Helping you prepare healthy foods in a hurry
Alice Henneman, MS, Registered Dietitian and Extension Educator
Tip - August 2003
Be Sharp: Use a Chef's Knife
In the time needed to get out your food processor, assemble it, take it apart again and wash it, you can often slice, mince or chop food faster with a chef's knife. A chef's knife can help you make fast work of serving healthy fresh fruits and vegetables.
A chef's knife (also called a French knife) has a broad, tapered shape and a fine sharp edge. Its blade ranges in length from 6 to 12 inches and measures at least 1-1/2 inches at the widest point. It is designed so it rocks on a cutting board as it cuts food.
What size should you get? "For chopping herbs, small fruits and vegetables, etc., I would recommend an 8-inch French knife for most people," advises Chef Judy Doherty, Food & Health Communications, Inc. (www.foodandhealth.com). "It is easy to handle and maneuver."
For cutting large foods like a watermelon or cantaloupe, Doherty prefers a 10-inch serrated chef's knife. "It is much safer -- the reason being that you can hold it safely at the handle and the tip. Using a knife that is too small is dangerous if you are trying to cut something large because the knife can slip and go through your hand," warns Doherty.
Some points to consider when purchasing a chef's knife include:
To help prolong the life of your chef's knife:
Learn more about how to use a chef's knife through viewing:
Note the manner in which the NON-KNIFE and KNIFE hand are held in the videos and pictures:
When finely chopping or mincing some foods, such as small bunches of herbs or garlic, the handle may be held in one hand while the other hand rests on top of the blade. The tip of the blade is kept in contact with the cutting board. The blade is rocked up and down until the food is chopped to the desired size.
To prevent vegetables and fruits from slipping on your cutting board, cut them in half before slicing or chopping further. This helps anchor them firmly on your cutting board and helps protect against cutting yourself.
"Always make sure the cutting board is secured to the counter with a wet cloth or paper towel -- it is dangerous to have a cutting board that moves around while you are trying to cut," cautions Doherty.
If you've never used this type of knife before, Doherty recommends "It is helpful to practice using a French knife on a cucumber that has been cut in half lengthwise -- it is stable and easy to cut."
For more information about preparing healthy meals, contact your local University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension Office; for the location of the office nearest you, click here. For a listing of Cooperative Extension Offices throughout the United States, click here.
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