The name ‘chef’s knife’ makes this essential kitchen tool sound intimidating. Do you need to be a chef to use one properly? Of course not – this is a key knife for any kitchen, and you may find that you reach for it more often than the rest of your knives combined. If you’re not yet familiar with the chef’s knife, we have a great post available on what it is and how to use it, so be sure to check that out! Once you’re up to speed, you can use this post to determine exactly what jobs in your kitchen can be conquered by this tool.
5 Reasons You Need a Great Chef’s Knife
One of the common mistakes made by novice home cooks is thinking they need to use a different tool for every single task in the kitchen. This is largely the fault of businesses, of course, who would love to see the ambitious home cook use a million different gadgets. In reality, you only need a few basic tools to make a great meal, and a chef’s knife is definitely on that short list.
So, what can you do with your chef’s knife? The list of five tasks below covers much of what you’ll learn to do as you develop your skills.
Using a Chef Knife to Prepare Meat
Without a doubt, preparing meat is one of the most intimidating tasks for someone who has minimal experience in the kitchen. You may be a little uncomfortable working with raw meat at first, and you probably won’t have the first idea of what you’re supposed to do with it. Don’t worry – it’s normal to have a learning curve at the start, and a chef’s knife can be your best friend as you learn the ropes.
A chef’s knife can be used for just about any kind of meat you would prepare in a kitchen, including beef, chicken, pork, and more. This is a good tool for the job because a good chef’s knife will have plenty of weight and a long enough blade to work through the meat without using too much force. Along with the boning knife, this is the knife you’ll need to break down that chicken or carve that Thanksgiving turkey!
Using a Chef Knife to Prepare Vegetables
One of the best things about preparing your own meals is the ability to eat healthily. Cooking your own fresh vegetables with most meals is a great way to incorporate plenty of the vitamins and minerals you need – oh, and they taste great, as well. To break down your veggies into appropriate sizes for cooking and eating, you’ll once again reach for your chef’s knife.
The way you use your knife to prepare vegetables will depend entirely on what is being prepared and how it will be served. For instance, you could use your knife to dice an onion for added flavor in a dish, or you could cut up slices of cucumber to place on a salad. The possibilities here are virtually endless, and your chef’s knife will be able to handle just about all of them.
And if you need a lesson on how to dice, slice, and mince like a pro, then check out the F.N. Sharp Guide to Knife Cuts to level up your skills.
Using a Chef Knife to Prepare Fruit
A chef’s knife is going to be used for fruit in much the same way it is used for vegetables. For some fruits, a smaller knife will do the job as well, but reaching for the chef’s knife will let you make quick work of many different tasks. It could be something as simple as cutting apple wedges for a snack, or it could be breaking down a few different fruits to make a colorful fruit salad.
Using a Chef Knife to Prepare Herbs and Spices
As you gain experience in the kitchen, you’ll find that using premade spice packages is just not the same as reaching for fresh ingredients. To prepare herbs and spices for your various dishes, the chef’s knife will again come in handy. It is the perfect tool to chop up some cilantro to top off a few tacos, and it can also break down fresh parsley to top off baked potatoes. Whatever your intention, keep your chef’s knife close at hand.
Using Different Parts of a Chef’s Knife
Did you know that more than just the sharp side of the blade can be used to help you prepare delicious meals? With some experience, and a bit of creativity, you’ll discover that your knife can be used in many different ways – just be sure to get to know the different parts of a knife.
Using the Tip of the Blade
There’s a reason why the tip of a chef’s knife comes to a sharp point – actually, there’s more than one, from preparing meats to baking treats!
Preparing Meats: As already mentioned, the chef’s knife is a go-to for preparing meat – and the tip comes in handy, too! Use the sharp tip of your chef’s knife to remove sinew from meat – the tough fibrous tissue (tendon or ligament) that unites muscles to bones or bones to bones. A boning knife is ideal for the job, but if you don’t have one in your knife collection, then reach for that chef’s knife!
Baking Treats: If you love all things baking, then get a little fancy with your sweet treats and use the tip of your chef’s knife to cut fun shapes into pastries and cookie dough!
Creating Guides: For some, cutting anything evenly is a skill in itself (✋). If you struggle with evenly slicing through dense fruits and vegetables like pumpkins, butternut squash, and other fall vegetables, as well as fruits like honeydew and watermelon, save yourself from serving up mangled fruits and veggies by using the tip of your chef’s knife to create guide cuts. Then follow the guides to slice those babies up and you’ll have perfectly even slices.
Using the Flat of the Blade
This is where to get to have a little bit of extra fun during your cooking adventures. There’s just something so satisfying that goes along with smashing ingredients under the flat of your chef’s knife. Here are a couple of ways to get that satisfaction:
Smashing Garlic: Many recipes call for crushed garlic, which is quick and easy with a chef’s knife. First, pull a few cloves off of the head and peel back the natural paper wrapper – or you can give it a good smack under the flat of your knife to make it easier to peel. Once the garlic cloves are free, you can smash them one at a time using the flat of your blade. Lay the blade down on its side with the clove of garlic underneath and hit down carefully with your hand, careful not to hit the sharp cutting edge. It will take a bit of practice but breaking down garlic will be an easy job once you’ve mastered the technique. If you wish, you can lay a small towel over the blade before hitting down to crush the garlic, just as a layer of protection.
Crushing Cucumber: Wait, crushed cucumber? Yes! Cucumbers can become much more flavorsome with a little gentle crushing, as well as absorb other flavors in a dish – a technique commonly used in Asian cuisine. To crush a cucumber with your chef’s knife, first slice it into pieces if it’s a large cucumber, then use the flat of your blade to gently push down on each piece. You’ll see some water puddle up on your board, and that’s OK because that’s the point! Once you’ve finished gently crushing each piece, simply slice it up. chop it up, or whatever cut the recipe calls for!
Using the Spine of the Blade
There are actually a few instances where you’ll use the opposite side of the cutting edge of your chef’s knife blade. From scaling fish to cracking a coconut, the spine of your chef’s knife blade is the star of the show.
Scaling Fish: To scale a fish with your chef’s knife, simply get a firm grip on the tail and use a stroking motion to scrape the spine of your chef’s knife along the scales of the fish from the tail to the head. Once all of the scales are removed, thoroughly wash your fish and you’re good to go!
Cracking a Coconut: Have you ever tried to crack open a coconut? It’s not an easy task! Instead of carving a face into it, naming it Wilson, and displaying “Wilson” in your office (true backstory here) simply grab that chef’s knife! Make sure the husk is removed from the coconut, then trim away the outer skin to expose the shell, starting with the soft skin at the top.
After your coconut has been peeled, hold it firmly in your hand and against your cutting board with the top exposed (and fingers out of the way) and use the spine of your chef’s knife to give the top of the coconut a good whack, rotating the coconut as you go to repeat the process on all sides of the top of the coconut.
Once you’ve cracked the shell around the top of the coconut, you should be able to simply pull or peel off the top of the shell. Then drain the coconut water into a container to be used for baking, smoothies, or as a thirst-quenching beverage on its own, then use an ice cream scooper to school out the soft flesh to be eaten on its own or added smoothies, stews, sauces, oatmeal, baked goods, and any other recipe that calls for coconut.
Scraping Up Ingredients (And Staying Sharp!): When you’re chopping away at an ingredient that spreads out on your board, like fresh herbs, or if you’ve finished chopping and are ready to add the ingredient to your dish, you can use the spine of your knife to recenter your ingredients on your board or scoop them up to be transferred to your dish. Just be sure you’re using the spine of your knife and not the cutting edge to help prevent it from dulling quicker than it should. A sharp knife is a safe knife and a dull knife has no place in the kitchen!
With so many different uses, a good chef’s knife should be near the top of the list in terms of important pieces of kitchen equipment. Without this knife, your prep work will be more difficult than it needs to be, which means cooking will be less enjoyable.
If you need a high-quality, exceptionally sharp knife for a great price, then look no further than F.N. Sharp! Our 8” Damascus steel chef’s knife comes with an exceptionally sharp, long-lasting edge that will make quick work out of any ingredient you throw its way, and it can be purchased individually or in a set with other essentials. Order today to get F.N. Sharp in your kitchen!