Weekend Project: Practice Your Knife Skills!

Weekend Project: Practice Your Knife Skills!

Emma Christensen
Jan 30, 2009

We've often said that developing good knife skills is a matter of practice. And then practicing some more. And then again! But that doesn't mean that you have to sit down with a pile of onions to perfect your small dice. Instead, as we go about our cooking this weekend, let's all pay special attention to exactly how we're wielding our knives. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Good knife skills start with a sharp knife. You don't need a fancy one or an expensive one, just a sharp one. For simple honing, check out our tutorial on using a honing steel. If your knife still feels dull, you probably need to get it sharpened. You can do it yourself using a sharpening stone or you can take it to a knife or kitchen store to get it professionally done.

Sharpening Your Knives Yourself
Keeping Your Knife Sharp

The next step is making sure you're holding your knife correctly while you're cutting. For maximum control, you want to be gripping the handle close to where the handle meets the knife. It can feel awkward at first, but that's why we practice! Here's the full explanation:

How to Hold Your Knife

When cutting anything, use the fingers of your non-cutting hand to help stabilize what you're cutting. Curl your fingers into a claw and rest just the very tips against the food you're cutting with your wrist parallel (or resting on) the cutting board. If your knife does happen to slip, this way it will only hit against your fingernails instead of doing worse damage. And keep your thumb tucked away!

It's also important to create a stable cutting base, particularly when cutting round objects like potatoes or onions. Cut the ingredient in half, put the cut surface on the cutting board, and work one half at a time. If you can't cut the food in half because of how it's being prepared, slice off a thin layer from one side just to create an even surface.

As you're cutting, notice how you're using different parts of your knife. For most chopping, you should primarily be using the back half of the blade closest to the handle. The front part is better for fine work like trimming fat off meat or segmenting an orange.

Here are a few tutorials covering several basic knife skills:

How to Mince Garlic
How to Dice an Onion
How to Cut a Butternut Squash
How to Make Carrot Flowers
How to Trim the Fat Off of Meat

What other kinds of knife skills would you like help on?


(Image: Flickr member René Ehrhardt licensed under Creative Commons, and Emma Christensen, Nina Callaway, and Dana Velden for the Kitchn)

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