Is anybody else jealous when they see chefs on television chopping at great speed with what looks like very little effort? I often sit and wonder why I can’t do it, but it’s probably got a lot to do with the knives I use. I don’t have anything fancy or expensive and after today’s visit to the Nick Nairn Cook School where head chef Paul Bough from Zwilling Z A Henckels was on hand to demonstrate his knife skills, I now have a rather expensive shopping list!
I learned so much in the forty minutes Paul chatted to us about knives. He started off chatting about the history of Zwilling, explaining that they are the oldest knife maker in the world, dating back to 1731. Their knives are made with special formula, high carbon German Stainless Steel. As Paul went into greater detail about the different knives in the range it became very apparent that I had much to learn!
Next Paul asked us how we held our knives at home. I hadn’t really thought about this too much, so I picked one up and started chopping the celery he’d put out for us to practice with. Paul explained that I, along with 85% of the population held their knife incorrectly (“Hmmmmm… At least I was in good company”, I thought to myself!) The correct way is to pinch the knife with your finger & forefinger around the bolster at the base of the knife, and the cut using a rocking motion. This gives you greater control of the blade.
Do you find yourself crying when cutting an onion? I do, I’m normally a mess by the time I’ve finished one. The reason for this, as Paul explained, is that your knife is blunt (who knew?) When you use a sharp knife, it slices through effortlessly, with a blunt knife you’re pushing the onion juices out into the atmosphere, causing you to start crying. Man, my knives must be super blunt!!
We were also shown how to choose a knife. I initially went for one that had a really smooth handle, which I discovered had linen woven into it. I loved how it cut, realising more and more how blunt mine were at home! However, Paul suggested I tried the Zwilling Pro, a perfectly balanced knife…. It was beautiful! Not sure how you can love a kitchen knife that much, but I did!
Finally, Paul showed us cutting and sharpening techniques. I have to admit to being rubbish at sharpening my knives and was shocked when I was told you should sharpen them every four to six weeks and maintain them every week. Hmmmmm, must set myself a reminder to do that!
Many thanks to Elaine at the Nick Nairn Cook School who made me feel so welcome. I couldn’t leave without a couple of wee purchases (would be rude not to!) so I bought a very cool Rice Cube and a jar of Peperoncino Chilli Paste before I headed home to get some more knife practice in!
Melanie, Food Adventurer