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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:51 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 6:20 am
Posts: 1829
I don't know that I can add much except to say it is really difficult to self assess when it comes to technique, with knives are most any other skill.

If you start as an amateur and begin developing your skills, for the first few days your skills are continuously becoming "the best they have been". Extrapolate over time, your skills are always pretty good by your measure, they may be pretty good compared to friends and family, but are they actually any good at all by a more objective measure.


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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:57 pm 

Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:01 pm
Posts: 422
Location: ATL
I read a book. Mine are awesome. :) Now if I can just grow that darn left thumb back I'd be set.


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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:06 pm 

Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:15 am
Posts: 1183
Location: Raleigh, NC
I don't think you will need to amend your technique very much. Most of the time, the people I would worry about using Japanese knives treat their knives like an axe. In worst case scenario, a door stop or something to open cans. If you are already careful, you've won half the battle.


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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:44 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:29 pm
Posts: 111
I appreciate the confidence, Lepus. Now let's see if it's deserved!


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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:24 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:58 pm
Posts: 163
I also think that by "testing your knife skills" people might be referring to the absolute sharpness of some blades.... as in the fact that you could easily lose a finger if you aren't being careful or using proper technique.


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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:37 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:29 pm
Posts: 111
LOL--came close once, and no intention of doing that again. I'd roasted a perfect chicken, tossed a salad, poured a glass of good wine... Took out a miserable inferior bread knife (should have known, I'd read the reviews) and went to cut a very hard, crusty, artisan loaf of bread.

Knife bent and slid against the crust, and went into a finger. Knew that the finger repair would not be a do-it-yourself project. But a girl has to have her priorities. Looked at my finger, then looked at my dinner. Wrapped paper around the wound and shoved a rubber kitchen glove over everything. Ate a slice of chicken and a bit of salad. Drank a very generous glass of red wine. Only then did I drive myself to the ER...

Back to JKs and knife skills... Sorry for the images...


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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:23 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 6:20 am
Posts: 1829
:lol:

I am a feather weight. A little blood loss plus a generous beverage and I would be lucky to operate my sneakers well never mind my sedan.


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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:49 am 

Joined: Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:36 pm
Posts: 280
Location: NY, NY; New Haven, CT
This isn't really about your post, but more a bit of a rant on my own developing philosophy of cutting techniques (sorry!):

I'm a home cook, so I don't have pressures of the job causing me to become careless (although I do cook for others under pressure in social settings – and enjoy pre-dinner cocktails frequently – so I'm not always as careful as I could be!). One thing I've learned since getting a nice board and JKs is that the knife rarely needs to go "down" so much as "across" and "forward," Whenever I think about cutting something, I almost never think "vertical chop." And even when I practice speed chopping (slicing halves of apples into "chips" between 1/3 and 3/8 inch is a favorite, daily habit), I still tend to move my knife with a forward push slice rather than a vertical hammer chop.

That isn't to say I don't chop. I used to play percussion, and one of the biggest lessons I learned was that the mallet or stick never goes into the drum—the motion and force starts above, then relaxes, and then follows through on the upstroke, pulling the sound out of the instrument. My point is that, even when I chop, there is very little board noise. The goal is always to get the knife just to the level of the board surface, enough to get clean through the food, before the upstroke. There is no real benefit to slamming into the board for most tasks, in my opinion—the benefits are not related to the cut, but to other factors, such as speed and – to be honest – sound, which lots of people seem to value these days. (FYI: I think speed is extremely important in professional settings, and I don't mean to suggest that professionals should give a rat's ass about how hard they hit the board when prepping pounds of food!) In percussion, your sound is never as good if you use the drum to double or triple stroke by using the force of mallet against the instrument to "bounce" back up. I think the same is probably true for cutting (it is never as accurate, and it dulls your knives much more than necessary).

Furthermore, watching chefs with good knife skills rarely involves sheer speed or hard chopping. Usually it involves grace and accuracy, where the motions appear effortless, with incredibly clean follow-through, and the cuts are clean and consistent. And, again, board contact is usually silent or minimal. Sure, you can always watch Jamie Oliver go for speed and daring. Or you can watch someone like Jacques Pepin go for speed with much less effort and – unless he's making a knife video – usually much less noise and a lot more grace. And watching Japanese chefs just exaggerates this point—unless it is Morimoto on iron chef, you're not going to see a lot of chopping, but rather a lot of slicing or (in cases of French training) a lot of very shallow rocking.

Along these lines, one trick I've learned is that, when dealing with a difficult (i.e., very hard) ingredient, always focus on slicing or rocking, or, put another way, always focus on getting one part of the blade to touch the board first, then following through with the rest of the cut. If necessary, use a second hand on the spine to apply controlled pressure, which also has the benefit of allowing you to use the food to balance and control that pressure. If you attack a squash with the blade parallel to the board and just force it down vertically, you have no way of controlling the velocity, angle, or follow-through once the blade starts moving because it takes so much force to get start and to continue the cut. But if you angle the blade, do a proper push cut, and let it slide through food and touch the board at the tip first and follow-through by applying gentle pressure to the spine and downward pressure on the handle, you have tremendous control over the pressure, velocity, angle, and follow-through. It keeps you from making mistakes, and it should keep the knife moving in the direction of the edge (rather than torquing against it).

All of this is to say that, as impressive as knife skills seem when watching the person cutting, we might consider judging knife skills based on the product produced. I'd much prefer having a salad where all of the cukes are consistent, the tomatoes are cleanly sliced and holding their gel, and the carrots are julienned like perfect match sticks, than watching a video of the chef chopping a cuke in 28 seconds where the angle of every piece is different, and then trying to imagine just what all of those angled cukes are going to be used for. Or having a proper soup where the brunoise is noticeably consistent from carrot to carrot. Or a sushi roll where every piece is exactly the same thickness. As so on. I can think one of set/maker of knife videos – exactly one –where as much attention is paid to the quality of the product of the cut as to the process of cutting. These are great videos! There should be more of them!!

I have a couple Konos, and I use them for virtually everything. My biggest fear is torquing, and the easiest way to prevent torquing is to always imagine your cut is a follow-through of the motion you start with, rather than something you can change along the way. Like a bat swing, or a golf swing, or a dive. Once you start, go through the finish. I think this, along with trying to keep your board quiet, are two bits of advice that I'd share with a novice as "think this while cutting"—obviously, teaching good cuts is another matter—you can't attempt hard squash until you can stop the blade as easily as you can start it!

And x3 on the pastry scraper. Although I also move my garlic and such around the board with my knives while mincing—there are ways to do this without loosing a shaving edge, btw...just be delicate and use only the contact necessary to move the food, and not to scrape the board itself. I suspect everyone reading the forum already knows this, though...

Sorry for being so preachy, especially to the choir. I've been dying to rant about this for a while, because I find the obsession with board noise to be a constant distraction (such as every commercial break of top chef, for example). The noise is the opposite of good technique: it screams "I can't stop the knife," while the near-silent, crisp crackle of the cut itself is perhaps the real "go," at least for me.



_________________
~Joe
Ownership experience: Konosuke, Masamoto, Tojiro, Wusthof, Henckels, etc.
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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:03 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:00 pm
Posts: 2391
Great post Joe! The biggest thing I'm working on now is getting better at creating more uniformly sized pieces/slices, etc. I'm also one who tries to minimize board noise in many instances. Great description on techniques for going through harder product.


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 Post subject: Re: JK knife skills--talk to me!
PostPosted: Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:26 am 

Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:15 am
Posts: 1183
Location: Raleigh, NC
You're right that consistency is absolutely key. At the very least, precise knife cuts produce a more appealing dish. In the extreme, it's the difference between a huge chunk of uncooked carrot next to a tiny chunk of burnt carrot. It drives me nuts to see people hack up shallots or garlic, or worse yet onion, as they might herbs.


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