Use this Basic Knife Skills for a Home Cook guide to learn what knives you should buy, how to hold your knife, how to care for and store your knife, and how to practice basic knife cuts. This post was created by a home cook with home cooks in mind.
Knife skills are important for home cooks to
Before I jump into anything I want to remind you that I am a home cook. I am not classically or professionally trained. I am trying to teach people how to use their knives at home in a safe and efficient manner. If you want to learn classical techniques, please find a classically trained chef.
That said, using a chef’s knife properly and safely is essential to becoming comfortable in the kitchen even for a home cook. It took me a long time to be comfortable chopping, dicing, and slicing all kinds of items with my chefs knife.
Precise cutting and basic knife skills enhance your cooking abilities. When items are evenly cut they are more likely to cook evenly and the food will taste better. Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. Watch the video below, get the proper tools and PRACTICE!
What knives should I buy?
In my opinion, there are only 3 main knives you need to be a successful home cook.
- 8-10″ Chef’s Knife – I use this for practically everything in my kitchen. I got one from Global. It is 8 inches, lightweight, and easy to use.
- Pairing Knife – I use this small, sharp knife to smaller tasks like cutting cores and bad spots out of produce. I will use this to mince, slice or chop some smaller items.
- Serrated Knife – Use this to cut through items with thicker skin like a tomato. I use more of a sawing motion when I use this knife.
How do I care for my knives in my kitchen?
Never wash your knives in a dishwasher. Always wash your knives by hand and dry immediately. This will keep the blade in better condition. I also like to store my chefs knife in a drawer in a knife edge guard instead of in a wooden block.
How do I properly hold my knife?
When learning basic knife skills for a home cook you need to learn how to properly hold the knife. This is best demonstrated in the video above. When you grab the knife do not simply wrap your hand around the handle.
Instead, pinch the blade with your thumb and pointer finger and hold the handle with the rest of your fingers. This will give you more control of the blade.
Hold the item you’re cutting with your other hand. Tuck in your thumb an hold the item with the tips of your fingers curled under so that the knuckle rubs up against the blade. This will hopefully prevent you from cutting your finger tip or thumb.
Practice your knife skills with different cuts
As a home cook, the only way to improve your knife skills is to practice. I like to practice on potatoes. They are affordable and no matter how you cut them, they are delicious. Here are some basic cuts that you can use in your own kitchen.
- Slice – Cutting an item into uniform, thin pieces. I like to practice my slicing skills with avocados.
- Dice – Cutting an item into cubes of uniform sizes. You might need large potato cubes for soup and you will do a 1″ dice OR perhaps you need smaller potatoes for hashbrowns and you will make a 1/4″ dice.
- Chop – Cutting the item in uniform pieces. Those pieces might be strips, half moons, quarters, basically any shape, but try to make each piece uniform in size.
- Rough Chop – Same as above, but your pieces will be larger and you don’t have to be as careful about things being uniform in size. Items that you are going to eat raw can be roughly chopped like vegetables that you are throwing into a salad.
- Mince – Same as a chop, but your pieces will be very small and unifor,.
- Julienne or match stick – Cutting an item into a rectangle, then into slices and finally into sticks. Julienne is a very thin match stick.
- Chiffonade – This means shreds. You get shreds by rolling leaves up like a cigar and slicing through the roll. This is mostly used for herbs.
How to dice an onion
Dicing an onion properly can save you time in the kitchen. This is a simple step by step method for dicing an onion.
Grab an onion and slice off the stem end. Peel the onion and place on the cutting board cut side down. Cut the onion in half and use each half separately.
Make a horizontal cut in the onion, but do not cut all the way through. Make vertical cuts in the onion.
Finally, turn the onion sideways and cut across. Continue cutting across until you reach the end. Repeat the process with the other half of the onion.