Knife Selection and Knife Safety for All Cooks

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Knife selection is key to kitchen safety and can help you enjoy cooking and prep much more! Learn which knives should be in your kitchen, and why keeping them sharp is key to happy hands.

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy avocados, but be careful not to fall victim to ‘avocado hand.’

The headline for this story actually made me giggle when I first saw it, but apparently it’s a THING, and I thought it would be a good jumping-off point for talking about knife selection and knife safety.

‘Avocado hand,’ according to Food Safety News, is the name that emergency rooms have given the severe hand injuries that result from improper cutting of avocados. It’s common enough that it got the nickname in the UK, but it’s no joke.

FSN reports that improper cutting can result in, “serious cuts because they lost control of their knives while trying to get to the good stuff between the skin and stone of the fruit.” The Times newspaper writes that “Many cases involve serious nerve and tendon injuries, requiring intricate surgery — and even then some patients never recover the full use of the hand.” Yikes!

Cooking from Scratch

Knife Safety for Everyone (for Avocados and More)

Proper cutting techniques and a selection of good quality, sharp knives are key to safety in the kitchen, for avocados and all fruits and vegetables. Good technique can help make cutting faster, add diversity to your vegetable presentation, and can make chopping truly joyful.

Related: Knife Sharpening 

The New York Times has a great visual and written guide to proper knife skills that can help even the most seasoned chef learn the basics of  chopping techniques. Whether you choose to slice, dice, cube, or julienne your veggies, doing it with proper techniques

The Kitchn explains that while a sharper knife does more work with less cuts (thus leading to fewer chances for injury because of numerical probability), I also think that a sharp knife just makes it easier to cut things, so there is less muscling through the chopping, julienning, or dicing. Sure some foods require muscle, like kabocha squash or big, woody beets, but most veggies can be cut with a minimum of effort with a proper knife.

Knife Selection for Easy Chopping

People are often surprised about my excitement around the topic of knife selection and safety, but it’s truly so important. Choosing the right knife makes cooking safer and more fun.

I’m always surprised when I visit friends’ houses and their knife selection is limited to a steak knife, which undoubtedly makes their food prep more time-consuming and less enjoyable.

knife selection

To address this, I shared a post on my Instagram about what types of knives are in my arsenal. A proper chef’s knife is really my most important tool, and if I’m traveling anywhere for more than a few weeks (and I know cooking will be happening) I always take my knife with me.

It’s long been my contention that good knives don’t have to be super expensive, but they do have to FIT you. I’m so thankful to my old housemate who gave me my chefs knife – it’s my number one tool in the kitchen. The smallest is a Wusthoff paring knife. It was a gift, and is one of the most expensive pieces of kitchen equipment I own. The others are cheap, but insanely helpful. A leftover ‘steak’ knife from my first knife set 17 years ago and a small Santoku knife from Target. I do need to add a proper serrated knife for loaves of bread and proper cuts of tomatoes.

And it turns out, this set of knives is all you need, at least according to LifeHacker. A beginner’s knife set should include at least a paring knife (for small fruits and veggies, and for coring) and a chef’s knife for larger veggies and for volume prep. They also recommend a serrated knife and a Santoku. They also suggest not buying a knife set, as these might be lower quality and might not fit you well.

Trying out knives at a fancy store (like Williams Sonoma) will help you find what type of knives feel good, and then you can find less-expensive versions at thrift stores or less-expensive stores.

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