5 Tips for Using Your Chef's Knife Like a Pro

Many professionals deem their chef's knives to be the one thing they can't live without in the kitchen. And with good reason: They're incredibly versatile when it comes to the breadth and depth of cooking tasks they can perform....

Many professionals deem their chef's knives to be the one thing they can't live without in the kitchen. And with good reason: They're incredibly versatile when it comes to the breadth and depth of cooking tasks they can perform. However, as with any tool, what you get out is equal to what you put in. Let's count down five tips aimed at helping home chefs properly utilize their chef's knives for optimal outcomes.

Chef's knives

Keep those fingertips tucked!

1. Get a Grip

The right chef's knife grip is essential to exerting the most control over the blade. Your thumb should be gripped around the top of the blade on the inside (the cutting side) while your hand wraps around the junction of handle and knife blade, called the knife bolster. (Many home chefs make the mistake of holding their chef's knife by the handle, but it's actually safer to "choke up.")

Note that the index finger wraps fully around the blade and should be opposite the thumb while the three middle fingers curl loosely around the handle. (If you're clutching the handle, relax your hand -- the thumb and the forefinger do most of the work.) While this can initially feel awkward, practice makes perfect.

2. Don't Forget Your Other Hand

Your non-knife hand, AKA your "guiding hand," has an important function, too. It keeps food steady on the cutting board. This enhances precision, but it's also precarious. After all, knife blades are sharp, and without the right technique your guiding hand could wind up directly in its path. A "claw grip" allows you to grip the food without exposing your fingertips to the knife blade.

Simply grip the food with your fingernails, then curl fingers inward to neatly tuck them away. If done correctly, the side of the knife blade actually rests against your first knuckle while the blade remains perpendicular to the cutting board.

An alternate version of the claw grip finds the first knuckle resting directly on the food and the knife resting against the second knuckle. Use this technique if it feels more comfortable to you.

3. Stay Centered

When most people think of cutting, they visualize piercing with the tip. However, the majority of tasks performed with a chef's knife involve slicing with the center of the blade. You may use the tip for scoring and other delicate jobs while using a heel-first approach is more suitable for knife tasks which require more heft and leverage, such as cutting carrots and deboning meat.

In fact, there are many different kinds of knife cuts beginning with basics like cutting, dicing, chopping and mincing and progressing to more advanced cuts. The more cuts you master, the better you'll be able to enhance both the taste and the visual appeal of your finished products.

4. Stay Sharp

A sharp knife not only helps you cut and slice better, but it also enhances speed, accuracy, and safety. Knife work is an art; if you're working with a dull blade, you may end up calling on brute force over skill. Think of sharpening tools are an investment in your food and your future as a chef.

Chef's knives

You'll be cooking like a pro in no time.

Further protect your chef's knife -- and your entire collection of kitchen knives -- by using a cutting board as opposed to cutting on countertops as granite, marble and porcelain can damage the blade.

5. Keep Them Clean

Regular cleaning also part of basic knife care and maintenance. Use hot water and mild soap to wash before rinsing and wiping down. Refrain from putting knives in the dishwasher and leaving them to dry in the sink -- both of which can lead to excessive wear and tear.

One last tip for safely washing knives? Always keep the blade pointed away from you as soapy water can be slippery, and not all accidents happen in the act of cooking.

Although these tips and techniques can take some time to get used to, you'll be grateful you put in the effort when you're slicing and dicing like a pro. Browse kitchen knives, kitchenware, cookware, and more at Cilantro The Cooks Shop today.