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Knife Skills by Marcus Wareing, Shaun Hill, Charlie Trotter, Lyn Hall

15 May 2008 by

Knife Skills
Marcus Wareing, Shaun Hill, Charlie Trotter, Lyn Hall
Dorling Kindersley, £12.99
ISBN 978-0-7566-3391-2

When a bunch of top chefs sit down and put their name to a book - any book - you sit up and take notice. When it's something as craft-based as a knife skills book, it's a bonus.

Good knife skills are a chef's stock in trade, one of the fundamental building blocks of the kitchen, but it's surprising how many young chefs are not trained in butchering, for example. This volume may be aimed at the keen amateur cook, but its subject is so comprehensively covered that there is a strong case for using it as a base reference book for college students and trainee chefs.

The subtitle pretty much states what the book is about - "How to carve, chop, slice and fillet" - and covers these craft skills logically and lucidly in two parts. The first part deals with the basics, the second part with their application.

Things kick off where they should, with general practical advice about cutting skills (how to stand, including where to place feet and body weight) and a run-through of the component parts of a knife - from tip, through the spine and bolster to the handle. This is followed by a summary of knife types. Both are illustrated with clear, step-by-step photographs - a feature of the whole book and a hallmark of publisher Dorling Kindersley.

There's advice about choosing knives, even a short history of knife-making in the West and Far East. And there are plenty of safety tips, covering areas such as hand grips, storage and maintenance.

Next, it's on to skills such as cutting and filleting, starting with vegetables and moving through fish and seafood, to meat, poultry, game and fruit.

In each subsection, things start with easy skills, then proceed through intermediate tasks and end up with the most tricky knife-wielding crafts. For instance, the vegetable section kicks off with cutting mirepoix, then proceeds to julienne, alliums, French fries and the like, ending up with more difficult things such as artichokes.

The fish section begins with gutting and scaling, moving on through boning, and finishing with filleting.

You get the picture. This is an excellent basic skills book which is hard to beat.

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