Friday, February 4, 2011

Consider the Onion - a lesson in knife safety

I'm not actually someone with a lot of pet peeves. Sure ridiculously behavior and illogical arguments can annoy me (not loosing my patience with my roommate as I write this...), but most of these grievances don't actually build up on a list for me.

However, a few things do - and oh how do they! One of my biggest kitchen pet peeves is watching a friend or loved one being a danger to themselves while calling it cooking. I'm talking about the proper use of a knife.

Most people are scared of those big shiny sharp things hanging around in the kitchen and go for the smallest, dullest one they can find. They think it's less intimidating than the bigger knives, but their choice is actually much more dangerous.

Let's consider an onion. An onion has all the qualities of a perfect knife lesson.
  • it's round (oh the dangerous ways people try to cut potatoes - don't get me started!)
  • it's frustrating to chop (there are only so many tears I'm willing to give any one person/place/thing)
  • it's crazy delicious and therefore needs to be chopped all the time.
So how do you attack this beast of tears? To being with you need a plan. For cutting a round object the first thing you want to do is give yourself a flat (and therefore stable and safe) place to work from. So you cut the onion in half and place the flat side down. This is a good plan of attack for any chopping task.

Note: I haven't even bothered to peel the onion yet - I find efficiency is important when working with things that can make me cry.
After securing my onion in a safe position I can now go about peeling the pesky skin off.

Simply cut off one end of the onion halves.

Now you can reach under the layers and peel easily.
Clean as a baby's bottom after a bath.
Ok - now we have something to work with. Your onions may now be beautiful clean pearls of delicious-ness, but they will still make you cry worse than the first time you saw Titanic. So where do you go from here? Well now is a perfect time to NOT go hacking at these pearls with reckless abandon. Don't fear. Delicacy, economy and planning will get you through.

Putting your knife point down first - place slices down the length of your onion. Don't slice through the butt of the onion - the whole thing will fall apart of you if you do. Leaving the end in tact will give you something to hold while keeping your fingers away from the blade at the end. You will need to hold onto things - make a plan for it.

Now you can slice through your onion safely while it falls away from your blade in a beautiful little dice with minimal chopping and tears.

So beautiful. Just a pile of potential waiting to hit the pan...
It can be so easy - but let's not forget to use a knife that's the proper size for what we're cutting. It should be large enough to cut through your onion half with the tip touching down first and cutting through the whole thing without needing to lift the tip. Anything smaller and you might as well be whittling your vegetables.
My favorite all-around knife is a 7-Inch Santoku Knife
And most importantly - you need to always, always, always use a sharp knife. When you use a dull blade you have to apply more pressure and are more likely to maim yourself. Get used to using a sharp knife and slicing and dicing just your vegetables will be so much easier than you feared.

Someday I dream of these all being Wusthof Classic Ikon  *sign*

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the onion... the fresher the more tears...
    I don't enjoy cutting them up, but you have it with the technique.