Craftsy Class Review: Complete Knife Skills with Brendan McDermott

Another cooking class instead of a quilting class. Hey, a girl's gotta eat.

I've been wanting to do a knife skills class for years. I've picked up plenty from watching cooking shows, checking out YouTube videos, and iPad apps. But it seems that everyone has different techniques and often the demos were poorly done. I do decently well at slicing and dicing, but knew I could use some improvement.

When I saw that Craftsy was offering a class named Complete Knife Skills--and offering it for free, no less!--I spent only a millisecond thinking, "But I already have so many dang classes I need to get through," before I clicked the button and sent it flying into my account.

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I probably chose a somewhat awkward time to start watching it--I was waiting at my gate in the airport heading home from vacation. I likely gave a few wandering TSA agents pause. "Keep an eye on that woman--she's watching something about knives." They'd have worried even more if they'd seen the grin on my face.

Brendan McDermott, the course instructor, is an absolute hoot. He's a younger guy with tattoos up and down his arms, shaved head, and a very dry sense of humor that just never ceased to entertain me. I texted the link to my 23-year-old son and 27-year-old nephew and told them they both had to take this class--not only because actually learning how to use a knife is one of the best things a beginning cook can do, but because I thought they'd seriously dig the instructor. I confess to getting the giggles when McDermott would pepper his instruction with comments like, "Die, carrot!" and "You can even get into a good-sized watermelon without having to come at it like a Spartan warrior."

As fair warning to those who may be more sensitive to this kind of thing: Once in a great while his language can get ever-so-slightly off-color (he referred to a partially-sliced butternut squash as a "big-a** carrot" which cracked me up, and uses the "d" word once or twice), but it's infrequent and, in my opinion, pretty mild. But we all have different words that push our buttons so you'd need to make your own judgments on that.

Okay, so it was entertaining. But is it informative? Abso-positively! I learned more from this class than I have from years of cooking shows and YouTube. He's very thorough. First and foremost, he's a huge proponent of knife safety, so throughout his demonstrations he's focused on safety as well as efficiency. Although many of the knife skills demos I've seen before have said things like "This is a safer way to do this," Brendan actually explains why it's safer, what the risks are of other methods (interestingly, often other methods I've seen on the cooking shows themselves!), and has just a few guidelines that, if you keep them in mind, will help you figure out how to keep your fingers on every time even if you forget everything else he's demonstrated.

He talks about which knives are essential and what you can do without, tips about cutting boards, and always explains why certain cutting techniques are better than others. The lessons include various types of cuts, and techniques for a variety of foods. He even talks throughout about what remnants left on the cutting board when you're done with your prep work well for stocks and which don't. Each lesson also ends with a "Helpful Hint" (after the close of the lesson, so pay attention--there's more!).

I can't recommend this class highly enough. Unless you're a trained, professional chef, you'll likely learn something. And even if you're a trained, professional chef, the entertainment value is worth it. What do you have to lose? It's free!

The Basics:

  • 5 lessons total, though two of those lessons have a ton of segments so the length of each lesson (not counting the Craftsy promo lesson 1) varies from 8 to 43 minutes.
  • The first lesson is just a brief introduction to Craftsy since this is a free class--it's a promotional tool for them. If you know Craftsy, you can skip lesson 1.
  • Lesson 2 is the introduction--Brendan tells you about himself, and then goes right into choosing knives, the four basic knives you should have in your kitchen, and a few other useful tips.
  • Lesson 3 gets into specifics: how to hold the knife, a variety of cuts, each demonstrated on a particular item and tips about those items as well (what he says about onions was a highlight of the course for me!).
  • Lesson 4 goes into "short cuts" for cutting particular items that can often give people trouble or just ways to go about things more efficiently and effectively (citrus, bell peppers, jalapenos, etc.)
  • Lesson 5 is a shorter lesson on how to sharpen and hone your blade.

I really do encourage you to check it out. This is one of my fave Craftsy classes ever, and you know that's saying a lot! Again, that's Complete Knife Skills with Brendan McDermott. Two thumbs up. Two thumbs that I now feel like I run a far lower risk of slicing off at some point in my future!

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