I remember in my younger years watching the 'greats' cook on television: Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Jeff Smith, Martin Yan, Wolfgang Puck, Graham Kerr, Justin Wilson... I would see them wield their knives slicing through onions, potatoes, veal shanks and the like effortlessly. I thought if I could do that thenI'd be a true chef. Well, I've since dropped that theory. Now I measure it by throwing down in the kitchen, keeping bellies full, smiles on faces and the famous 'Oliver Twist' line: "More please?", but one thing that I'd never factored into the mix was safety and working with properly maintained equipment. Although I'd heard them emphasize the importance of sharp knives it hadn't dawned on me why. I'd originally thought that a dull knife would be the safer tool, mainly because it wouldn't cut as easily as a sharp one, ergo, less potential of injury.
One day, as a youth, I was in my 'test kitchen' trying something new... I was cutting an onion. [smile]
Wrong anchoring position.
Wrong finger position.
Right recipe for disaster!
While trying to cut through the onion, the knife wasn't sharp enough to complete the task. Well, what happened was I applied more downward pressure and instead of cutting through the onion, I slipped the dull knife off the onion and onto my unsuspecting thumb. [Thank God for thumbnails!] I still got myself, took a while to heal, but gave me a valuable life lesson. Here's what I learned...
Had my knife been sharp enough to handle the job with minimal pressure and effort, it would've been able to move through the onion without the extra added pressure exerted to push the knife through it. Had I had a little more pressure applied to my dull knife I could've easily taken my thumb off [like a friend of mine].
In contrast... fast forward to [less than] a year ago [I won't fess up to how 'less' that would be], I was working with a new razor sharp knife set, I pulled another bonehead move [keep in mind that these statements are totally directed at me, so if you've ever pulled a bonehead move, such as this, or better, don't be hard on yourself! These statements are purely for frivolity and entertainment purposes; and it happens to the best of us ;~D ] and had my knife parallel to my cutting board; and instead of holding the onion steady with my anchor hand, I accidently slipped and 'pushed' the onion along, as if I was working with a mandolin on a smooth surface, with a safety guard on my hand. WRONG!!!
I lost grip of the onion and everything went into slow motion as I stood by and watched, in panoramic view, what was to happen next... Into the business end of the blade my fingers went. The knife was so sharp that I didn't even feel it. That's when I knew it was bad. No blood [at first]. Only the realization that I'd messed up, BIG TIME. I slowly walk over to the sink, turned on the faucet and as my wife asked me what happened I let her know that I sliced my fingers pretty badly. She asked if they were bleeding and I told her not yet... She's a nurse, by the way. ["Oh no!" she says.] No sooner than I said that that the evidence of my mistake was apparent. I won't bore you with the gorey details, but there was a lot of excitement, shrieks of terror and hysterics! After my wife calmed me down...
Now I'm sharing this, not to gross you out, but to reinforce the importance of working with sharp knives. Sharp knives are safer because:
- They lessen the potential for slippage while cutting foods
- They move through foods easier
- They use less pressure, so your potential for injuries are greatly diminished
- Injuries sustained with a sharp knife is easier to clean, heals quicker with less scarring and chances of infection
Take the time to hone your knives prior to putting them away and to sharpen them when necessary. Honing should be done after every use and sharpening, depending on frequency of use, 2-3 times per year.
Here's a great video on knife sharpening. Enjoy!
As always, it's my pleasure sharing these resources with you. Until next time...