How to Hold a Knife the Right Way
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Learn how to hold a knife so you can get the right mince, dice, chop and chiffonade on your ingredients. This basic skill is the gateway to better cooking.
Learning how to hold a knife sets you up for success with any recipe. So before you start chopping onions, chiffonading basil or mincing garlic, learn the perfect grip. Then you can slice and dice away!
Parts of a Knife
Before we get into the how-tos of holding, it’s important to learn the different parts of a knife. This will help you understand the technique better.
- Handle: The handle is the grip that you hold while using the knife. Handles vary in material, weight and even color. This Misen knife (a favorite among our editors) comes in various hues including red, cornflower blue and slate gray.
- Butt: This is the blunt, back end of the knife.
- Tang: This is the part of the blade that extends into the handle of the knife. Some knives have a full tang which means it runs all the way to the butt of the knife. These knives are the sturdiest.
- Bolster: Where the blade meets the handle is called the bolster. It helps give the knife stability.
- Edge: The edge is the sharpened side of the knife.
- Spine: Opposite the edge is the spine. This is the long, unsharpened part of the blade.
- Tip: The pointed end of your knife is called the tip. You’ll use this part of the knife for scoring and finer cuts.
- Heel: Right before you hit the bolster is the heel of the knife. This is the thicker part of the blade and what you work with for heavier cuts and tougher ingredients.
How to Hold a Knife
The correct way to hold a knife, according to our Test Kitchen, is to grip right behind the bolster with your thumb and index finger. Wrap your remaining fingers around the handle.
According to Food Editor Rashanda Cobbins, “this allows you to have better control of the knife and it’s safer.” Deputy Culinary Editor James Schend adds that this two-finger grip at the bolster adds stability and “the blade has less opportunity to twist or turn.” So keep your hand far away from the butt of the knife. The closer to the bolster you are, the more deft your cuts will be.
When you’re ready to cut, keep in mind what sort of work you’re doing. Finer cuts should be handled by the tip of the knife; this is where the blade is thinnest. The fine point is great for scoring and chopping ingredients more finely.
Rougher cuts are best managed by the heel end of the blade. The extra stability will easily glide through denser foods like sweet potatoes and tough cuts of meat.
Once you’ve got the right grip, Rashanda recommends using a sliding motion as you cut. This gentle rocking helps preserve the sharpness of the blade. Also, be sure to keep your fingers out of the way! Make a claw-like shape with your other hand and tuck the fingertips in. This will allow you to grip your ingredients while also keeping your fingers safe.
And don’t forget a good cutting board! According to Rashanda, “a great cutting board is a knife’s best friend and also helps protect the knife’s surfaces and longevity.”
Knife Safety Tips
Learning the right way to hold a knife is key for kitchen safety, but there are a few other precautions to take as you use your favorite knife in the kitchen (these are our Test Kitchen’s best chef’s knife picks).
- Don’t put your fingers on the spine: We know it’s so tempting to let your index finger slide right on top of the spine, but don’t do it! Rashanda says all this does is creates muscle strain in your hand and wrist. It also can cause the knife to slip.
- Keep knives sharp: Shannon Norris in the Test Kitchen explains that sharp knives are safer than dull knives. “Dull knives require you to use more force and then you’re more likely to slip.”
- Don’t reach for a falling knife: “A falling knife has no handle,” says Shannon. Trying to catch a knife mid-air is dangerous. Just let the tool fall to the ground, wash it off and get back to work.
Knife Care Tips
- Hand wash your knives: “I live by this,” says Rashanda. “The dry cycle in the dishwasher can have an effect on the blade and materials.” Hand wash and dry your knives as soon as you’re done cooking to help them last.
- Store knives properly: “Keeping knives loose in a drawer will damage the blades and is dangerous,” says Shannon. For best results store your knives in a block, in sheathes or on a magnetic knife rack.
With these tips, your knife is sure to last for many years to come. And with the right knife skills, you’ll be making your loved ones meals they’ll never forget.