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A Kentucky chef helps people stay ’on the cutting edge’ for Thanksgiving

Chef Chris Weist prepares for Thanksgiving
Cheri Lawson
Chef Chris Weist prepares for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday, traditionally celebrating family, friends, food, and blessings.

According to the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans celebrate by eating turkey. Other side dishes will also be prepared as part of the Thanksgiving meal and those dishes can require a good amount of preparation.

A Kentucky chef offers tips to help keep you on the cutting edge this Thanksgiving

Wearing his white chef apron Chris Weist is chopping two large orange carrots in preparation for the Thanksgiving feast. Weist, who learned to sharpen knives as a cub scout offers a specific how-to when it comes to safe knife skills with vegetables and using a guide hand.

“You should be nice and comfortable with it and you should lead with the knuckles of your finger and not your thumb. So, the knife should rest against that, if that’s how you cut. Some people don’t even use a guide hand, but I do. And I use it always on my first finger is where I know the blade is. It keeps me directed to exactly where I know I need to put the knife,” explained Weist.

A chef for McHale’s Catering and Events in Northern Kentucky and owner of Cincy Sharp, where he sharpens knives, Weist said, cooks don’t need an entire drawer of knives to stay sharp this Thanksgiving. He recommends only four.

” I’m a utilitarian type of guy. I don’t have a huge amount of knives. You know, a chef’s knife for most of the chopping of the stuffing ingredients, and things like that, the butternut squash, a slicer for the bird, a paring knife for any handwork and then a bread knife, a serrated knife for the bread. Those are my four go-to knives there. The only other one I might slip in there is a boning knife if I’m going to do any raw poultry or anything like that,” said Weist.

Weist is an experienced chef. He said having the correct knife can make a huge difference in the overall preparation and the ease of the meal.

“Well, I think the turkey is the best example. You know, you have a nice long slicing knife that you can draw back and forth against the bird. It should be nice and thin so that it moves through it easy, thin in profile, and thin in width so that it doesn’t wedge into the meat or it doesn’t stick hard, it just slides through it easy. It’s very important that you have that kind of knife and again that’s not the kind of knife you would want to use on the butternut because it would chip or bend with that hard surface,” said Weist.

To maintain the edge of a knife, a sharpening steel is an answer. Weist moves the blade of his slicer back and forth over the long thin rod attached to a handle.

“Yeah, this is a sharpening steel. And it doesn’t sharpen the knife. It just hones the knife or straightens the edge. To sharpen the knife, you actually have to take it to a stone or something that’s harder than the knife to raise a new edge on a knife,” reported Weist.

Weist explained what kind of stone he uses to sharpen a knife.

”Sharpening stone. There’s basically two types of stones, a water stone or an oil stone. But I prefer the water stones just because they’re cleaner to use and when I’m doing a lot of knives I don’t have to wash my hands in between like I would have to with the oil stones,” explained Weist.

“ So, right here, like I said, I’m putting a new edge on the knife. I’m actually removing part of the metal, raising a burr. And it doesn’t make a lot of noise and that’s good because I use the water stones because they’re minimally invasive, they don’t take a lot of metal off, just what you need to get a new edge on them," said Weist.

Weist explained that with patience and interest, anybody can learn to sharpen a knife.

“ There’s nothing that you really need to know other than if you can create an angle on your knife and maintain that angle, you can sharpen your own knife,” said Weist.

But the question he’s asked most often is, what type of knife to buy?

“And you know, it’s a very personal thing. Everyone has a different feel for the knife, the handle, the blade size, the blade length. So, I think the best advice I can give you about trying to find the right knife for you is just try a bunch of different knives and find what you like. Find the length you like, the weight you like, the handle you like and then go from there because it’s very personal,” said Weist.

And finally, Weist said, always use a cutting board, safety first, and take your time.

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Cheri is a broadcast producer, anchor, reporter, announcer and talk show host with over 25 years of experience. For three years, she was the local host of Morning Edition on WMUB-FM at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Cheri produced and hosted local talk shows and news stories for the station for nine years. Prior to that, she produced and co-hosted a local talk show on WVXU, Cincinnati for nearly 15 years. Cheri has won numerous awards from the Public Radio News Directors Association, the Ohio and Kentucky Associated Press, and both the Cincinnati and Ohio chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists.
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