Knife Skills: The Claw

published Feb 9, 2009
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

We briefly mentioned this technique in our round-up of knife skills lessons last week, and today we wanted to spend a little more time with it. The “claw” is all about being safe with knives and preventing any kitchen misadventures. Here’s how it’s done!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Perhaps obviously, this technique is called “the claw” for the shape your hand should be making while you do it! As in the picture above, curl all the fingers and the thumb of your non-knife hand like you’re imitating an angry bear. (Roar!)

Keep this shape and go to your cutting board. Rest the tips of your fingers on top of whatever you’re about to cut. Your fingertips should be perpendicular to the surface of the food, with your fingernails acting like a shield.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Your thumb should be perpendicular to the food as well, but on the side. The thumb also helps keep the food stable while you’re cutting. Here’s a shot of the thumb position:

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

With your fingers in this position, you run much less risk of a serious injury than if you were holding the food with the pads of your fingers. If the knife slips while you’re in this position, it will only hit against your hard fingernails. Even if it does knick the skin, the injury will be far less severe.

Depending on the size of the food is that you’re trying to cut, you can rest your wrist on the cutting board. This adds some extra stability and control.

This position can feel a little cramped and unnatural at first. Spend a few evenings actively using this technique and you’ll get the hang of it. It also helps if you happen to have a chef on hand to shout at you every time you forget, we happen to know…

(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)