5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
Behind every great chef, there is a great knife - and behind every great knife, there is a great knife-maker. That's where Joel Bukiewicz cuts in.
Bukiewicz is the owner and operator of Cut Brooklyn, where he artfully crafts high-carbon supersteel into handmade kitchen knives for professional and recreational cooks in New York City and elsewhere. Consider him the Hattori Hanzō of the knife world.
He's even loaned one to our managing editor Kat, who says his knife is the best she "has EVER used" - and she's no paid shill. It may have nearly sliced her thumb off – but boy, was it a clean cut!
Kitchen mishaps aside, Bukiewicz is here to enlighten us on how to slice and dice with the best of 'em. Shall we edge onward?
Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Kitchen Knives: Joel Bukiewicz
The one you choose should look great and feel great in your hand - the blade’s balance, speed and power should complement your strengths and shade your weaknesses. It should be a sexy, well-thought-out and well put-together tool, ground to a thin edge and finished befitting your budget. Quality will vary, so if you see something you don’t like in the finish of your chosen knife, ask to see another of the same model from behind the counter.
If you choose a non-stainless Japanese blade, be comfortable with the idea of spending some real time learning to sharpen it on water stones. If possible, get the stones you’ll need right there by recommendation and get to work learning. If you learn to do it well, it’s a skill that will give you a great deal of pleasure for the rest of your life. There are tons of great learning resources online.
If the knife you choose will respond well to a hone (without micro-chipping as very hard Japanese carbon steel will), ask for a recommendation and try out a few hones right there in the store on your knife. Get a quick lesson/demonstration on the correct way to hone if need be. The right hone should make for an edge with just enough tooth to bite into a soft tomato, but not so much that it feels ragged. Your knife should stroke easily and evenly down the hone. Long, even, consistent strokes, alternating sides with very little pressure. None of that zip-zip-flash-flash bologna you see on T.V."
2. Make friends with your knife
For almost everything you do, you’ll be holding your large chef's blade in the control grip, pinched between thumb and forefinger just forward of the handle. Steer your knife, don’t muscle it - it should always be sharp enough to do so.Get in tune with the knife’s power and balance.
Work slowly and learn the edge’s zones of contact with the cutting board and how you need to hold it to make even, consistent cuts that you’ll later be able to repeat more quickly. Your knife will have tendencies, strengths and weaknesses - learn them and learn when to set it aside for a blade more suited to the task. Feel the weight of the heel as it drops on the board, get to know the speed and accuracy of the tip and how the whole piece moves in your hand so that when your eyes pick a target, your knife follows."
3. Stabilize your cutting surface
If the board moves, your hands move and your food moves - you might as well be working blindfolded. You’ll never get any better with your knife and sooner or later you will cut the hell out of yourself. If your cutting surface is immobile, your accuracy is dependent on your skill and attitude and you’ll be firmly astride a learning curve. You will get better and you will have fun."
4. Get an end grain cutting board
5. Be nice to your knives and keep them sharp
Never, ever cut on a glass, marble or metal surface. Don’t toss your knives into the sink, or throw them down on the counter in a rush where they can bang into a jar, bowl or other knives.
Clean your knife with a cloth or sponge and warm water and soap when you’re done working. Be very aware where your fingers are while you’re washing - if it’s well-kept, it wants to cut and will lop off a fingerprint in no time.
Never, ever put your knife in the dishwasher. Dry it carefully and immediately and hang it on your wall magnet or set it in your block. If you’re honing to keep it sharp, give it one or two strokes on each side before or after every use. Eventually you’ll need to have it re-sharpened professionally but the more diligent you are about honing, the longer your edge will last between sharpenings."
Are you in a long-term relationship with your chef's knife? Or - got any handy-dandy cutting tips to share? Let us know in the comments.
Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.