Almost every recipe begins with the use of a knife and a cutting board. So whether you're slicing or dicing, you'll need a few basic knives and a good cutting board. The following tools are really the workhorses of the kitchen.
1. Santoku Knife
Similar to a chef's knife but with a shorter, broader, thinner blade, a santoku knife is good for chopping, dicing, and mincing. The indentations on the blade create air pockets to prevent food from sticking.
2. Chef's Knife
A multipurpose knife that is the most essential of all knives, a chef's knife is long, broad, and weighty. Best for mincing, chopping, and slicing vegetables, fruits, and herbs, this knife ranges in size from 8 to 10 inches.
3. Paring Knife
A paring knife has a short blade that is good for small jobs requiring precision, such as trimming, coring, and peeling.
4. Serrated Knife
This knife has scalloped teeth that can cut through bread and other soft foods, such as tomatoes and cake. It's also good for chocolate and nuts.
5. Kitchen Shears
High-quality stainless-steel shears are useful for tasks ranging from cutting lobster or chicken to cutting twine and parchment.
Holding a Chef's Knife
When holding a chef's knife, hold near the blade, grasping the blade between your thumb and forefinger. With the other hand, secure the food to be cut, curling your fingers under so they're safely out of the way. Begin to cut with fluid motions, moving the curled hand back with each chop to expose a portion of the food to be cut.
Always position the flat side of an ingredient on the cutting board. If the ingredient doesn't have a flat side, create one by slicing a little bit from one side. That way there is less of a risk of it slipping and you cutting yourself.
Whether you prefer wood or plastic, you should have one cutting board for raw meat and fish and another for produce. This will prevent bacteria from raw meat contaminating other foods. It's also a good idea to use a separate board for garlic and onions.
A wooden cutting board should never be put into a dishwasher or soaked in a sink, as this will cause it to warp, split, crack, and develop mold. Instead, clean it with hot water and a mild dishwashing liquid, and be sure to dry completely. Periodically, you should rub the board with coarse salt and the cut side of a lemon half to remove stains and odors. Plastic cutting boards are dishwasher-safe.
For more fantastic cooking tips, check out Martha's book, "Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons for the Home Cook," which was given to our studio audience.