With culinary arts gaining popularity on television and in magazines, many home cooks delve into the hobby of learning how to create restaurant-quality cuisine in their own homes. While it’s easy to obtain ingredients and acquire a high-end set of kitchen knives, learning how to slice and dice like the pros starts with learning how to properly hold a knife.
How to Hold a Kitchen Knife – The Right Way
Before getting into the different knife grips, here’s a quick overview of the different parts of a knife:
Let’s start with the blade, which has four parts: the cutting edge is, of course, the sharpened edge of the blade, which runs from the heel (the part closest to the handle) to the tip, while the spine is the thick edge of the blade opposite to the cutting edge.
The tang is the extended part of the blade that is encased within the handle. Some knives are designed with full tangs, meaning it extends the length of the handle, and some are designed with half or partial tangs, while some don’t feature tangs at all (usually lower quality knives).
The handle, of course, is where you grip the knife and can be crafted from several different materials. Rivets are the metal pins used to secure the handle to the tang and the bolster is the band that meets the blade of the knife to its handle and is designed to keep your fingers from slipping while you work. Not all knives feature rivets or bolsters.
When it comes to how to hold a knife, there are generally two different methods used in the kitchen, both of which have their advantages, but one offers a superior experience once mastered.
The Handle Grip
Many beginners learn how to hold a knife utilizing a method known as the handle grip. This technique gives the novice a comfortable hold on the knife with their fingers tucked behind the bolster and their thumb firmly placed on the blade to give the grip some stability. While this grip that offers comfort and seems to make sense to a beginner, it does have some drawbacks.
The main downfall to the handle grip is that it can hinder the precision of your cuts. Most professionals do not use the handle grip because cuts can be inconsistent, and with the bulk of the grip so far away from the end of the blade, delicate projects become difficult more difficult. In order to maintain the most control over the knife and achieve precise cuts, it’s best to practice this next technique for holding a knife.
The Blade Grip
Have you ever watched one of your favorite cooking shows and wondered how the chefs chop through ingredients with such swiftness and grace? Well not only does that come from a bit of practice, but also from how they grip the knife. The proper way to hold a knife is one of the first subjects taught in many culinary arts programs. Most instructors and professional chefs will tell you that the blade, or “pinch”, grip is the most effective way to hold a knife. This grip is achieved by “pinching” the blade between your forefinger and thumb with the rest of your fingers tucked under the handle.
With this grip comes several advantages, including more centered balance and control over the knife and less effort for different knife cuts, such as the “rock chop” method, which involves anchoring the tip of the knife (usually the chef’s knife) against the cutting board and rocking the knife up and down through ingredients. The more you practice the blade grip and become familiar with the different knife cuts, the closer you’ll get to slicing, dicing and mincing like a pro.
What the Off-Hand is Doing
Perfecting how you hold your knife isn’t the only thing you need to focus on when learning how to chop like the pros – your off-hand also plays a very important role. In order to achieve an even dice, a precise slice or perfect mince, your off-hand becomes your guide and should be in a position known as “the claw” – one of the rules of kitchen knife safety, along with using the right cutting board.
The claw is achieved by holding the ingredient being cut in place on the cutting board with the tips of your fingers angled away from the blade. You’ll know you’re doing it correctly if your second knuckle points towards the knife blade and extends past your fingertips. In this position, the knuckle serves as an easy guide for your blade, but be careful to never raise the cutting edge of the blade above the second knuckle or you may slice your finger on the way back down.
Once you’ve mastered holding your knife and keeping your off-hand in the claw position, you’ll start breezing right through meal prep like a pro. And if you get F.N. Sharp, you can continue breezing through meal prep, uninterrupted!