Knife Skills 101
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.
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.