Much of cooking starts with a knife. And if you can't seem to master a few basic knife skills, it's definitely going to make the kitchen seem more like a chore than a place for you to unleash your creativity and create gorgeous culinary dishes. And yes, the knife really does count for a lot. Without proper knife skills, food can cook unevenly and even lose flavor.
So how do you get those knife skills? Well you could spend thousands of dollars in courses and classes trying to learn every single knife cut you'll ever need to know. Or you could just check out the following few tips that cover the basics and will get you off to a good start for your next kitchen creation.
1. Stay safe
Knives are nothing to joke around about. If you're not careful with them, you could slice off the tip of your finger or your entire finger. The best way to stay safe is to form the hand that's going to be holding the food, and not the knife, into a claw.
Start by folding the tips of your fingers into the palm, trying to get them as flat as possible. Push your knuckles out and flatten them so that, if you unfortunately do cut something, the knife will likely just nick the knuckle and won't do any real damage, such as losing a finger would.
2. Don't touch the blade
Before we move on to actual knife cuts, there's one more word about safety: never touch the blade of a knife while you're chopping. It seems to make sense, and many may wonder why they would ever do such a thing. But it happens easier than many people think. It's easy to inadvertently hold the blade at the top, towards the handle, as some people feel this gives them more control. But, with the exception of one chopping technique that will be discussed below, the blade should never be touched. Instead, get a firm grip on the handle of the knife and use that, and that alone, to chop, slice, or dice your food. It will keep your fingers away from the bottom of the blade, which is a dangerous place for them to be.
3. Use the locomotive motion for slicing
There is a very specific motion you should use when slicing vegetables. It's known as the locomotive motion, and it's very easy to do. Simply keep the tip of the blade on the cutting board and imagine there is a wheel attached to the handle. Push the knife forward to slice through the food and then lift it up, back, and around so you can push it through again to slice the food. With this technique, the tip of the blade should never have to leave the cutting board.
4. Use the rock chop for rough cuts
The rock chop is the only time your hand should ever touch the blade of a knife. And in this case, it's actually touching the top of the blade, not the actual blade. Grip the handle of the knife in your dominant hand, and then place the other hand completely flat across the top of the blade. Your fingers should be outstretched so that they are nowhere near the blade of the knife. This can help you roughly cut many ingredients including garlic and herbs and can make a lengthy task take just minutes.
5. Get the perfect dice
Root vegetables are the easiest ingredient to get a perfectly uniform dice on; an this is because they're often still attached at the root. That root can be used to hold the vegetable together even as you chop it, which makes it easier to get pieces that are all the same size.
To do this, start by chopping the vegetable in half, right through the root. If it's something like an onion, chop horizontally across and through the onion, before chopping vertically and across down the other way. Then, slice across the entire thing, which will then leave you with perfectly sized pieces.
6. Use the backward slice
So generally you want your knife to be moving forward in front of you and not pulling it back towards you. But there are times that moving your blade backward can be beneficial, and that's when you're cutting delicate things like the skin of a tomato or herbs that you don't want to bruise.
To do it, keep the tip of your blade on the cutting board, just like you would in the locomotive technique above. Then, simply pull your blade back so you're not actually pushing down on the knife at all, but the length of the blade is simply chopping your food for you. When using herbs, this motion becomes even easier if you roll them up first, and then use the backward slice to gently cut them into delicate little ribbons or pieces.