Saturday, 2 July 2011

Tricks of the Trade No. 1: In Praise of the Pastry Knife

Having entered the restaurant kitchen relatively late in life, my perspective is a little different from one who has led their whole professional and home cooking lives in tandem. Ten years as a keen (read obsessive and fairly geeky) home cook, reading, experimenting, watching TV, buying gadgets and playing around in my kitchen taught me a lot and left me well equipped (in some ways) for life in the cheffing world. It has been really interesting though, over the past couple of years to learn various tricks and tools that are well known ‘on the inside’ but a revelation to my home cooking self.

Deciding what equipment to buy in the early stages of my career was always going to be a key decision. Most chefs have big bags or boxes full of kit mostly centered around knives designed do various different jobs collected over the lifetime of their career when needed or available.
Knives are expensive.
There was never going to be any way that I could afford a full set straight away, so where to start?

There is one knife that pretty much every chef I have met owns. Pretty much no home cook I know has one. I bought one within days of starting out and have since used mine to chop stock veg, finely dice shallots, cut steaks, joint chicken, make sandwiches, carve roasts, slice tomatoes, dice pancetta, prep fish and countless other tasks.*

It is the Pastry Knife.

I have not used it to cut pastry.


It is also cheap.

It is a little unwieldy the first time you use it. They are quite large and it seems strange initially to be using a serrated blade. It is, though, as sharp as hell and the curve to the blade makes it easy to get the rocking motion required for quick, smooth chopping. Serrations mean it doesn’t slip on smooth surfaces but surprisingly cuts cleanly. When eventually it gets ground down through use and sharpening (through home use we’re probably talking decades) then it still works well as a straight edged carver and it’s only about £20 to get a replacement.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against expensive knives. In fact I would really like some expensive knives. If anyone reading this feels an urge to buy me gifts then here would be a good place to start. Actually just chuck me a few thousand pounds; I shouldn’t have too much trouble spending it.

Most people though don’t have endless bundles of cash to spend on equipment but, even if I did, then the Pastry Knife would still be in my kit box. It seems unbelievable to me that every home doesn’t own one (mine certainly does now) but for some reason it remains the preserve of the professional, little known outside the stainless steel and striplight world and was a revelation to me that I would like to share with you.

Amazon has a fewone here if I have managed to convince you.

*I have also cut myself with it a few times  ;o)

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