One of the most Important things to know when starting to cook is how to hold a chef knife - The first thing most people do when going into the kitchen to prepare a meal is pick up a chef’s knife. Being thoughtful with how you approach a knife, being careful with the blade and conscientious with your movements will go a long way to improving your experience.
Benefits of holding a chef knife correctly - Holding a knife correctly will result in better cutting and lessen the chance of injuring yourself. Read on for tips on the proper way to hold a knife as well as common mistakes to avoid.
Practicing With a Knife
- How to grip the knife - Many beginners wonder, what is the correct way to hold a chef knife? Choose from two main grips for holding a chef’s knife. The pinch grip, where you use your thumb and index finger to hold on to either side of blade, just in front of the bolster. The other option for knife grip is the hammer grip. Some people find they have better control of the knife using the pinch grip, but it’s really a matter of personal preference.
- How to hold the food item - when possible and especially with round food items, slice off a round edge to create a flat surface so the food you are cutting stays stable on the surface of the cutting board. Make a claw grip by folding the fingers of the guide hand (used to hold the food) inward and away from the blade. Use this hand to guide the food towards the blade.
- How to position your fingers and wrist - keep your fingers and wrist relaxed and calmly slide into the ingredient in deliberate strokes.
Tips for Better Control and Precision
Maintaining a steady pace - don’t rush, take your time making careful deliberate cuts with the knife blade. Be mindful of the cutting edge and pay attention to your knife cuts. Whether a beginner or a professional chef,
Maintaining the correct angle - using the correct angle will minimize unnecessary movement. There is some variance in angle depending on what type of knife is used. Naturally a square knife like a cleaver will approach the ingredient differently than a small paring knife, but overall be mindful of the knife handle and tip of the knife.
Maintaining a sharp blade - keeping your edges sharp with a sharpening stone is essential for proper maintenance of your knife set. Avoid honing, as it will only realign the edge, not restore it to top condition. Learn more about sharpening on our blog.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Gripping too tightly - Stay relaxed, when you grip the knife handle too tightly, you will have less control of the knife and get fatigued more quickly.
Using the Wrong Hand - Do what feels natural to you and be sure you are using a knife that is suitable for your dominant hand. For example, 50/50 blades are suitable for everyone, but if the blade angle is 70/30 or 90/10 or more, be sure you are using a knife made for right handed or left handed use.
Holding the Knife too Far Back - Sometimes users have a fear of the blade and want to keep their hands as far away from the blade as possible. This grip doesn’t allow for solid control and even basic knife skills are hard to execute when your hand is too far back.
Using a Dull Blade - dull blades are best avoided for many reasons. A dull knife creates cell damage to ingredients leaving you with less than optimal results. Plus a dull knife requires more force which can result in slipping and other accidents. Use a sharp knife all the time, but especially when doing small cuts like mincing, julienne and dicing.
What not to use a Japanese knife for? Although Japanese knives often are made for a specific purpose like boning, slicing sashimi, or other precise cuts, there are also all purpose santoku knives and gyutos. The best knife at any moment will depend on the task. The best advice is to avoid using super thin precision blades for hard, dense and difficult to cut ingredients like pumpkins and hard cheeses. Choose thicker sturdier knives for those types of tasks.