How to Hold a Knife Like a Chef and Prep Meals Like a Pro
Have you ever found yourself binging cooking shows, watching in amazement as those chefs quickly slice and dice through ingredients, while thinking to yourself, “How the – insert your favorite curse word here – do they do it? Do you need to be some kind of kitchen knife ninja or practice some form of ingredient chopping wizardry?
While that does sound super cool, you don’t need to be a ninja or a wizard to chop through ingredients like a pro – you just need to learn and practice those knife skills, starting with how to get a grip on your knife.
How to Hold a Kitchen Knife – The Right Way
Before we get into some F.N. Sharp tips for holding a knife like a pro, how about some Anatomy 101? The anatomy of a kitchen knife, that is.
Let’s start with the blade, which consists of five 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 thicker edge of the blade opposite to the cutting edge.
The flat of the blade is, as the term suggests, the flat part of the blade on either side. Each part of the blade can also be used in different ways, especially when it comes to using a western-style chef’s knife. Check out our guide on how to use a chef’s knife for a full rundown on its many uses in the kitchen, including using the different parts of the blade.
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The handle is where you grip the knife, which includes four parts: the tang is an 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, while others are designed with half or partial tangs. Then there are those that don’t include a tang at all, which usually indicates poor quality.
The rivets are the metal pins used to secure the handle to the tang, while the bolster is the part that meets the blade to its handle. This is designed to keep your fingers from slipping while you work; however, not all knives feature bolsters or rivets.
The butt of a knife, also known as the pommel, is located at the very end of the handle and is usually made of metal. While some cooks may use the butt for tenderizing meat, it’s much safer and better for your knife to use the tools that are intended for that purpose.
When it comes to holding a knife, there are generally two different methods used in the kitchen. Both options have their advantages, but one offers superior performance once mastered.
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The Handle Grip
Many beginners learn how to hold a knife using a method known simply as the “handle grip”. This option gives beginners who feel a little intimidated by the blade a more comfortable hold on the knife by keeping their fingers wrapped around the handle and tucked behind the bolster. While you can get the job done using this grip, the chances of breezing through ingredients like a professional chef are zero to none.
The main downfall of the handle grip is it can hinder the precision of your cuts as it gives you less control over the blade. Most professionals avoid using the handle grip because their knife cuts can not only become inconsistent, but can also take much longer than needed.
In order to maintain the most control over your knife and achieve the precise cuts performed by your favorite kitchen ninja – err chef – it’s best to practice this next technique for holding a knife.
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The Blade Grip
The blade or “pinch” grip is usually one of the first subjects taught in culinary arts programs, and most instructors and chefs will tell you this is the most effective way to hold a knife. This grip is achieved by “pinching” the blade between your thumb and the knuckle of your forefinger, with the rest of your fingers safely tucked under the handle.
With the pinch grip comes several advantages, including more centered balance and control over the knife and less effort with different knife cuts, such as the “rock chop” method. This involves anchoring the tip of the knife (usually the chef’s knife) against a 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.
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.
The Claw Grip
If reading the words “the claw” has you picturing Jim Carrey in either the opening or ending scenes of the '90s movie “Liar Liar”, then you’re not only awesome, but also not too far off. In this case, though, you won’t be chasing anyone around the house (unless you really want to, just be sure to put down your knife first).
One of the most important rules of kitchen knife safety, the claw grip refers to what your off-hand should be doing while your knife-hand is doing its thing. Not only does this technique keep your ingredient in place and your fingers safe, it also serves as a guide for your blade so you can achieve a precise slice, an even dice or perfect mince.
The claw grip involves keeping your fingertips curled away from the blade while holding your ingredient in place. You’ll know you’re doing it correctly if the flat of the blade meets the flat part of your curled fingers between the first and second knuckles. Then, you’ll simply slide the blade against that flat part between your knuckles as you slice, dice and mince away.
Don’t be shy in giving your blade a little pinch while practicing your Jim Carrey impression – once you’ve mastered using the pinch grip and keeping your off-hand in the claw position, you’ll start breezing right through meal prep like you’re the next MasterChef contestant!
13 Recipes for Practicing Your Knife Skills
If you need some recipe ideas for practicing your knife skills, then check out these F.N. Sharp Recipes!
Chopped Steakhouse Salad With Tarragon Vinaigrette
Practice your knife skills and become a culinary artist with this steakhouse chopped salad recipe! You’ll be chopping up all kinds of veggies, from butter and romaine lettuce to baby spinach, radicchio, cauliflower, red onions and cherry tomatoes! Then, you’ll top it all off with some crumbled gorgonzola cheese, chopped bacon, homemade croutons and tarragon vinaigrette dressing.
Splendiferous Veggie Soup
With the colder months start rolling around, soup is always at the top of mind for keeping warm on chilly nights – not to mention, it's also great for getting all of the vitamins and nutrients needed to battle the dreaded cold and flu season. This veggie soup recipe is packed full of potatoes, carrots, onions and cabbage, which makes it perfect for practicing those knife skills!
Mahi Fish Tacos with Mango Poblano Salsa
Forget waiting for Taco Tuesday – this fish taco recipe is worth celebrating any day of the week! The fish is battered and breaded with coconut flour and sweetened corn flakes for a gluten-free treat, while the salsa is made with chopped mango and finely diced onion, garlic and poblano pepper for a sweet and spicy kick! Taco ‘about a great way to practice those knife skills!
Chicken Tortilla Soup
This Mexican classic is so good, they made a movie about it! Well, kinda. While the 2001 film is more about creating a recipe for happiness, the recipe itself also became super popular. With this recipe, we added rotisserie chicken for some added protein – and with all of the veggie cutting involved – it’s another great recipe for practicing those knife skills!
Caramelized Onion Dip
There’s no crying in cooking! Well, unless you’re cutting up an onion, and this recipe calls for slicing up three white onions, plus their little cousin known as the shallot. There’s really no reason to cry, though – there are plenty of tips for cutting onions without crying. So go ahead and practice your onion-cutting skills (without crying) and dip into this layered caramelized onion dip recipe!
Paleo Chicken Sauce Tomat
If you’re craving some Italian fare but not all of the extra calories that come along with pasta, then look no further than this deliciously healthy paleo chicken recipe with homemade sauce tomat! You’ll be doing a whole lot of slicing and dicing for this one – from chopping onions, artichokes, roasted red peppers and some fresh herbs, to finely dicing garlic, carrots and celery.
Sweet & Savory Roasted Sweet Potato Bowl
Slice up some apples and dice up some potatoes for this sweet and savory roasted sweet potato bowl! While it may seem like a simple recipe, it’s packed with a ton of flavor! We’re talking apples tossed in butter and warming spices, sweet potato candied with maple syrup and a touch of chili powder, kale with a splash of apple cider vinegar and a well-seasoned batch of quinoa to round out the meal.
Double-Spiced Heirloom Tomato Salsa
Get ready to dice up some tomatoes, jalapenos and cucumbers and roast some corn spiced with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper for this double-spiced tomato salsa! This recipe is loaded with citrus flavor, along with two types of heat from both fresh jalapenos and pickled jalapeno brine, which ensures the spice is in every bite.
Instant Pot Turkey Chili Recipe
Like any chili recipe, this one calls for dicing up some red onion, green bell pepper, shallots, garlic and jalapenos, in addition to packing it chock full of flavorful spices. The only difference is it’s made with lean ground turkey and ready in less than 30 minutes, thanks to the Instant Pot! Yep, that's homemade chili in your bowl in under 30 minutes – say hello to your new favorite weeknight meal!
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
If 30 minutes is still too long to get dinner on the table, then check out this recipe for Instant Pot butter chicken! Ready in less than 15 minutes – yes, you read that right! – this classic dish is packed full of flavor with boneless chicken thighs, heavy cream, chicken broth, and some diced onion, garlic and ginger, all topped with a garnish of thinly sliced scallions and fresh cilantro or parsley!
Instant Pot Pulled Pork With Radish Jalapeno Slaw
This recipe for Instant Pot pulled pork will have you chopping all kinds of veggies for the pickled jalapeno slaw topping! And since the pork is made in the Instant Pot, you can use that frozen pork you forgot to take out of the freezer. The recipe also calls for a little bit of beer, so go ahead and sip the rest while you slice and dice some cucumber, radishes, jalapenos, and Napa cabbage.
Japanese Potato Salad
This recipe for Japanese-style potato salad will have you slicing and dicing up a storm of flavors with radishes, carrots, onions, shallots, scallions and russet potatoes. Add in the bright and creamy flavors of rice vinegar, Japanese mayo, sugar, salt and white pepper, and watch as your dinner guests’ mouths collectively water as they line up with forks in hand.
Japanese-Style Hamburger Steaks with Pickled Cabbage
Watch everyone come running to the dinner table when you serve up this recipe for Japanese-style hamburger steaks with pickled cabbage! This mouth-watering meal features savory burgers glazed with a sweet and salty sauce, then topped with a perfectly pickled cabbage slaw made with thinly sliced Napa cabbage, diced cucumber and spices.
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