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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About How To Hold A Chef Knife

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Do you hate chopping? Chances are, your knife isn’t sharp enough and you don’t know the tips and tricks! How you hold your chef knife can be the difference between struggling with meal prep, and cutting through pieces of meat and vegetables like buttah!!

a pin with 2 pictures. One of someone chopping lettuce and one of bowls with chopped vegetables

The way you hold a knife isn’t the most exciting topic…I know. But knowing that you are holding it correctly will give you and your child the confidence to start chopping away! It will also ensure that your fingers stay safe and in tact, which is always a good thing!

What Are The Differences Between A Serrated Knife and A Straight Edge?

If you start researching different kitchen knives, you could get sucked down a rabbit hole! But when you are starting out, there are two that you can start with.

Like most people that are starting out, you may have a knife block full of knives (and filled with steak knives). It can be overwhelming to know where to start. If you pull them out, you will notice that some knives have a straight, smooth edge and others have a choppy edge, called serrated. 

Serrated knives – These are best for sawing foods. The most popular use for a serrated knife is cutting bread and flaky pie crusts. Sawing the bread allows you to cut the bread without smashing it. If you were to use a straight edge on bread, it would flatten and you would think twice before serving it at a party!

Straight Edge – These are your go-to. You can use a stright edge for any job! From chopping potatoes  and carrots to cutting frozen meats and onions. These knives need to be kept sharp to be effective. Cutting with a dull knife is beyond frustrating and will double or triple the time it takes to prep dishes. 

What Are The Parts Of The Knife?

What better way to tell you about the parts of the knife, than to show you?? Take a look at this amazing graphic below (if I do say so myself!) 

Once you know how the different parts are used, you will be on your way to knowing how to hold a chef knife. 

a picture of a knife and the different parts are labeled

Blade – The blade is the entire piece of metal. It consists of the Tip, Edge and Heel, which are all described below:

Tip – This is going to be used for delicate items or precision cutting. Chef knifes tend to be big and heavy, so if I am going to do something requiring precision and delicacy, I’m reaching for my pairing knife instead. 

When rocking the knife while mincing, the tip is also important to keeping the kinfe steady. 

Heel – The heel is used for chopping hard items like carrots and nuts. It is further back and allows you to have more control over the knife, therefore putting more pressure down on the food you are chopping. 

Edge – This is the part of the knife that you will use the most often. It can be used for chopping, dicing and mincing. It is important to keep it sharp to make chopping easier and more enjoyable! 

Where Should You Place Your Thumb When Gripping Your Knife Before Cutting? 

This is a very specific quesiton and my guess would be that you are looking for the answer because someone to you that your thumb should not wrap completely around the knife handle. 

When you first give a child a knife, their instinct is to wrap their entire hand around the handle, almost like making a fist. The problem with this is the lack of control over the knife. With less control also comes less power, both of which make it more difficult to slice through something like a carrot or piece of steak. This is dangerous for anyone, but especially for a child. 

Your thumb should be on the side of the blade to help steady the knife and give you more control. 

What Is The Safest Way To Hold A Knife? 

The safest way to hold a knife is to pinch the top of the knife with both the thumb and forefinger. The middle finger should be up against the knife handle with the rest of the fingers wrapped around the handle. 

This is the safest and easiest way to hold a knife and the way I prefer to teach the kids. Just make sure that all fingers stay wrapped around the knife handle and that they don’t get under the blade. 

If you are teaching a young child to cook, you may want to check out the Opinel kids knife. It has a safety handle for the index finger to keep it away from the blade. I like it for younger children for safetly reasons.

However, with 9+ year olds, I prefer to teach them to hold a real knife so they can start to build the muscle memory in their hands. 

What Is The Proper Way To Hold A Knife? 

There is a lot of emphasis on how to hold a knife, but it is important not to overthink it. Yes, there are techniques that will get you started and keep you safe, but for the most part, you’ve got this! 

For example, hold the knife in your dominant hand…see, I bet you are already doing that! Use your other hand to hold and guide the food while you chop.

There are also some guidelines for the hand that is holding the food. Tuck in the tips of the fingers so that the knuckles are flat and facing forward. This will provide a guide for the knife (though the knife should not touch the knuckles). It will also keep the tips of the fingers safe. 

How Do You Hold A Kitchen Knife When Walking? 

I had never thought about the answer to this question until I started working in a restaurant kitchen and it actually became an issue. Restaurant kitchens are thight and small and with sharp knives, hot pots and boiling water, everyone needs to be hyperaware of fellow chefs to make sure no one gets hurt.

That includes walking safely with a knife. A knife should be held in one hand down to the side, along the leg, with the blade pointed backwards. This prevents injury from bumping into people or falling. 

Teach the kids about this. It is very important! 

And that is all there is to it! Be sure to watch the video above to see it in action! 

What other skills would you like to learn? Let me know! 

In the meantime, check out these recipes to practice your chopping skills! 

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps – Kid Friendly Version!

How to Saute Asparagus so Your Kids Will Actually Eat It!

Kalbi Short Ribs – Delicious Korean Recipe!

How Do You Make Tuna Salad?

How to Cut a Watermelon into Triangles


As always, grab the kids and get them involved! Now that you know how to hold a knife, and you can show your child how to hold one, teach them more life skills with our online course. 

Looking for an online cooking class designed to teach kids real kitchen techniques? Check out our Apricot Kids course. Click HERE for the Deets!

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By on October 16th, 2019

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