your knuckles on the side of the blade are your guide and no other parts of your finger or thumb can move past the knuckles without being under the blade, fingers under the blade is no good. Choke up on the blade a bit. I have shown more than one person a proper pinch grip and they suddenly understand why their knife has felt so unstable while using it it the past. Go slow at first as this is the key to developing proper technique. I know it is cliche but the military axiom of slow is smooth, smooth is fast really applies when learning new motor skills with your hands. Oh most importantly get a awesome knife or two as this will encourage you to choose food options that require knife work.

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Altadan
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by Altadan » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:10 pm

Slow is smooth
Smooth
Is fast.
Sweet

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ken123
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by ken123 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:43 am

@steel+fire Read your post twice. Really well done!

---
Ken

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lsboogy
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by lsboogy » Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:36 pm

My golf game hinges around how well my left knee is doing - been rather well as of late (handicap is going down again) - but I wholly agree on cutting, best thing I ever did for my knife skills was volunteering in a high end/high volume kitchen. If you ever get the opportunity, take it - learn more and learn faster than you would believe. The difference between a pro chef and a home cook is fathoms and miles - I don't look at what I'm cutting any more, and I'm just a beginner chef (not even worthy of sous yet) - cutting up boxes of onions is no problem - just a normal start to a day in the kitchen now - makes home and camp cooking easy

Mowgface
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Re: New to cooking and want to improve my knife skills

Post by Mowgface » Wed Sep 11, 2019 5:01 pm

I can't add much more to what folks have already said so i will just suggest some things that i learned on when i was in your shoes.
Salsa
Fried rice
Soups
Purees (as mentioned above, will be blended but gives you some practice for sure)
Tomato Cucumber Salad
Grilled Onions
Cole Slaw
Butchering Chickens for sure
etc.

When learning i often just bought common ingredients, decided how i wanted to cut them, then fandangled a dish based on the cuts i produced. While practicing brunoise (or any size small squares) i had a bunch of dinners consisting of sauted veggies mixed into white rice, "boot leg fried rice." Or thin julienne-ish strips cooked and topped rice like bibimbap. If i was ever making chicken/veggie stock there would be all kinds of shapes and cuts that would end up in the pool.

I agree that Charlemagne is a great one to watch, but also check out Rick Theory on Youtube.

When all is said and done. Sometimes if you just have to sacrifice some veggies to science, so be it.

Mowgs

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