A chef’s knife is an essential cooking tool. Chef’s knives are generally six to twelve inches long with a blade that broadens to a maximum width of about two inches towards the handle. Although they can be serrated, chef’s knives typically have smooth blades.
Every kitchen, including both domestic and commercial kitchens, should be equipped with a chef’s knife because they are extremely versatile and can be used for nearly every task in the kitchen.
Several uses for chef’s knives include slicing fruits, dicing vegetables, chopping potatoes, mincing meats, cutting cakes, and so on.
Chef’s knives can make cooking significantly easier; however, before using a chef’s knife, it is important to know how to handle it properly.
Why Does a Chef’s Knife Need to be Held Properly?
Chef’s knives serve many purposes in the kitchen and can be used for pretty much any recipe; however, they need to be sharp in order to work effectively. As a result, using chef’s knives is inherently dangerous and, if they are not held properly, can result in personal injuries or property damage.
If you handle your chef’s knife improperly while slicing a tomato, for example, the knife may slip and slice your finger instead. Additionally, if you are not holding your chef’s knife correctly, you could drop it on the floor, which may dent or scratch the floor or even injure your toes.
It is also important to handle a chef’s knife properly in order to maximize its use. For example, the proper technique to hold a chef’s knife is different when you are mincing compared to when you are slicing. Proper form will also allow you to use your chef’s knife more efficiently.
Finally, correctly handling your chef’s knife can lead to more uniform cuts and slices. This will not only result in more consistent cooking but also a more appealing presentation.
The Anatomy of a Chef’s Knife
Before purchasing a chef’s knife, it is important to become familiar with the various pieces that it is composed of. A chef’s knife is made of several different components which include the handle, the blade, the bolster, the spine, the edge, the point, and the heel.
The Handle: The handle of a chef’s knife is located behind the blade, where you grasp the knife to use it. When selecting a chef’s knife, it is crucial to choose one with a full tang or half tang handle that is sturdy, comfortable, easy to hold, and clean so it will not slip out of your hand.
Kitchen knife handles are typically made out of metal such as stainless steel or titanium, plastics or synthetic materials like carbon fiber, or natural materials including wood, leather, or bone.
The Blade: When selecting a chef’s knife, most people prioritize the blade or the part of the knife that is used for cutting. It is important for the blade of a chef’s knife to be sharp and strong. A chef knife’s blade is most commonly made of carbon steel, stainless steel, or ceramic.
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The Bolster: It is the broad piece of metal that connects the handle to the blade and blocks your fingers from slipping onto the blade.
The Spine: The spine of a chef’s knife is simply the top of the blade, while the edge of the knife is the bottom of the blade or the sharp part.
The Point: This is the forward part of the blade where the spine and the sharp edge meet. Usually, the point of a chef’s knife is used for puncturing or piercing and detailed or delicate cutting.
The Heel: Finally, the heel is the thickest part of the edge, just before the bolster. The heel is used as leverage when cutting through tough foods or any form of cutting that requires a rocking motion.
How Do You Select the Right Chef’s Knife?
The first step to properly handling a knife is to choose the best chef’s knife for you.
Chef’s knives come in a variety of styles, weights, and sizes and it is important for each cook to select a knife that is comfortable for them so they can be confident while using it.
A chef’s knife is like an extension of your arm, so it should feel sturdy and natural to use.
Although each kitchen may have a slightly different chef’s knife, once you have selected yours, the method to properly hold a chef’s knife is generally consistent.
What Are the Two Steps in Holding a Chef’s Knife?
The most important aspect of properly holding a chef’s knife is maintaining a proper grip. There are many ways to grip a chef’s knife; however, the most common grips are referred to as the “handle grip” and the “blade grip”.
While many inexperienced cooks use the handle grip, the blade grip is the most effective way to grip a chef’s knife. Detailed instructions on using the handle grip and the blade grip are outlined below.
Step- 1: The Handle Grip
The handle grip is when you grasp the chef’s knife handle with a closed fist without touching the blade.
To properly hold a chef’s knife using the handle grip, wrap your entire hand around the handle of the knife. Tuck your fingers in beneath the bolster so that your palm is facing down and your fingers are pointing up.
You should use the handle grip if you are inexperienced with knives, have small hands, or simply do not feel confident using the blade grip.
Step- 2: The Blade Grip
The blade grip is when you grasp the chef’s knife handle using your middle, ring, and pinky while pinching the blade of the knife between your thumb and index finger.
To properly hold a chef’s knife using the blade grip, wrap your palm around the handle, facing down, and tuck in your middle, ring, and pinky fingers behind the bolser.
Use your thumb and your index finger to pinch the sides of the blade in front of the bolster.
Bend your index finger back so that it is pointing in the same direction as your other fingers, with the side of your index finger pressed tightly against the blade of the chef’s knife.
Your thumb should be facing forward, extending from the handle towards the tip of the blade, pressed tightly against the knife.
The blade grip is preferable for experienced chefs because it actually increases one’s control over the knife, which can result in more precise and efficient knife skills.
Hold a Chef’s Knife Using Your Free Hand
Once you have mastered the proper grip for your chef’s knife, it is important to learn how to utilize your other hand to maximize your efficiency and safety.
While you can maintain the same grip, the position of your free hand will change depending on how you plan to use your knife.
When incorporating your other hand into cooking, it is crucial to remember to always keep your fingertips away from the edge of your chef’s knife.
The following sections describe how to use your free hand to assist with common food preparation.
Using a Chef’s Knife to Properly Slice
When you are slicing foods, ensure that they are stable against your cutting board.
When preparing round foods, such as onions or tomatoes, it is helpful to cut them in half or cut off a portion to flatten one side prior to making thin slices.
To create a flat surface, place the item on its side and secure it with your free hand, curling your fingertips away from the center where you will be cutting.
Once you have cut the food in half, or if the food is level, to begin with, place the flat side down onto the cutting board.
Form a “claw” with your free hand by spreading out your fingers and curling them in towards your palm. Press your fingertips down firmly onto the food item.
Press the tip of the blade into the cutting board and tilt the handle upwards at a 45-degree angle while maintaining a proper grip on your chef’s knife.
Begin slicing by pressing the edge of the knife straight down, perpendicular to the cutting board, while keeping the tip of the blade in contact with the cutting board. Lift the knife back up and repeat.
Continue this process until you have gotten close to your fingertips and then rotate the food 90 degrees. Repeat the process until you are finished.
Using a Chef’s Knife to Properly Slice Herbs
Slicing herbs involves a similar process to cutting or slicing larger foods. Instead of cutting them in half, roll them together to form a uniform surface that can be held securely.
While only slightly lifting the handle up from the cutting board and keeping the tip of the knife pressed down, slide the knife backward through the herbs. Repeat the process until you are finished.
Using a Chef’s Knife to Properly Mince and Chop
To mince or chop ingredients, start by slicing them following the steps outlined above.
Gather the pre-sliced pieces together and angle your chef’s knife above the ingredients.
With your free hand, press your fingertips onto the spine directly above the knife’s tip, pressing the tip down into the cutting board.
While gripping the handle, push the knife up and down, collecting the ingredients together as necessary. Repeat the process until you are satisfied.
Key Takeaways of Holding a Chef’s Knife Properly
Properly holding a chef’s knife can prevent injuries, increase efficiency, and result in more evenly cooked dishes.
It is important to maintain a safe grip while using your chef’s knife, whether you are using a handle grip or a blade grip.
Always secure your cutting board so that it does not slide while you are using your knife.
Finally, utilize your free hand for extra security and precision while you are using your chef’s knife.
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