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Be Careful With Kitchen Knives

Every year, about thousands of people end up in emergency rooms with injuries they receive by using kitchen knives. But with a few cutting-edge tips, you can avoid the biggest danger of kitchen work. Here's how:

Halve it

When chopping or dicing curved foods, such as eggplant or zucchini, start by cutting the object in half, to create a flat, stable end. Place the flat surface against the cutting board and go to work.

Hold it

Chefs learn a special holding technique that protects their fingertips. To use this technique, bend your fingers under and press against the food with the tips of your fingers. Let your knuckles guide the knife.

Use a sharp knife

A dull blade is actually more dangerous to use than one that is sharp. Here's why: A dull blade requires more pressure to cut, increasing the chance that the knife will slip with great force behind it. A sharp knife "bites" the surface more readily. 

Use the right cutting surface

Cutting on a metal stovetop, on a plate, or on a tile or Formica counter dulls your blades. It's best to use a plastic or wood cutting board.

Flip a pepper

To safely cut a bell pepper, cut it in half first, and then slice or chop it with the meaty side up. This decreases the problem of cutting through its waxy skin.

Palm that bagel

It's easy to cut yourself when halving a bagel — if you try to hold the bagel in your hand. Here's the trick: Place the bagel flat on a cutting board, put your palm on top to steady it, then slice parallel to the cutting board. Cut about halfway through the bagel. Finish either by rotating the bagel with the knife in place, or stand the bagel on end and "saw" through to the end.

How to choose the proper blade

Knives are tools, and it's best to use the right one for the job. A good knife will have a carbon or carbon and stainless steel blade that runs all the way through the knife handle. It should feel balanced and comfortable in your hand. Here's a look at the cutlery of a well-stocked kitchen:

  • Chef's knife. With its 8- to 12-inch blade, this knife is good for slicing tomatoes and dicing carrots. It's also adept at cutting roasts and other large, thick meats. 

  • Paring knife. With a thin, sharp, 3- to 4-inch blade, this knife is small enough for peeling apples, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables.

  • Serrated knife. Perfect for cutting crusty bread, or anything with a hard exterior and soft interior. But don't use it to cut meat. Its saw-toothed edge will shred the flesh.

  • Boning knife. With an extremely sharp and very thin blade that ends almost in a point, this knife is good for delicate cutting jobs, like boning chicken and filleting flounder.

  • Utility knife. Similar to a chef's knife, but about half the size, this knife can handle almost all but the most delicate jobs. Keep it handy for when your other knives are unavailable.