If you enjoy cooking, even just a little bit, basic knife skills are something you should take the time to learn. Not only will your food look prettier, it will save a lot of time on prep and save those fingertips from taking any nicks.
Before you attempt these techniques, make sure your knives are nice and sharp. A dull knife will only cause frustration and wounds.
First, we should learn “the claw.”
The claw is a safer way to hold the food item you are looking to cut.
- First, curl all the fingers and thumb of your non-knife hand like you are making a bear claw — hence the name.
- Your fingertips should be pointing towards the inside of your hand. In relation to the blade, your thumb and little finger should be behind the three middle fingers out of harm’s way.
- Set the knife close up against the fingers so that the blade only lightly touches the fingers when cutting, using the most protruding knuckles as a guide for cutting straight down from this point.
- Move the knife straight up and down along the fingers with the tip of the knife always staying on the cutting board. At the same time, you can move the food towards the blade using your thumb.
This can be a little scary at first but don’t tense up, stay relaxed and rock the knife back and forth slowly. Practice makes perfect. The more you use this technique, the faster and more controlled you will become.
The proper way to hold a knife.
- Place the lower three fingers of your hand around the handle, with your middle finger on the bolster.
- Clasp the blade of the knife left and right with your thumb and index finger.
- To slice any fruit or vegetable, line your knife up perpendicular to the food, cut down, creating same-sized slices.
- Same-sized slices (or medallions) cook at the same rate and they look good in salads.
Dice (medium-size cuts)
- Chop off the top of the onion and peel skin.
- With the cut end facing you, cut the onion in half down the middle.
- Now that the onion is cut in half, the onion can lay flat on the cutting board and not roll away as you dice it.
- Make several cuts lengthways from the cut end of the onion towards the uncut end, but not all the way to the end. Keep the butt end of the onion intact will make controlling the dicing much easier.
- Now cut the onion with the original cut end parallel to the knife. Keep your dices as close to the same size as possible.
Another tip: chew gum while cutting onions to avoid tearing up.
Mince (super small cuts)
- The first step with garlic cloves is to remove the skin. Place the garlic on the cutting board. Place the flat side of the knife on top of the garlic, then with a quick motion, hammer down with your other hand, smashing the garlic. This will separate the clove from the skin, making it easier to discard.
- Give the crushed garlic a rough chop.
- Now hold your knife and lay your other hand flat across the blunt side of the tip of the knife. Use a rocking motion to chop the garlic until finely minced.
Tip: Minced garlic distributes the flavor more fully in a dish.
Julienne (long, thin strips)
Example: Bell Pepper
- First cut off the top and the bottom of the pepper. Remove the guts.
- Cut the pepper into four sections from top to bottom, so that you have relatively flat pieces to work with.
- Slice the quarters into thin strips, trying to keep them uniformly size.
- The more you use this technique the thinner strips you will be able to cut.
Although it may seem counterproductive, you should take things slow the first couple times to avoid injuries. As you learn more control with the knife, your speed will increase and your prep time will shorten.