Hey! Laurie March here. For more than a decade I’ve been making over people’s homes as a designer and project manager trying to help their lives function better within their walls. And do you know the space I get called on to fix the most? The kitchen! So, I’ve teamed up with Hormel Foods to tackle some of the kitchen’s most pressing issues, one task at a time – so that you too can maximize the potential of YOUR kitchen! You’ll also see some tips and tricks from our “Heart to Table” podcast guests – experts, chefs and foodies – that will give you a front-row seat to how they solve problems in the busiest room of the house.
If you’re making food at home, chances are you might be chopping something on a cutting board. The key to making any meal go smoothly is preparation, and the key to prep is often having the proper chopping setup. Here are some tips and tools you can use to create a functional cutting-board station that will make meal prep a breeze.
First, take inventory of your knives and cutting boards. In my kitchen, I like to have three cutting boards in rotation. A wide oversized (18”-24”) wood cutting board is a brilliant starting point. This can be your go-to for all nonmeat chopping. It’s durable, yields to the sharp edges of your knives and allows plenty of room to chop and organize your ingredients. Wood is porous, so make sure to clean and condition/oil your cutting board often to ensure its longevity. A natural way to clean your cutting board is to cut a lemon in half and use it to scrub some coarse salt into the surface. Then rinse the board with cold water, and set it in the sun to dry!
Did you know that a marble or stone cutting surface can ruin every knife you own? If you have one, keep that stone on hand for rolling pastry dough and looking fancy on your counter as a hot pad or a spot to organize some charcuterie snacks.
You should also have a second, dishwasher-safe plastic cutting board on hand solely designated for cutting raw meats/proteins to avoid cross-contamination. Having multiple color-coded ones for fish, poultry and meat is handy. Plastic and glass cutting boards are useful for this because you can throw them right in the dishwasher and sanitize them every time. Glass can dull your knife blades, though, but I find it is a good alternative for those trying to bring a little less plastic into their homes. Finally, keep a third board on hand for smaller jobs and single-ingredient chopping.
A few more necessities I keep on hand: a nonslip mat or dish towel to put underneath keeps the cutting board in place – and I feel like it automatically makes me a better chopper. I always have a trash bowl or bin set next to my cutting board area to easily discard remnants. It keeps your board tidy during meal prep and makes composting simple. And I am a fan of having a wet towel close by to wipe the board between ingredients.
On the subject of knives, you only need to own three – really, only three! A chef’s knife is hands down the most important knife to have in your drawer. It’s your slicing, dicing, cut-through-everything knife. The next must-have is a paring knife. I love my paring knife because it’s smaller and great for fine dicing and peeling. Finally, a serrated knife – because really, you can’t cut bread or tomatoes without one. If you own those three, you can prepare anything and everything. And the rule to buying the right knife? See how it feels in your hand.
On the subject of knives, you only need to own three – really, only three!Laurie March
While you’re at it, consider ditching your knife block – it forces you to have more knives than you need, and it actually dulls your knives every time you slide them in and out. And, have you ever cleaned the slots in your knife block? I didn’t think so. Guess what’s in there? Deep, dark crevices of dirt and bacteria. If you love your knife block and are determined to keep it, make sure your knives are clean and dry before going in, and turn them upside down to protect the blade. And clean out those grooves on a regular basis.
A great way to store your knives if you have the wall for it is a magnetic strip that attaches to your backsplash. Professional chefs swear by it. They come in various lengths and immediately free up space on your counter. If you’re not a fan of having your knives visible, in-drawer knife storage, like a knife insert, works well too. If you only have a few, try storing them in individual knife covers, tucked into a drawer. Make sure your knives are always sharpened, and you’ll be set up for chopping success.
I’ll be back next month with more tips and tricks to solve another kitchen dilemma!
Until next time,