Cutting techniques for handling a kitchen knife like a chef

You have your best TB Groupe kitchen knives in hand and have carefully planned out every detail of your table setting. Your standing behind your oven, ready to prepare a meal that everyone is sure to remember! However the culinary world is filled with unexpected technical complexities: the wide range of specialized cuts for vegetables, slicing meat, cutting fish or finely chopping fresh herbs are but a few. Here are some tips and techniques for properly handling a kitchen knife that will set you on the path to cooking like a chef!

Cutting techniques for handling a kitchen knife like a chef

Learn how to handle a kitchen knife: The basic gestures

How to hold a kitchen knife in order to cook like a chef?

First things first, whether you are a beginner or seasoned cook, once you have learned how to properly handle a kitchen knife you will be able to prepare a dish more comfortably, efficiently and safely.

First you need to choose the blade that is best suited to the ingredients you will be working with.

Don’t forget that an efficient and reliable kitchen knife needs to be handled and stored with the utmost care.

The next steps are as follows:

  • Pick up the knife by the handle with your dominant hand. Keep your index finger flat and place it along the blade’s spine (flat portion opposite the cutting edge). Curl your other three fingers and thumb around the handle. Your less dominant hand will be used to guide the fruit, vegetable or cut of meat toward the blade of your knife as you cut or chop.
  • In order to avoid cutting the finger tips of your less dominant hand, curl your fingers under so that your nail is touching the foodstuff, exposing your flattened knuckle to the blade while keeping your fingertips safe. If you do not feel like you have these techniques down you may want to use a pair of cut resistant safety gloves (don’t worry you’ll get used to these cutting techniques very soon).
Tips for beginners on how to properly hold a kitchen knife: hold the knife parallel to your body. Keep the knuckles of your rolled up fingers close to the blade; the blade gliding by the flat of your finger between the two first joints. This gives you better control and precision while cutting.
  • Keep the tip or point of the blade facing down so as not to hurt yourself.
Warning: one cannot improvise when it comes to cooking like a chef. Do not hold your knife like a hammer perpendicular to your body with your four fingers wrapped around the handle and the blade sticking out of your closed fist.

Proper chopping and slicing techniques: a daily task

Chopping and slicing are the first techniques that should be mastered when learning to properly handle a kitchen knife.

There are many different slicing techniques. We advise you to start with the most accessible methods first which are explained below. Cooking like a chef is not synonymous with complexity. The more simple techniques are often the most efficient.

Get out a large and sturdy cutting board. Keep in mind that you should always keep your fingers at a safe distance from the knife blade.

Technique #1 for handling a kitchen knife: “the rolling technique”

The tip or point of the blade should never leave the cutting board. Move your knife in a smooth “rolling” or “rocking” motion starting at the tip and rolling to the heel; cutting down and through the foodstuff. In order to cut perfect slices repeat this motion, lifting the heel of the kitchen knife off of the cutting board while keeping the tip on the board.

Cutting technique #2: rolling from “heel to tip”

This technique is commonly used for cutting fruits and vegetables. The heel portion of the blade closest to the handle must stay in contact with the cutting board. Lift the tip of the knife off the board and press it down into the foodstuff.

Warning: try not to hit your knife on the cutting board while cutting. This increases your risk of getting cut and dulls the cutting edge of your blade.

How to cook like a chef? Here are a few tips that will set you on the right path!

Properly handle a kitchen knife and guide your foodstuffs

Practice makes perfect and once you’ve gotten this cutting technique down you’ll see that it comes in handy. In order to handle your kitchen knife properly and guide your foodstuffs proceed as follows:

  • Hold your stainless steel or ceramic knife in your dominant hand and curl the fingers of your other hand under in order to protect your fingertips.
  • Practice with a carrot or an onion, placing your curled fingers on the foodstuff you wish to slice.
  • Place the flat part of the blade against your knuckles being sure not to leave your fingers under the blade!
  • Guide the foodstuff under the blade, rolling the knife down in a smooth motion at regular intervals. Depending on your level of experience you can cut as slowly or as quickly as you want.

Once you have mastered this technique you can say that you cook like a chef. Many professionals enjoy showing off this technique as they can perform it at top speeds. This technique calls for a bit of dexterity but it is not very dangerous. However you will need a little practice!

Cutting round foodstuffs

It is useful to prepare potatoes, tomatoes, apples, onions and other round foodstuffs before starting to work with them. This will prevent the food from rolling.

Learning how to properly handle a kitchen knife and cut round foodstuffs can be incredibly useful in the kitchen. The trick is to create a flat surface on your foodstuff in order to continue cutting using the technique your recipe calls for: chop, dice, etc.

Hold the fruit or vegetable firmly on its side and cut off the ends (that are often too thin or dry) that you will not use in your recipe. Cut the vegetable in half before continuing to slice it, starting from the cut you just made.

For those of you that speak French and would like further training: since we know that cooking quickly becomes a passion once you’ve gotten your feet wet, we suggest that you look into taking the MOOC cooking classes that are organized by AFPA (Association providing professional training for adults) online. We spoke about these classes recently on our online boutique. The classes are free and a great way to learn more about how to cook like a chef!

Cutting techniques for vegetables

Dicing uniform cubes

When a recipe calls for a sliced vegetable this often means that it should be cut into sticks. A diced vegetable should be cut into small cubes that have equal sized faces.

In order to obtain this cubic form cut the fruit or vegetable in fourths by cutting it in half and then cut each half in half.

Make small vertical and horizontal marks at regular intervals that will serve as a guide. Then cut the cubes by following the marks that you have just made.

Mincing before sautéing

Mincing vegetables allows you to cut small pieces that will easily sauté when heated in a pan.

Onions and garlic are often minced. Using the proper knife handling techniques mincing is simple.

Dice your foodstuff into cubes and continue cutting the cubes until they are as thin as you can make them. The result should be thicker than a strand of pasta but smaller than the cubes you started with.

Thinly slice herbs and vegetable like a real chef!

Spinach and basil are foodstuffs that are often sliced thinly. This technique calls for cutting them in long strips that are to be used as a garnish for salads, soups, roasted meats, pasta, etc. Chefs often use this technique in their kitchens.

To cut thin slices proceed as follows: stack the leaves into a pile then roll the leaves into a tight tube. Cut the tube at regular intervals in order to create beautiful and uniform strips that you can sprinkle onto your preparation.

Voilà. Now you know how to handle your different kitchen knives like a pro. You are ready to mince onions, cut a carrot or slice a cut of meat! You’ve learned the basics and if you put in a little practice you’ll see that you’ll catch on quickly. Soon you will be cooking like a real chef! Bravo and bon appétit! Feel free to leave a comment or tips about this article on our Facebook page. Thank you!