Must-know kitchen basics from a professional chef

I plan to give you some amazing recipes, but at the same time figure it might be best to start with the basics. By basics, I mean what tools to use, what tricks are out there, what you really need to be a good, or better, cook.

It’s always important to use the right tool for the job. So, what are you cutting on? The first discussion is going to be about cutting boards. I know, it doesn’t seem that would be a likely place to start but trust me, this is going to be just as important as what knives you use (next article).

Cutting boards come in several different materials: stone, glass, wood, and plastic.

Stone Cutting Boards

Stone cutting boards are beautiful, heavy, and expensive. I only use these for charcuterie boards or large serving platters. You can find stone boards in a variety of forms: marble, granite, and slate.

Why, you ask? Because stone boards are hard surfaces. It will take one time of chopping vegetables before you will need to sharpen your knife because the stone dulled your blade.

Sure, they’re easy to clean and sanitize, but they are hard on knife blades, requiring more frequent sharpening.

Sanitary surface, but hard on knives

Glass Cutting Boards

Glass cutting boards are much more cost-effective than stone but are also hard on your knives. They are tempered, lightweight, durable, and you can place them in dishwashers (usually).

You will still have the same issues with dull knives and the ease of cleaning and sanitizing.

Wood Cutting Boards

Wood cutting boards are made from bamboo, walnut, cherry, maple, or a combination of walnut, cherry, and maple. You have to work a bit harder at keeping them clean, but they definitely provide less wear and tear on your knives. Wooden boards are prone to knife cuts and dents but are forgiving.

Unlike marble or glass cutting boards, you cannot place wood cutting boards in the dishwasher. It should go without saying that you cannot put them in the oven to dry, either. Trust me; it’s been done, with no positive results.

The easiest way to clean the cutting board is to use soap and water. To rid the board of smells and stains, use a lemon cut in half with some kosher salt and rub it on the surface of the wood, then rinse. After washing, towel-dry the excess water and set the board standing up or on an angle to dry thoroughly.

Every once in a while, it is necessary to oil the board, so it isn’t stripped of its natural oils and prolongs its life. Make sure you use food-grade mineral oil or creams.

It’s more work, but it will save you money on knife replacement in the long run.

Plastic Cutting Boards

You can find plastic cutting boards in just about every restaurant kitchen around the world. Why? Because they are easy to use, clean, and store. All they have to do is run them through the industrial sprayer and dishwasher, where they get cleaned and sanitized in one shot.

Cutting boards made of plastic are prone to knife cuts just like wood but last quite a bit longer. They come in several different types of plastic, too. You can purchase the thin, foldable “boards,” or you can go with an inch-to-inch thick plastic. You would think that all plastic is created equal, but it isn’t. There are harder plastic boards, and there are softer plastic ones. It’s all about your preference, but I tend to lean toward the softer plastic ones.

The best part, you can rinse them off and toss them in the dishwasher and run them with the rest of your dishes.

Joe Morales prefers wood or plastic chopping boards

My Recommendation

As a professional chef, I use and recommend wooden and plastic cutting boards. I have both at home, and they get equal use...well, almost. I tend to favor the wood cutting board — just my personal preference.

I don’t ever use stone or glass (for cutting); I strictly use wood and plastic. I usually catch my husband using just the granite counter, and I always ask if he is using a cutting board. Also, don’t use your countertop as a cutting board. This is why I don’t allow him to use my good chef knives, which we’ll cover next time.

I don’t recommend using the thin folding plastic boards. While they seem convenient, over time, they warp and never lay flat. They are also flimsy and can get holes in them or stab marks. Trust me, that happens too.

You can find cutting boards in all shapes and sizes. Pick the one that fits your needs.

Professional tip: To keep your cutting board from sliding around while using it, wet some paper towels or a tea towel, wring out the excess water, place it on the counter and put your cutting board on top of it. This will keep your cutting board in place and stop the extra sliding around, which leads to injury.

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