Be Careful with Kitchen Knives
Every year, about thousands of people end up in emergency rooms with injuries they
receive by using kitchen knives. But with a few cutting-edge tips, you can avoid the
biggest danger of kitchen work. Here's how:
When chopping or dicing curved foods, such as eggplant or zucchini, start by cutting
the object in half, to create a flat, stable end. Place the flat surface against the
cutting board and go to work.
Chefs learn a special holding technique that protects their fingertips. To use this
technique, bend your fingers under and press against the food with the tips of your
fingers. Let your knuckles guide the knife.
Use a sharp knife
A dull blade is actually more dangerous to use than one that is sharp. Here's why:
A dull blade requires more pressure to cut, increasing the chance that the knife will
slip with great force behind it. A sharp knife "bites" the surface more readily.
Use the right cutting surface
Cutting on a metal stovetop, on a plate, or on a tile or Formica counter dulls your
blades. It's best to use a plastic or wood cutting board.
Flip a pepper
To safely cut a bell pepper, cut it in half first, and then slice or chop it with
the meaty side up. This decreases the problem of cutting through its waxy skin.
Palm that bagel
It's easy to cut yourself when halving a bagel — if you try to hold the bagel in your
hand. Here's the trick: Place the bagel flat on a cutting board, put your palm on
top to steady it, then slice parallel to the cutting board. Cut about halfway through
the bagel. Finish either by rotating the bagel with the knife in place, or stand the
bagel on end and "saw" through to the end.
How to choose the proper blade
Knives are tools, and it's best to use the right one for the job. A good knife will
have a carbon or carbon and stainless steel blade that runs all the way through the
knife handle. It should feel balanced and comfortable in your hand. Here's a look
at the cutlery of a well-stocked kitchen:
Chef's knife. With its 8- to 12-inch blade, this knife is good for slicing tomatoes and dicing
carrots. It's also adept at cutting roasts and other large, thick meats.
Paring knife. With a thin, sharp, 3- to 4-inch blade, this knife is small enough for peeling apples,
potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables.
Serrated knife. Perfect for cutting crusty bread, or anything with a hard exterior and soft interior.
But don't use it to cut meat. Its saw-toothed edge will shred the flesh.
Boning knife. With an extremely sharp and very thin blade that ends almost in a point, this knife
is good for delicate cutting jobs, like boning chicken and filleting flounder.
Utility knife. Similar to a chef's knife, but about half the size, this knife can handle almost
all but the most delicate jobs. Keep it handy for when your other knives are unavailable.