Mastering basic knife skills is one of the most essential parts of cooking, along with keeping your knives sharp. A sharp knife not only allows you to work faster, but safer. When your knife is blunt the amount of pressure needed to cut through food is much greater, one slip can result in a nasty injury.
It is also important to consider which knife is needed for each job. For example, you would not use a large chefs’ knife to deseed a chilli, the key is the amount of control you have over the knife at all times.
Traditional French cooking dictates basic cuts and their sizes. The most commonly used are julienne, dice, brunoise and chiffonade.
Julienne is technically a baton measuring 5cm x 3mm x 3mm. Chopping these batons into cubes is known as dicing and for brunoise, the batons are cut into particularly fine 3mm cubes.
When learning basic knife skills it is better to practice julienne to begin with. Use a cheap vegetable such as a potato or a carrot and turn the trim into mash or a soup.
While it is not essential to know the exact measurements of different cuts, it is a useful skill to be able to cut vegetables into uniform shapes and sizes, especially when preparing a special meal that requires the wow factor.
It is a satisfying feeling to be able to prepare meat completely from scratch. It may be a daunting task in the beginning but once your confidence levels rise you won’t look back.
When learning to butcher whole animals begin with small beasts such as rabbit or hare as they are easier to handle and manoeuvre.
Your butcher will be quite happy to do the most of the work for you but if you would prefer to do it yourself take a look at our butchery guides.
With much less room for error than meat, fish can be tricky to learn to fillet and prepare correctly. It is a good idea to prepare fish yourself as you will have a better indication of how fresh the fish is from looking at it whole. An added bonus is that you will get the bones of the fish which can be used to make a tasty stock.