Knife Skills 101
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission.
How to use knives like a chef: Today’s Knife Skills 101 “How To” will have you chopping like a pro in no time!
I’ve been so busy sharing kitchen remodel posts and spring giveaways, that I haven’t had time for many “How To” posts in the last month.
So let’s get back on the bandwagon with Knife Skills.
Learning how to use knives properly, plays a huge roll in your overall cooking enjoyment.
Because if you know how to handle your knives, you can chop faster with less risk of hurting yourself. This means recipe prep will take much less time.
Also, once you learn how to chop properly, your ingredients will be uniform, therefore cooking much more evenly. This improves the quality and visual appeal of your dishes.
So today I’d like to share the basics of kitchen knife skills with you.
As with anything worth doing in life, this will take a little practice. But I promise you, changing your knife grip and method of chopping will enhance your kitchen experience in the long run.
Let’s start with types of knives.
There are many types of kitchen knives, created to serve specific purposes. Every knife company makes each variety of knife a little different, so it’s important to understand the basic shape and purpose, but don’t worry about the subtle differences.
The four knives I use most frequently are
Chef’s Knife: Your all-purpose kitchen knife used for chopping and slicing.
My “chef’s knife” of choice is a Santoku. I know, I know, it’s not a classic chef’s knife, but I prefer the feel and curve of it. A Santoku is a Japanese style chef’s knife. The biggest difference in a French Chef’s Knife and a Santoku is the edge. A French Chef’s Knife has a rounded edge great for rocking the knife back and forth, while a Santoku tends to have a flatter edge. As you can see, my Santoku is sort of a hybrid.
Bread Knife: A long knife with a serrated edge, good for slicing soft foods like tomatoes and strawberries
Carving Knife: A long narrow knife used for chopping smaller items and making precision cuts.
Paring Knife: A very small utility knife, great for coring, peeling and intricate cuts.
When buying knives, I suggest not buying an entire block, but spending your money on fewer superior-quality knives that meet your needs in the kitchen. For instance, I never use a boning knife. So I’d rather use that money to invest in a better carving and paring knife.
It’s also very important to try out the knives you’re interested in purchasing. That way, you get a sense of the grip, weight, and feel of the knife. If you want to order knives online, make sure to try out similar styles of knives so you know what you’re getting into.
How to hold your knives
There are two main grip methods that allow you to cut with precision and keep your fingers safe.
A Chef’s Hold is the standard grip for slicing and chopping. Place your thumb and index finger over the bolster, pinching the top of the blade and wrap your remaining 3 fingers around the handle.
A Butcher’s Hold is another suitable grip, best known for dealing with meat, but great for general chopping as well. Place your thumb on top of the bolster, and wrap your remaining 4 fingers around the handle.
These grips insure your fingers won’t slip beneath the edge of the knife, and that you have a strong hold for applying pressure.
Try both grips and use the one that feels best to you.
Now let’s chop!
Using a Chef’s Hold or Butcher’s Hold, place the tip of the knife down toward the cutting board and slice through the food with a down and forward motion. Lift and Repeat.
In order to keep the food from rolling away, place the flat side down.
Pay attention to your other hand. When holding the food, curl your fingers back like a bear claw, so that the flat edge of the knife slides down your fingers and away from the tips.
Always keep your fingers curled back. ALWAYS.
When mincing and rough chopping, I like to place the heel of my hand on top of the blade and rock the knife back and forth over the food.
Make sure to keep your fingers UP!
Conquer basic cuts
There are many french cuts used in classic cooking. The following cuts are what I see most often in recipes; I’d focus on perfecting these and not worry about the others. You can always look them up if you need to…
Dice: Uniform cubes ranging from a large dice (3/4 inch) to a small dice (1/4 inch). For a true dice, trim round food so that all sides are flat before dicing to create real uniformity.
If a recipe doesn’t specify large, medium or small, always use a small 1/4 inch dice, as it is considered standard.
Chop and Rough Chop: An imperfect home-style chop varying in size from 1 inch to 1/4 inch. Make sure the pieces are close to the same size for even cooking. Think bite-size.
Brunoise: Tiny uniform cubes that measure 1/8 inch on all sides. Use brunoise in recipes that read “finely diced” or “finely chopped”.
Mince: Tiny irregular pieces, that measure 1/16 inch or smaller. A mince is often smashed against the cutting board and then finely chopped.
Julienne: Thin uniform stick-shaped pieces, approximately 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 1-2 inches. Most commonly seen in salads and stir frys.
Chiffonade: A fine cut where herbs have been rolled tightly then sliced thinly into ribbons. Most often used as a garnish.
Learning how to use a knives properly takes focused practice, but is certainly worth your time. Having good knife skills makes dinnertime a joy instead of a headache.
New West Knifeworks (the gorgeous American-made knives you see in the post) has a great contest going On Their Facebook Page.
Make sure to Enter to Win your very own New West Knives!
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post… I just really like my knives.
Great tips, I love to cook and what you share very useful for me . Now , I can feel more confident when cooking for my family , that’s a great thing. Thanks for your sharing !
Pingback: Scrooged | DAVINMADE
I’ve been trying to practice the chef’s grip lately. I’m not finding it easy however gradually it’s getting a little better. Funny how a simple habit like how you hold a knife is so hard to change
Usually I do not discover post on blogs, but I want to say that this write-up extremely forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, quite good article.
Those are some sweet knives. The 4 that I probably use the most are chef’s, boning (I do a lot of meat work), long blade carving, and bread knife.
This is so helpful and well done! Thank you for sharing the detailed info and tips.
What a great post Sommer! Fantastic tips and tutorial and love your knife skills!
Such a great, helpful post! I’m amazed at how many people out there have bad knife skills. I’ll be sure to point them all here!
Sommer, I love this! I always tell people I have the worst knife skills ever because I really do. Pinning this for sure!
Great how-to Sommer – I love my Santoku knife!
I love my knives too, they get a good workout everyday.
Oh wow, this is such a helpful tutorial :) well done!
Such a great post Sommer! I love that serrated knife!
Those knives are beautiful! I have Henckels and love them. Thanks for the tutorial. :) I’ll have to go practice the correct techniques now! ;)
Thank you for the fabulous knife skills tutorial, Sommer!
This is for sure the best explained knife 101 I have ever come across. Thanks for putting this together Sommer. I wish our teacher would have taught us the way you did it now… ;)
Great post, Sommer…I need to send this to my mom!
Awesome post! And your disclaimer is too cute. I really like my knives too :)
This post is fantastic, Sommer! You are a master with the knife!
Great post Sommer lovin’ your knife skills!
Such a great tutorial, my knife skills could definitely use some help!
This is fantastic! So many useful tips and ideas for getting the perfect cut. Love this!
What a useful post! I’ll be showing this to my students!
This is awesome! People need to know the correct way to cut and chop (almost wrote “shop”!).
Extremely helpful! Just learned knife skills this week in culinary school. This was a great review for me.
This is fabulous and I do love the New West Knives (from Wyoming!).
brings me back to my good ‘ol culinary school days!! love it :) thanks for the refresher!
Great post! I found it very helpful.
What a great tutorial!
Great post Sommer, I love these tips.
Fantastic post Sommer! I love using my knives. I think it makes cooking so much more enjoyable when you are comfortable with a good sharp knife!
Fabulous tutorial and tips, Sommer! Thanks for sharing!
Sommer, this is such an informative and amazing post! I once sold knives for a living (had to pay for that whole college tuition somehow, right?) so I have a set of beautiful, beautiful knives but have never learned how to properly use them. I’ll be practicing some of these tips now. Thanks for sharing!
I love these tips, Sommer! Having the right techniques can make all the difference!
Great tips! All this time I’ve just been “wingin it” in the kitchen! :) Good to have some expert advice! Thank you for sharing!
This is such a helpful post Sommer and one I can certainly use!
Nice knife tutorial!
What a great post! I need new knives now. ;)
I’ve owned these knives for a few years now and don’t use anything else. Absolutely love them (I’ve even been known to take them on trips that’s how much I hate to be without them when I cook ; )
Love my New West Santoku too. =) Great tutorial, Sommer!
WOW – such a great tutorial! Love all of the helpful images. And I love my knife from New West Knifeworks too!!!
This is fabulous, Sommer!
Such a great post and OMG those knifes are beautiful! WOW!