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A Sharp Cut: Why the Right Knife and Cut Makes Your Food Tastier

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A Sharp Kitchen Knife Just Doesn’t Give a Good Cut

sharp cut


When my sous chef kids were younger a duller knife meant less chance of a finger cut. But now I keep the knives sharp and spend more time to perfect the right cut. Here is why.

Four Cool Factoids on Veggies: The Right Knife and Cut

Did you know that vegetables stay ‘alive’ after harvest? Have you ever seen a garlic sprout a green stem, a potato grow eyes, or celery make new leaves while it sits on your kitchen counter or in your refrigerator?

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This celery keeps on growing!

Vegetables are ‘alive’, in the sense that they live and breath until we eat them. Yes, veggies ‘respire‘, the cells of vegetables grow until they are cut. And when they are cut, this brings a type of stress on the plant. Cutting “wounds the cells of plants and triggers injury based responses by plant cells.” Poor veggie babes. It sounds sad to put ‘stress’ on a vegetable, but even as we chew into a raw vegetable we injure plant cells, so it is all normal in the process of consuming food.

This is cool factoid number one: vegetables are ‘alive.’

The second fun fact is that the sharpness of the blade used to cut up vegetables affects the taste. The sharper the knife, the less stress on the vegetable. A dull knife brings unwanted damage to the plant when cutting. From The World’s Healthiest Foods, “With a blunt blade, you are likely to increase the amount of electrolyte leakage from your vegetables (including leakage of potassium and calcium) and the amount of off-odors.” (Yikes-I don’t want any excess electrolyte leakage~!)

Second cool factoid: sharper knives cut the ‘alive’ vegetables cleaner, causing less stress on the vegetable.

The size of the pieces from cut up vegetables changes the final taste (chopped, minced or sliced) because of the change in surface area. The smaller the pieces of vegetables cut, the higher risk of nutrient loss, texture loss, flavor loss and discoloration, but also the higher taste intensity. The higher surface area of vegetable, (the more the inside of the vegetable is exposed) the more we taste it. As an example, a minced garlic clove has a higher surface area because more garlic is opened. Thus minced garlic will have a ‘stronger’ taste. An even stronger (sometimes overpowering) taste comes from grated garlic on a microplane. In this method, the garlic’s surface area is at its highest and the taste of garlic can even be overwhelming to the nose and mouth in its raw form, but taste delicious cooked in the right dish.

Note: As soon as vegetables are cut, they start losing nutrients. This is why cut vegetables should be eaten or used in cooking as soon as possible after cutting.

And for a good review on the difference between ceramic and steel knives, read this article.

Third cool factoid: the smaller the pieces of vegetables cut, the higher surface area and changes in taste

The last interesting fact is that cutting a vegetable with or against the grain affects its taste. Studies have shown that cutting onions along the grain (pole to pole) makes the onion taste less pungent and strong. If you need a stronger tasting onion or to make onion rings, cut it against the grain.

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This onion is cut with the grain

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Cutting pole to pole makes onion pieces less strong

Fourth Cool Factoid: cutting a vegetable with or against the grain changes its taste

Time To Follow the Recipe

A good chef who develops and writes a good recipe will indicate how the vegetables and other ingredients need to be cut. These directions are typically ‘thinly sliced, grated, minced, chopped, diced.’ Following the recipe correctly (I like to improvise so this is sometimes hard!) can be critical for some dishes, especially those recipes which call for stronger tasting ingredients, such as minced garlic.

In addition to taste, a cut influences texture, color and homogeneity. Now onto the cooking!

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These tomatoes are chopped

Cutting fruit, meat and other foods

A sharp cut is not only reserved for vegetables. Fruits, meats and other foods benefit from a different taste because of way they are cut. As examples, for the best taste and chewing ease, cooked meat needs to be cut against the grain, and fruit can taste better when it is cut cleanly.

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Cooked meat tastes best when it is cut against the grain

 

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When a food looks appetizing our eyes help us taste just how good it is! Think sharp cut, shape and color.

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A sharp knife, but what about the fork and spoon?

A sharp cut is important to taste, appearance and flavor of the dish, but the type of cutlery used for eating also affects the taste in the mouth. Taste is different whether you eat with plastic utensils, stainless steel or antique silver. Which cutlery material makes the food tastiest? Tune back in to the blog, because I am going to find out.

sharp cut

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Warmly, Mary

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5 Responses to A Sharp Cut: Why the Right Knife and Cut Makes Your Food Tastier

  1. Jason Rhodes July 9, 2017 at 13:26 #

    Hello, it is very important thing to choose quality tools when we talk about home construction. I am impressed by your blog as you provided so much information about safety tools. Also you discussed how we can care our tools and put them for long lasting by preventing with corrosion. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Eve June 16, 2017 at 01:00 #

    I’ve never seen a post explain it like this. I love how this article attempts to explain sharp knives from a completely different angle. And yes now that I think about it, everything you mentioned about taste above actually makes sense!
    Eve recently posted..What Is The Best Pocket Knife Sharpener?

    • mbrighton June 19, 2017 at 14:57 #

      Thank you Eve!

  3. Best Electric Knife June 13, 2017 at 08:39 #

    Thanks a lot for sharing such a helpful post. The best quality knife can be the best part of the kitchen environment.

  4. Cindys Recipes and Writings June 22, 2015 at 14:54 #

    So true, Mary! I cook for a living and all these points on veggie prep size and cuts are spot on. Thanks for sharing!

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