Every beginner cook needs to learn proper knife skills.
A knife can be a cook's best friend, but it is also one of the most dangerous items in the kitchen if not handled safely.
The good news? Basic knife skills are easy to learn and can improve your cooking skills immediately. With a few techniques under your belt, you will become more confident in the kitchen and capable of producing quality dishes.
Here are eight different knife skills every beginner cook should know:
1. How to Properly Grip a Kitchen Knife
The first skill seems intuitive, but proper knife grip is the foundation of every other knife skill.
Use one hand to grip the knife and the other to support the cutting process. Your grip hand could be either your dominant or non-dominant hand, depending on which feels most comfortable to you.
Chefs tend to grip the handle at the top section closer to the blade than home cooks. They also have their bottom three fingers wrapped around the handle and their thumb/index finger on either side of the edge.
This grip maximizes stability and power when cutting, slicing, and dicing.
2. How to Sharpen a Knife Safely
A dull knife is more likely to slip off whatever you're cutting and potentially cut you instead. Therefore, it can be a good idea to sharpen your blades anytime you feel that their performance is lacking.
First, you need to test if the knife is dull. Run it along the edge of a piece of paper. If it does not cut the paper easily, it's time to hone your blade.
Electric sharpeners tend to work better than manual ones. They're also safer and more convenient, especially for beginners.
3. Cutting and Slicing
Chefs use cutting and slicing to separate whole ingredients into smaller slices that are easier to cook and eat.
With one hand gripping the knife, use your supporting hand to steady the ingredient. Place some downward pressure on the ingredient to keep it in place. Then angle your fingers away from the knife, so your knuckles are touching the blade (instead of your fingertips).
This technique is the safest way to avoid cutting yourself.
If you have a very sharp blade, you may be able to cut straight down to the cutting board. If your knife isn't as honed, a back-and-forth slicing motion works just fine.
When dicing an ingredient, such as onions or tomatoes, the idea is to cut it into tiny cubes.
Start by cutting the ingredient in half from the stem to the root. If you need to peel the ingredient, this is a good time to do it.
Then make slices in the same direction, about ¼ of an inch thick. However, this time, don't cut through the root. Stop just before you slice through it.
Then, flip the ingredient over so the flat side is on the cutting board. Make ¼ thick slices perpendicular to the ones you cut before. This method will leave you with tiny cubes ready for the next step in the cooking process.
Mincing is similar to dicing, except you end up with smaller pieces of the ingredient.
Start by cutting your ingredient in half. Then place the flat side on the cutting board and make horizontal cuts down.
Turn the ingredient 90 degrees and make perpendicular cuts down again. Repeat this process until you have tiny pieces.
Chopping is the awe-inspiring technique shown on all of the cooking shows. It involves using both hands to hold the knife and a rocking motion to create fine slices in all directions.
First, place your ingredient on the cutting board. Then hold the knife with your grip hand the usual way, but put your supporting hand on the blunt side of the blade.
Make rocking motions across the ingredient, making cuts in all different directions. This technique is not meant to be clean or even.
Chiffonading is most often used to cut leafy vegetables and larger herbs. Start by stacking your veggies together and then roll them into a tight cylindrical shape.
Use a gliding motion to make thin horizontal slices across the cylinder. Chiffonading creates little circular pieces often used in garnishes.
Julienning is often used for carrots to create long, thin pieces to spread out the flavor in a dish.
If you're using a large carrot, first cut it into smaller 2 to 2.5-inch pieces. Then slice the carrot lengthways into pieces ⅛ of an inch thick.
Then place each slice on top of each other and cut them into ⅛-inch thick pieces again.
What To Do Next?
Once you've learned these basic knife skills, you're ready to move to more advanced cooking techniques.
However, these skills are the foundation, so it's okay to take your time to master them. Cooks at every level need to learn these skills, and now you're ready to get started.