Chef Bobby Rahman has decades of experience in the restaurant industry. He’s known that he was going to be pursuing a career in food from a very young age, and the first thing he started learning?
Knife skills! Knife work was something that Bobby could practice before he knew all the fancy recipes he knows now. It was something that he could continue working on even as he learned all the different trade techniques that allow him to work efficiently in a bustling kitchen.
From slicing, chopping, dicing, mincing, flitting, and poking. He learned and mastered them all to make sure that, when he was in the kitchen, nothing was stalling him while he worked on his delicious dishes. Today, he shares all the different ways he practiced his knife skills.
Knife Handling – How to Handle a Knife?
Bobby Rahman: Let’s start with the obvious. Chef knives are sharp, and they should stay that way for maximum efficiency. That means buying a knife that will withstand abuse and learning how to maintain such a knife so that it will continue working for you and not against you.
If you’re looking at this as a guide, think of this as step one. Pick a good knife. And, as silly as it may sound, get to know that knife.
Clean your knife
Bobby Rahman: Step number two? Let’s state the obvious a little more: keep your knife clean and make sure that you have a dry and clean place to store it — that will go a long way in making sure that your knife stays in working order.
The goal here is to reduce food contamination as much as possible and prevent any unnecessary pain or discomfort for the people that you’re cooking for (whether it’s family, friends, customers, etc.)
Hold your knife correctly
Bobby Rahman: Now for the practical advice: there is a correct way to hold a knife. The general gist of it is that you should hold it with your thumb on the back — for safety reasons of course. Other things to keep in mind would be to close your fist around the handle to keep your hand from getting too hot (for your comfort) and making sure that you avoid slicing ingredients up in a way that results in residue spilling into your other hand (for hygienic reasons).
Bobby Rahman: It might sound fussy but (and this is especially true if you’re cooking large volumes of food or if you’re just starting to learn how to handle a knife), wear protective gloves when you’re cooking. These gloves will not only serve as protection from heat and bacteria, but they can actually go a long way in making you work faster.
Bobby Rahman: Knife sharpening. Some people go years without ever sharpening their knives — choosing, instead, to work with blunt blades that increase risks and make the whole cooking process that much more strenuous. Just trust me in this, knife sharpening is worth the extra effort!
As an extra aside, I can understand why some people may be leery at the risk that comes with sharpening a knife — it’s pretty scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. So, if you do decide to get into the habit of sharpening your knives in the future, it would benefit you to find a friend that can help you out — or, better yet, attend some classes to get professional instruction. As a tip, if you purchased your knife from a professional knifemaker, chances are, you can get your classes with them directly (and even knife sharpening services — so the opportunity is there if you want it.)
The Bottom Line
Working with knives can be a bit scary at first — especially the really sharp knives that most professional chefs use. But just like with everything else, all it takes is practice. That’s really what all cooking is about, according to Chef Bobby Rahman. Who, much like many other chefs in the world, have spent years perfecting his craft. Now, he knows how to cut and slice ingredients like a Master, but that doesn’t mean that he started that way. And sure enough, with enough effort from you? You can do the same thing.