No tool is more important in the kitchen than a good, sharp chef’s knife. Also known as a French knife, it's versatile enough to be used for cutting vegetables, chopping herbs, breaking down animals, and more. While a chef's knife is one of the most common kitchen gadgets, it's also one of the most dangerous -- not to sound like your mother, but one mistake and you could be on your way to the ER -- which is why proper technique is crucial when using knives!
Many people assume the proper way to hold a knife is by wrapping your hand around the handle, also known as the "tang." It’s a good guess, but it’s wrong: Holding a knife in this way gives the user less control over the blade. The best way to hold a knife is by placing your index finger and thumb on either side of the "heel" (lower end) of the knife; your middle finger should be right underneath the "bolster" (where the handle and blade meet), with your other two fingers in natural succession, gripped around the handle. By holding your knife in this way, the blade becomes an extension of your arm, and you have more control over your cuts.
(Photo: Notice how the knife hand is gripping the heel of the blade, which allows for more control.)
Your free hand is just as critical to good technique as your knife hand. When mincing and slicing vegetables, use your free hand to guide the knife and determine the size of the cut. Hide your pinky finger and thumb behind your other three fingers, and curl them so your knuckles stick out. This position will prevent you from accidentally slicing your finger off. The side of the knife should come against your knuckles (but obviously never go any further). Slide your free hand slowly down the length of the vegetable, making syncopated slices with your knife, to give your cuts a uniform, professional look.
(Photo: Your knife should always rest against your knuckles. Tuck your fingertips under to prevent yourself from cutting them!)
You know the cliche: Practice makes perfect. Well, that applies to knife technique, too. The only way to get it right is to use your knife -- a lot. Go to the grocery store and buy some vegetables -- potatoes, carrots, or onions (if your eyes are hardy enough) are good for practice -- and get to work. When you're done, you can make a delicious soup stock.
(Photo: Enough practice and you'll be slicing like a pro.)
It took me a while to nail down the proper form, and I’ve cut myself countless times along the way, but a good knife technique is very rewarding -- not only is it safe, it makes your food look sexy. Now grab your knife, a vegetable, and start practicing!
'Culinarily Curious' is TNGG Boston's column on all things food, written by Anthony Howard.
Photo by Magnifico! (top)
About Anthony -- I'm a 22-year-old Massachusetts native -- grew up in the 'burbs and now spend my young adult life in the city. I am passionate about cooking and currently assistant manage a restaurant kitchen in Kendall Square. Let's just say that when I invite friends over for dinner parties, no one ever turns me down.
The author is solely responsible for the content.