What is Good Cutting Technique?

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Jsgillis86
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What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Jsgillis86 » Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:28 pm

I hear this a lot. What is good technique? Well, honestly I've found that it is largely subjective, but this is my take on it. Hopefully others will chime in with what works for them and contest my opinions.

Let's break down the basic styles of cutting. For reference, forward and back will be used to designate the tip to heel directions. Side to side for lateral motions, i.e., in directions in which the blade faces face. Up and down for the lifting and descending motions of the blade.

Rocking

This is where your knife remains in constant contact with the board and you either pump the handle in a circular motion to get over ingredients and ultimately bring the knife down to cut them, or a "walking" motion where you lift the knife up, put it down and wiggle your blade along the board side to side without much forward and back.

Chopping

A straight up and down motion. Blade goes straight up, blade comes straight down. Simple enough.

Push/Pull Cutting

This is very similar to the chop except a slight draw or forward motion is added to a downward swing. Think for every 4 down, you go 1 forward or back.

Guillotine and Glide (G&G)

The "French" style cut. The knife is held off the board and aligned with the product near the front third of the blade (towards the tip). A long forward stroke is employed following the curvature of the edge until the blade eventually hits board. Think a 1:4 ratio of down to forward, respectively.

Draw Cutting/Slicing

The opposite of the G&G. The product starts out beneath the heel and the knife moves towards the user. Same ratio as the G&G. Some, especially sashimi chefs, will add a circular motion with the tip to get the most out of it they can.

Tip Draws

The tip is laid on the board and maintains contact with while the blade is drug towards the user through the product.

There are exceptions, but for the most part any of the above techniques are acceptable with Japanese cutlery so long as a light touch is employed. There are many other specialized techniques, but this covers the bulk of what your knife will see in the kitchen. At times, a blend of two or three of these techniques will be subsequently used to achieve a desired cut.


Technique will vary greatly from user to user. Variables such as height, weight, hand size, grip preference, knife preference, the setting in which the knife will be used and the strengths and weaknesses of each individual knife can ultimately push a user to favor certain styles and avoid others. So ultimately, good technique cannot be taught in my opinion. It is situational and must be learned through experience. But there are a few universally accepted pointers I'd like to shell out so at least those reading this will have a good idea of where to begin.

First and foremost...

Make the board accept your edge

Where I see most people going wrong is that they aren't making proper contact with the board. First, make sure your edge hits the board as perpendicular to it as humanly possible. If the knife is leaning to either side it will put unnecessary lateral pressure on the edge weakening it quicker than if straight contact is made. I see a lot of rolls happen this way, and if a user is particularly guilty of this I can always tell if they're right or left handed when I sharpen their knife.

Second, don't force your will upon the board. When you make contact with the board, let the edge flow into it. Allow the blade to bounce off. Unless you're rocking make as little contact as possible and get your knife up in the air again, poised and ready for the next cut. There is no rhyme or reason for board abuse. Most boards save your edges. It would be in your, the knife's and the boards best interests to all get along.

Do not torque mid-cut

Line up your cut before you begin. Do not try to compensate or correct after the cut has ensued. What's done is done and if your angle was a shade off to begin with, commit to it.

Attempting to straighten out a cut in the midst of it will funnel the applied pressure to a certain few points in your blade instead of evenly distributing them throughout the section of the blade in contact with product. Resultantly, your knife's propensity to chip increases exponentially.

This also stands true when your knife is dug into the board. Most Japanese made knives were not designed to handle large loads of lateral pressure. This is why many get iffy when it comes to rocking.

Avoid overzealous board contact

There are times when I'm guilty of this, but it is mostly a situational fault. If I'm asked to julienne #30 of onions and have a ten minute window for completion (not so uncommon), you'd better believe I'm gonna sound like I'm practicing Cannibal Corpse drum licks. But if I have the time I make sure my knife makes the lightest contact with the board as possible.

Think of your edges like a shaved piece of glass. The harder you smash them into the board the more they'll chip, crack, wear down, etc. Even a small crack can spiderweb over time, like a window shield after it's been hit by a pebble and driving on a bumpy road. So long as your knife is sharp you shouldn't need that much pressure to get through product anyways.

Listen to your knife

If you pay attention while cutting, triggers such as tactile feedback, sounds emanating from the knife and even a sixth sense driven foreboding angst will all present themselves eventually. Listen to them. Our knives can usually handle more than we give them credit for and in time you'll grow to understand the limitations of acceptable brutality for each knife, but in the beginning why chance it? Edge quality doesn't particularly matter whilst turning nuts in powder or breaking up chocolate anyways.

It could be a matter of, "This specific knife can't handle this.", all the way up to, "I'm not ready to tackle this task with this knife yet.", but regardless, if your knife tells you no, grab a beater.

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Jsgillis86
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Jsgillis86 » Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:35 pm

So I don't know if this'll work, but let's try it.

http://i429.photobucket.com/albums/qq14 ... 5afb8w.mp4

Cutuu
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Cutuu » Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:19 pm

Jsgillis86 wrote:
Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:35 pm
So I don't know if this'll work, but let's try it.

http://i429.photobucket.com/albums/qq14 ... 5afb8w.mp4
Whats the dimensions of that board?

halfdana
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by halfdana » Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:19 am

I'm glad you reposted this on the new forum.
Very useful info!
-Halfdan

Dufus53
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Dufus53 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 7:18 pm

Great post! I grew up with PBS cooking shows, well before the cooking channel or youtube...yes I'm old. My technique was derived from Martin Yan and Jacques Pepin...abuse of both blade and board. Didn't think of revising my approach until chipping my new Takeda going all Pepin on some herbs. Wondering how to finally mince garlic and herbs without reaching for the Wusthof battle axe?

dantee
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by dantee » Fri Feb 10, 2017 4:53 am

oh wow, that's a really helpful video. great technique! =)

Klotf
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Klotf » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:56 am

Similar to the video posted above


Robstreperous
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Robstreperous » Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:41 am

Dufus53 wrote:
Tue Feb 07, 2017 7:18 pm
Great post! I grew up with PBS cooking shows, well before the cooking channel or youtube...yes I'm old. My technique was derived from Martin Yan and Jacques Pepin...abuse of both blade and board. Didn't think of revising my approach until chipping my new Takeda going all Pepin on some herbs. Wondering how to finally mince garlic and herbs without reaching for the Wusthof battle axe?
Just brought a smile .... About a week ago I saw one of those old Pepin videos. He was using a giant Lamson knife that looked like it would kill a water buffalo. Still he managed to bone out that chicken in about 30 seconds......

Goes to show... nice knives are good but knowing hot to use a knife? Priceless.

jprezfe
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by jprezfe » Fri Feb 24, 2017 4:07 pm

Great write up as usual. Thanks for posting the video here too . Looking forward to your youtube knife review channel.

chefbartley
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by chefbartley » Thu Mar 02, 2017 11:18 am

Great post

slobound
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by slobound » Thu Mar 02, 2017 2:15 pm

Super helpful post... I'm definitely a little overeager at times and perform board abuse.
-- Garrick

LennyBoy
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by LennyBoy » Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:56 pm

Thanks. Great post. I couldn't see the first video, but Klotf's was great.

Klotf
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Klotf » Fri Mar 03, 2017 2:39 pm

LennyBoy wrote:
Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:56 pm
Thanks. Great post. I couldn't see the first video, but Klotf's was great.
;)

loco_food_guy
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by loco_food_guy » Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:59 pm

Its interesting to me the different ways that people will approach the same thing. Take for instance dicing an onion. As a chef/cook. I never, not once, took into consideration the contact that my knife was making with the cutting board (the only exception would be if someone was working near the dining room and noise was a concern). The objective was ALWAYS to cut the onion as perfectly as it needed to be cut and as quickly and efficiently as possible. Care for the knife came in the form of flipping it from the blade side to the spine side to drag food from the cutting board into what ever vessel was to hold the finished prep item so as to not cause unneeded wear on the blade. This was ALWAYS the approach and it is to this day. The integrity of the product being prepped and the efficiency of the task was/is most important. I'm not saying that we didn't or don't care for our knives but just not thought about like that. That goes for all things cut. There are many ways to cut the same thing and get the same result and at that point it becomes subjective. I know chefs who are very comfortable cutting all sorts of items on the pull side of a cut. They can slice vegies, herbs etc on the pull cut. I personally prefer to push cut. Its always felt more controlled and natural to me but it also depend on what I am cutting. The approach will vary. With that said, if your are chipping your knife cutting herbs, you might want to use a less heavy handed approach.

jared
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by jared » Sun Apr 09, 2017 9:12 pm

Well said loco.

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Mark Roe
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Mark Roe » Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:21 pm

Terrific info. Thank you. I am making my daughter read it as she has one style of cutting - pressure straight down and very little slicing motion. She is slowly learning to let the blade work for you and that it is a gentle process.
Thank you,

Mark Roe
Roe Custom Knives
Instagram: @roeknives

ChefJeff
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by ChefJeff » Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:14 am

Thanks for all the info. I learned something today (pull cut). Now, to practice. (that noise you heard was vegetables scrambling for hiding places!)

BillyKitchen
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by BillyKitchen » Thu May 18, 2017 3:23 am

Awesome post. Think I will be copying that into a word document to keep in the kitchen at home.

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ken123
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by ken123 » Sun May 28, 2017 3:57 am

Jsgillis86 wrote:
Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:28 pm
I hear this a lot. ... if your knife tells you no, grab a beater.
As I started to read this post I began thinking of commenting, but as I continued to read it, I realized that you've already said all that needs to be said :) Great post!

---
Ken

Chefcallari
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Re: What is Good Cutting Technique?

Post by Chefcallari » Sat Jul 01, 2017 2:23 pm

loco_food_guy wrote:
Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:59 pm
Its interesting to me the different ways that people will approach the same thing. Take for instance dicing an onion. As a chef/cook. I never, not once, took into consideration the contact that my knife was making with the cutting board (the only exception would be if someone was working near the dining room and noise was a concern). The objective was ALWAYS to cut the onion as perfectly as it needed to be cut and as quickly and efficiently as possible. Care for the knife came in the form of flipping it from the blade side to the spine side to drag food from the cutting board into what ever vessel was to hold the finished prep item so as to not cause unneeded wear on the blade. This was ALWAYS the approach and it is to this day. The integrity of the product being prepped and the efficiency of the task was/is most important. I'm not saying that we didn't or don't care for our knives but just not thought about like that. That goes for all things cut. There are many ways to cut the same thing and get the same result and at that point it becomes subjective. I know chefs who are very comfortable cutting all sorts of items on the pull side of a cut. They can slice vegies, herbs etc on the pull cut. I personally prefer to push cut. Its always felt more controlled and natural to me but it also depend on what I am cutting. The approach will vary. With that said, if your are chipping your knife cutting herbs, you might want to use a less heavy handed approach.
Herd chef

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