You might own a chef’s knife but do you really know how to use it? If the answer is no; keep on reading because this one’s for you. Honing your knife skills is best no matter if you’re a professional or not. It always feels good to handle a chef’s knife as a real chef would. But before we get into it, we ought to tell you what a chef’s knife is.
The chef's knife was originally designed primarily to slice and disjoint large cuts of beef. But now, it’s considered the most versatile knife in the kitchen. It’s designed to perform a variety of kitchen tasks, from slicing and chopping fruits and vegetables to mincing herbs to cutting through large slabs of meat and disjointing bones. It’s a multipurpose knife that looks different in certain parts of the world. Below, you can see a traditional Chinese style chef’s knife:
We’ve seen one, now, let’s learn how to properly use one.
Wrap your index finger fully around the blade. The index finger and thumb should be opposite each other on either side of the blade while the remaining three fingers are loosely curled around the handle.
Make sure to grip the knife mainly with the thumb and forefinger. If you find that you're tightly clutching the entire handle of the knife, just relax and loosen your hold. Grab the food with your other hand and keep the fingers curled inward. The side of the knife blade should rest against the first knuckle of the guiding hand, helping keep the blade perpendicular to the cutting board.
This grip takes practice to get right, but once you’ve learned it, it will come to you naturally.
Slicing is most commonly used with larger fruits and vegetables, like onions and tomatoes. Here’s how it goes: You put your ingredients on a cutting board, if it's round or oddly shaped, cut it in half or slice a small piece off the top or bottom so it lies flat on your cutting board.
Then place the tip of your knife against the board, ahead of your fruit or vegetable. With the knife angled down toward the point, draw it straight back toward the food until it just begins to make the slice. Then use a rocking motion to push the knife down and forward to complete the slice. The tip of the knife should not leave the board, and the whole motion is almost circular as you cut.
It might sound funny but chopping resembles slicing in reverse. Here’s how to do it with a chef’s knife. Grip the knife normally, but slide your hand closer to the heel and bolster where the thickest part of the blade offers the most chopping power. Make sure the food is stable on your cutting board, then keep the edge of the blade parallel with the board, chop downward, pushing the knife slightly forward as you do so, chopping uniformly up and down with your guiding hand in a claw.
Mincing is mainly used when cutting smaller vegetables or herbs. This cutting technique results in very small pieces. Here’s how to mince with a chef’s knife:
Gather the ingredient and anchor the tip of your knife against the board. This provides a pivot point that allows you to rock the knife down through the ingredients quickly and repeatedly. With your guiding hand open flat and positioned on the spine of the blade near or on the bolster, move the knife up and down about two to three inches up in a left-to-right fashion. As your mincing spread the ingredients on your cutting board, use the spine of the knife or a board scraper to gather them back up for a finer cut.
In conclusion: These were the main things you need to learn if you want to use a chef’s knife properly. You can also read our “How to make your kitchen knives last longer” and “How to sharpen steel knives” blogs to get more tips on knife care.