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Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sharpen Your Skills in the Kitchen - Knife Skills 1.0

Our most common cooking class at Mirepoix is Knife Skills 1.0. Over the years, we’ve taught this class a myriad of different ways, and now I think we’ve found the best way to teach this very important topic. Our Knife Skills 1.0 class, like all of our other classes, is completely hands-on. Students learn best when they do it themselves instead of watching a demonstration-only format.

We also change our Knife Skills 1.0 class seasonally to feature ingredients that will be used in recipes that make sense for that particular time of year, so, even if you already took Knife Skills in the summer, we have something different to offer in the fall.

Knife Skills 2.0 features ingredients that are in season, but, more importantly, more difficult to prepare. We select produce and meats that people enjoy eating but may not know how to trim, slice and dice. Like Knife Skills 1.0, this class also changes twice a year to feature different seasonal ingredients.

Finally, Knife Skills 3.0 is our most advanced Knife course. This course outlines basic cuts of meat and proper “butchery” techniques. Learning how to cut and trim meat yourself is economical when money is tight.

Good cooking begins with good ingredients, but also the right tools, as discussed in an earlier post, “Tools of the Trade - Cook Like a Chef”. We recommend three knives to get you started – a chef’s knife, paring knife, and a boning knife. Of course there are other knives that you will eventually need, but we recommend starting with these three as they are the most commonly used.

Selecting a chef’s knife is important. Below you will find some tips to help you select the best knife for you.

Forged versus Stamped
The weight and balance of a chef's knife is said to depend on how the blade was manufactured. Forging, which involves pounding a relatively thick, red-hot billet of steel into shape under extreme pressure using a forging hammer and die, produces a slightly thicker, heavier blade. A forged knife also has a bolster, the thick piece of metal between the blade and the handle. A bolster adds weight, is said to improve the balance between the blade and handle, and can protect your fingers by separating them from the cutting edge.

Other knives have stamped blades, which began life as thin sheets of steel. Blade-shaped blanks are punched out on a huge press, almost like cookies being cut from rolled dough. Manufacturing techniques now allow bolsters to be attached to knives with stamped blades.

Heavy vs. Light
When you’re buying a knife, you are looking for something that feels good in your hand. It is nicely weighted, moves easily and feels balanced. We have a collection of both 8 and 10” Chef’s Knives, and each of the Mirepoix Cooking School staff has their preference for individual reasons. I prefer a 10” knife. I like the heavier weight and find it easy to use when cutting up hearty vegetables like hard squashes, melons, etc. Some others on my staff prefer the 8” because it is easier to use.

10” knives are heavier, so if that’s something you prefer, you might want to go with that. If you feel that the 10” is too large to handle, then the 8” is the right knife for you. A good knife, no matter the length, will be nicely weighted.

Price vs. Cost
A good knife is an investment. Most of my chefs have owned their knives since attending culinary school (for us that was about 10+ year ago). If you take good care of your knife, it is something you will be able to use for many, many years.

Caring for Your Knives – The 10 Commandments

1.Do NOT put your knives in the dishwasher
2.Do NOT use an electric sharpener to sharpen your knives
3.Do NOT store your knives in a drawer or in any other manner that would allow them to bump up against each other or something else
4.Do NOT put your knives in the sink
5.Do NOT take your knives to be sharpened by anyone who is going to “grind them”
6.Do NOT attempt to sharpen serrated knives
7.DO use the right knife for the job – not all knives are interchangeable
8.DO remember to sharpen your knife at least twice a year
9.DO use an oil stone to sharpen your knives
10.DO remember to use a steel on your knife at least every other time you use it

To learn more about the Mirepoix Cooking School or to register for a class, go to www.mirepoixcookingschool.

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Blogger Marcia said...

What did you mean by using a steel on your knife?

April 10, 2010 at 6:25 AM 
Blogger Stacy Sloan said...

a steel is an accessory that you need to buy to help realign your blade. they are sold in any kitchen supply store that sells good quality knives.

April 10, 2010 at 9:20 AM 

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