Cutlery is essential to the operation of every commercial kitchen, so it is important to know how to hold a knife and use it correctly. Proper knife training can help minimize the risk of personal injury and keep your kitchen running smoothly. If you are just beginning to learn or simply need to brush up on your approach, keep reading for some helpful knife safety tips.
When you use a dull knife to cut, you need to apply more force. As a result, the knife is more likely to slip and this increases the risk of injury. Keeping your knives sharpened is one of the easiest ways to keep them safe. Simply use a sharpening stone or knife sharpener to maintain the original precision of the blade. If your knife needs just a touch up between thorough sharpenings, try using a sharpening steel.
To balance sharpness and durability, most knife blades are designed with a 20-degree angle on each side of the cutting edge. If you work with many soft ingredients, you may want to sharpen your knife to 15 degrees per side.
A knife with a 15-degree angle requires more frequent sharpening, though, and may decrease the overall durability for your knife. If many of your ingredients are harder in texture, keep your blade at 20 degrees on each side, or choose a wider-angle blade when appropriate.
Correctly selecting a knife for the task at hand is one of the most fundamental knife safety tips that foodservice professionals should learn. However, making this choice can be overwhelming because of the wide variety of styles, shapes, and sizes of commercial cutlery.
When choosing your knife, here are some things you should consider:
Blade size: Choose a knife that is proportional to the food you’re cutting. For example, a small paring knife will not be very useful for butchering a large cut of meat, so use a cleaver instead.
Flexibility: Certain tasks require a flexible blade, while others need a firm one. Think about the knife you’d choose to remove scales from a fish compared to the knife you’d need to cut potatoes.
Blade edge: The edge of the blade can make your job much easier or make it harder. For instance, serrated knives are excellent for cutting through foods with tender centers, while Granton blades are suited for wet foods like cheese and salmon.
Never use your knife for anything but cutting food. Using your knife for other tasks could not only put your safety at risk, but it could also damage your knife.
In order to prevent contamination, it is important to clean your knife as soon as you’re done using it. Leaving your knife on your cutting board or in a sink full of soapy water clutters your kitchen and creates opportunities for contamination and injury.
A clean knife is also easier to handle. Food residue can make your knife slippery, so be sure to keep it clean for the most secure grip.
To ensure sanitation and maintain your knife’s durability, be sure that you are washing your knife properly. Here are some things to keep in mind when cleaning your knives:
Is your knife dishwasher safe? While it is a convenient way to make sure your knife is thoroughly clean, some knives may not be dishwasher safe in order to retain their precise edge.
Does your knife have any spots where bacteria could collect? Some types of knives may have handle or blade shapes that are likely to collect food debris, so inspecting your knives before and after washing can help prevent food from building up.
A designated knife storage space keeps your kitchen organized and also encourages a safe knife routine. When not in use, your knives should be stored out of the way of your work space. Simply putting your knife in a drawer is not safe for your workers or your knife. Storage solutions like knife blocks or rolls prevent mishaps and increase the longevity of your knives.
Knowing how to properly cut with your knife is a fundamental part of knife safety. Poor knife handling risks injury and damage to your kitchen tools. Not to mention, incorrectly holding your knife slows you down and decreases the quality of your work.
Always use a cutting board when cutting ingredients. This will allow you to cut consistently and protect your work surface in the process.
Take note of your hand positions when cutting. The hand holding the knife should have a secure grip on the handle.
Using your pointer finger and thumb, as shown below, grasp the sides of the blade near the handle for added control.
Keep your other hand out of the way of the blade. Notice how this chef curves his fingers away from the knife while holding the tomato.
Bring your blade down and through your ingredient in one smooth motion. This will help you maintain control and produce a neater cut.
If you are unsure of how to correctly hold a knife or use it for the task at hand, ask a more experienced worker to demonstrate for you.
When you drop your knife, your natural instinct might be to grab it. For your safety, let it fall! A dropped knife can be sanitized and replaced if need be, but your hands will not heal so easily.
Though a commercial kitchen can be a hectic place, always give the cutting task your full attention. If you're distracted, stop what you're doing and deal with the distraction before returning to cutting. That way, you can stay safe and produce your best work.
Failing to practice these knife safety basics could turn one of your most-used tools into a hazard. Always remember the basics of kitchen knife handling and safety, and be sure to train your employees on the proper usage techniques any time you introduce a new knife into your tool set.