How to use a chef’s knife: a guide for newbies

In Chef Knife by Ana Z.Leave a Comment

How to use a chef’s knife.  It’s the thing anyone new to knives wants answered. Seeing those top-notch chefs skillfully and effortlessly maneuver their knives makes you wonder if you’re really cut out for the job. Have you noticed that whenever you try it out for yourself (with no one watching, of course), you look about as graceful as a fish flopping outside of water?

So, how do you use a chef’s knife?

Knowing how to use a chef’s knife earns you a lot of cool points in the kitchen, yet most people don’t know how to use one – even though they have one stored somewhere (collecting dust)!

This is a pity because learning how to use a chef’s knife is actually quite easy and it can make your cooking experience a whole lot better.

If you are looking to learn how to use a chef’s knife, get these a few rules down and you will be good to go. Who knows, maybe you may even end up catching the chef bug and start dreaming about starting your own 5-star operation one day. Why not!

With the help of this guide, you will start feeling comfortable with the chef’s knife by learning proper technique and knife etiquette. Make use of these points and you will reach the next level of culinary awesomeness. No need to thank us.

How to use a chef’s knife: getting a good grip

How to use a chef's knife: getting a good gripHow you hold the knife is really important because it gives you control, stability, and precision. It all begins with a good, steady grip.

The grip should be firm, but not so tight that it turns your fingers into a different color. Know what I mean? Strong, but loose. Most of the cutting happens with the twist of the wrist anyways.

To get a good grip on the knife you must wrap your fingers around the area where the handle meets the blade, perch them right in that little nook. Your middle finger is nudged right under where the blade begins, wrapping around the grip along with your ring and pinky fingers. Now, the thumb and the index finger are pinching the bottom part of the blade, right above your grip.

Caution: Most beginners will grab the handle at the very bottom, placing a lot of distance between themselves and the blade. Although this is an intuitive precaution, it’s actually more dangerous than the method described above. By holding on to the handle’s end, you actually create a more dangerous scenario because with that grip is feebler and you have less control.

How to use a chef’s knife: safety precautions


Yes, sharp knives are dangerous. Mom made sure to teach us that, having us repeat it until it became engraved into our memory.  But, there’s more to the story, isn’t there?

What we didn’t necessarily learn is that dull a chef’s knife is just as dangerous. Yes, you read correctly. A dull knife is dangerous, too.

Some experienced cooks will even go as far as to say that dull knives could be even more dangerous than sharp knives.

Why? A dull blade means less control and more resistance. Thus, the knife can recoil in some bizarre way and end up cutting you.

A sharp knife is crucial for appropriate and effective usage. Always make sure that your chef knife is razor-sharp at all times.

Caution: If your knife is dull, do not use it! Learn how to sharpen it and make sure it’s in top-notch shape!

How to use a chef’s knife: finger and thumb position

Now, we know how to grip the knife. But, what do you do with the other hand? Well, it is free for stabilizing the food you are chopping and cutting. Your stabilizing hand acts as a knife guide and it is important to be protective of it.

Place your guiding hand on top of the vegetable with your fingertips pointing downwards. Your knuckles will be perpendicular to the cutting board.

To protect your fingertips, you curl them inward. That way they are tucked under your knuckles and pointing away from the knife’s blade and towards your wrist.

Caution: Do not place a flat hand on top of the vegetable. A flat hand and open palm increase your risk of injury by leaving your fingers and fingertips exposed. Keep your knuckles perpendicular to the cutting board and curl your fingertips underneath them.

How to use a chef’s knife: proper technique

Rolling/Rock Chop

The rolling technique is common for cutting up vegetables, fruits, and cheeses. It too can also be used for anything! Just make sure to follow the safety tips outlined before.

This motion is known as the rolling technique because it gives the illusion of the knife rolling forwards and backwards.

To begin practicing the rolling technique, the front of the knife is pointed downwards, then you press it down, and then slide the knife forwards. Et voila! You have successfully chopped something!


Chopping is just a general term for cutting the food into smaller parts. Some chefs are very precise about chopping up uniform pieces and bits, making precise cubes with millimeter precision. For others, that’s such homogeneity is not an absolute necessity.

When you chop, it is important to cut the vegetables and fruits in half and place the flat portion on the cutting board so as to create stability.

How to use a chef’s knife: conclusion

To use a chef’s knife correctly and appropriately, you must follow certain maintenance and safety procedures. Once you memorize and begin to apply them, using a chef’s knife will become a more pleasant experience because you will feel more reassured.

  • Keep the blade sharp. Dull blades can be dangerous
  • When holding the knife, wrap three fingers around the handle and use the thumb and index finger to pinch the blade for maximum control.
  • When holding or guiding the vegetables to be chopped, do not have an open hand with exposed fingertips. Cup your fingertips under your knuckled for optimal protection.
  • Familiarize yourself with relevant cutting techniques.
  • Practice slowly before trying to go more quickly.

These basic reminders will help you take your cutting game to a higher level. You will be able to feel more confident in the kitchen, too. So, go ahead and start incorporating these now into your kitchen routine. Practice makes perfect!

article by Ana Z.

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