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Old 08-21-2010, 10:48 AM   #1
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Unhappy Nervous Around Knives

Picked up cooking recently and I'm REALLY starting to enjoy it, especially when I take on new and daring recipies. But I have a problem. I get nervous whenever I pick up the knife.

Currently working with an old and blunt cook knife with NO sharpening equipment, which has already led to several 'near misses' from my fingers, so I'm already saving up for a newer knife set. These incidents frighten me whenever I think about them (probably due to all that slashing and gashing samurai movies I've been watching lately...).

Just want to know whether you guys had the same fear, and if so, have you had ever gotten over it?

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Old 08-21-2010, 11:07 AM   #2
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It's normal to be concerned around dangerous instruments.

Rather than saving for a set, go out and buy an 8" chef's knife to get started. You can add a 3" - 4" paring knife too if you can afford it. Those two knives will take care of 95% of your cutting needs.

Read through some recent posts in the knife forum here. There are recommendations on chef and paring knife combos for short money.

Don't kid yourself about the old knife's being dangerous. If you are careless, you can cut yourself more easily and worse with a sharp knife. The key is to pay attention to what you are doing and don't try get fancy.
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Old 08-21-2010, 11:18 AM   #3
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When I started cooking professionally, I felt obligated to step up my production. That meant using knives much quicker and more efficiently than I had been previously. Decades in the Boy Scouts, hobbies and rural living had me quite comfortable around razors and sharp knives, and had given me a healthy respect for them. Learning proper knife handling technique gave me the confidence to work at a speed my employers and I were comfortable with.

My suggestion, get your knife (knives) sharpened. You don't necessarily have to do it yourself. Professionals are pretty cheap. Even in Cub Scouts they teach you a dull knife is a dangerous knife. You have to use considerably more force to accomplish anything...force and control don't go hand in hand.

After your tools are in a usable condition, learn proper technique. There are lots of good videos on YouTube and Kitchen Daily (How to Guides for knife skills, Cooking Tips and Techniques - KitchenDaily). Then practice at a speed you're comfortable with. It won't take long for your skills and confidence to improve. Cucumbers are cheap this time of year. Buy a bag full and go to it. Slice, julienne, batonette and dice them until you're comfortable.
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Old 08-21-2010, 11:18 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mudtimud View Post
Picked up cooking recently and I'm REALLY starting to enjoy it, especially when I take on new and daring recipies. But I have a problem. I get nervous whenever I pick up the knife.

Currently working with an old and blunt cook knife with NO sharpening equipment, which has already led to several 'near misses' from my fingers, so I'm already saving up for a newer knife set. These incidents frighten me whenever I think about them (probably due to all that slashing and gashing samurai movies I've been watching lately...).

Just want to know whether you guys had the same fear, and if so, have you had ever gotten over it?
First of all, a warm welcome to DC.

As a professional cook I well understand your anxiety, but a sharp knife never slips, remember that.

What I suggest you invest in a diamond steel that will always keep a good edge to any knife you buy. You see people sharpening really quickly with these steels, but that's habit, so you sharpen as slow as you like. Or, buy a worktop knife sharpener, there's plenty around and they're not that expensive.

As for knife sets, all you really need is 3 knives plus a peeler. The larger the knife - the more control you have over it. Buy an 8-inch cook's knife, or maybe one wee bit smaller like a 6-inch. It's important that your chosen knife should feel nicely comfortable in your hand and looks nice. A 4-inch general purpose knife is excellent, too. A paring knife is lovely for fruit, but the choice is yours. I generally don't rate knife sets; half of them never get used. "My three" are first rate, high quality chef's knives that have never let me down, except empty my purse. But though good quality is never cheap, in the long run, it's always good value.

Carbon steel knives sharpen up a treat, but because of the high carbon content, can discolour. Stainless steel, the good ones like Wustof Trident and Henkles (ice hardened) won't be cheap but will last you many years. And do consider buying one of those lovely Opinels. They have a steel locking collar and when not in use the blade neatly folds back into the handle. In terms of bangs for bucks, Opinel's prices beat every other utitilty knife into a cocked hat.

Never put knives in the dishwasher! This is because the chemicals will ruin the blades. Before using any knife always sharpen it, and carbon steel knives I suggest after washing and drying, you give them a light oiling. They'll hold good for years, too.


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Old 08-21-2010, 07:46 PM   #5
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I can sympathize. Knives still make me a bit nervous, too. Ever since I mistook my pinky finger for a piece of potato. Oops, I'm not being helpful, am I? My pinky is fine, and I swear I am not a Japanese Yakuza, a fugitive refugee lurking the anonymous bowels of the DC Forums. That probably wasn't helpful, either. Welcome, mudtimud!

I'll probably be blasted for bad advice, but here goes: knife handling technique is for the professionals, who would face immediate unemployment without the skills. Home cooks should not force themselves to adopt the techniques espoused on the Food Network shows. It's more important to feel that you have total control. Cut slowly and methodically. Take extra caution with unstable round foods, and foods that require more force to cut - like butternut squash.

A good way to get over the nervousness is to transform it to respectfulness. A ritual will do the trick - a deep breath, a reverent bow over your knife and cutting board, a verse of hail mary. Happy cooking!
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Old 08-21-2010, 07:52 PM   #6
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Go slow. Take your time. Make deliberate movements. You see chefs on TV slice and dice at very fast speeds. You do not need to try to replicate that. I move quite slowly with my knives usually. This is to ensure I am being as careful as I can be.
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Old 08-21-2010, 08:56 PM   #7
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I'm not usually afraid of much, including knives. As you work with and sharpen your knives, you will learn more and more about how to use them properly. I agree with the advise of learning to use them properly. There is a reason that professionals use a pinch grip on a chef's knife for instance. It provides great vertical and lateral control. That translates into higher production speed and safer use. I agree that a larger knife is easier to control, that is if the food you are working with requires a larger knife. I use my 10 inch chef's knife for the greater part of my knife work. However, if I'm removing the hulls from strawberries, or slicing black olives, a paring knife is the go to tool. as it allows me greater fine control (use fingers to manipulate the blade rather than my hand and arm). Think of it like this; an axe is used to fell a tree. It has the weight and strength required for that job. But it is a heavy and cumbersome tool to use when trying to split boards unto kindling. The smaller hatchet is much more adept at that job.

Yes, I can hull strawberries and slice olives with the chef's knife, and have done so many times. But a light, sharp paring knife gets the job done faster, and with prettier results.

Purchase for yourself a good quality chef's knife in the 8 to 10 inch range, a boning knife (or good utility knife), and a paring knife. As you use these tools, take care of them. Clean them after each use, hone every time you use them, and sharpen when required. you will become comfortable with them.

Caution: When people get comfortable with things, they sometimes become careless, and fail to respect the tool. This is when accidents occur. I cut myself with my chef's knife when I first got comfortable using it to quickly slice and chop things. But I forgot to tuck in the thumb that was holding the food. I've never had a serious cut from a kitchen knife due to very fast reflexes, thankfully. But I've had a few close calls. But then again, I stepped off of a two story roof twice in the same day because I didn't respect the hight that I was working at. I was more concerned with what I was painting than where I was going. Some very good falling techniques learned in judo classes saved me from injury. But I learned to pay atention to where I was going after that. The same with the near misses to my thumb with a sharp knife. Pain is a very good teacher. Let's hope you don't have to learn the hard way.

Fear will get you into trouble as much as overconfidence will. Just use good tools carefully, and your anxiety will disappear as your skill increases. Just don't get too overconfident, or you might just learn the hard way that the digits of your hand cut as easily as does a stalk of celery.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 08-21-2010, 10:45 PM   #8
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...Caution: When people get comfortable with things, they sometimes become careless, and fail to respect the tool. This is when accidents occur...
Once again I agree with Goodweed. I firmly believe you cut yourself when you get careless. I don't think it has anything to do with whether the knife is sharp or dull. I've cut myself with both sharp and dull knives and the difference is that the cut with the dull knife hurt more and the cut with the sharp knife was deeper.
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:06 AM   #9
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Once again I agree with Goodweed. I firmly believe you cut yourself when you get careless. I don't think it has anything to do with whether the knife is sharp or dull. I've cut myself with both sharp and dull knives and the difference is that the cut with the dull knife hurt more and the cut with the sharp knife was deeper.
I was blessed with strong bones, fast reflexes, and tough thumbnails. I have built in armor. That's the only thing that's saved the end of my thumb. Now that's not to say that I don't have any scars. I've got one from a mechanical push mower, the kind that doesn't have a motor, but was human powered. I picked up the mower as a teen by the cutting reel. It spun and put a nice clean gash to the bone. Being a curious 17 year old, I opened the small gash on the back of my index finger and checked out the bone inside. Some hydrogen peroxide to clean it, Mercurochrome (sp) to sterilize it, and a bandaid to protect it and I was ready to move on with life. I was small, and took the possibility of injury way too frivolously, but I was tough. Now, I'm not so tough anymore, and try to avoid injury. At 54, things don't heal quite as quickly as they did at 17. Now that's not to say that if I had the right motorcycle, I wouldn't still be pulling wheelies into the church parking lot on Sundays. Oh, wait, my wife might have something to say about that.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 08-22-2010, 02:41 AM   #10
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New to the forum but chiming in anyway.

I think good knife skills are the backbone to learning culinary arts or home cooking.The only thing you may do more of than cutting is the dishes.

I would suggest getting a culinary college textbook and study knife techniques in writing and real life scenarios.
Knowing what to do then practicing it over and over is the king. The terminology is helpful too.

"On Cooking" is a great example and will open your eyes to a lot of new things as well as classic technique.

Knowing the basic skills will allow you to develop your own skills and styles.Practice will eliminate any fear.
Speed will come with confidence.

Just my 2 cents!
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