BASICS | Knife Skills

alison kent HOME KITCHEN thyme watercolor border graphic artwork

Welcome to the BASICS!
Today we’re going to talk Knife Skills. Got ’em? Want ’em?!


While most people who have been cooking for some time probably already know how to hold a knife, a refresher is never a bad idea. Especially since a good knife grip will earn you efficiency in your work, and the retention of most of your finger tips. It’s sort of like how you can hold a tennis racket for years and not realize you’ve been turning your wrist ever so slightly over time and need a reminder on how to hold it properly. No? Just me?! Lol.

There are a few grips, but I prefer the Blade Grip – it gives me the most control over my cuts. With fingers 3, 4 and 5 holding the knife handle, finger 2 rides along the outside while finger 1 (thumb!) cradles the inside. Regardless, make sure you’re holding your knife near the blade end of the handle, not at the tippy handle end. You want to have the most amount of control. (And, NO, may nails aren’t usually this LONG LOOOOL!)

If you’re shopping for a new knife, it’s important to find one you can hold comfortably. My son has a knife that really hurts the inside of my index finger 2 – obviously not built for the Blade Grip, and therefore not the right knife for me. Hold the knives in your hand and feel the weight. It should have enough evenly distributed weight to HELP chopping, reducing your work efforts of pushing too hard into your cuts. My sons knife – Henckel – doesn’t have the weight (or I don’t have the skills) to cut straight down precisely THROUGH the food. It tends to curve off halfway down which is annoying. Try some chops – a good Kitchen shop should have a board you can pretend, or for reals, to slice and dice on.

the CLAW

While one hand holds the knife, what’s the other one doing?
The CLAW. Trust me, you don’t want your fingers or thumbs to get in the way while holding the business end of a vegetable and a knife. At least not twice.

I’ve learned – the hard way – to tuck my thumb behind my index finger.

You’ll find that, similar to typing, your arms find a natural 90d angle when naturally from the center of your body. Use this to form your claw and your natural chopping guide. And pay extra attention to larger vegetables that are higher than your claw knuckles.


Once you have the right knife and grip, it’s time to practice your cuts!
Great knife skills takes discipline and attention. The more perfected and even your cuts, the more you’ll be able to cook evenly and predict cooking doneness.

A don’t forget to ‘roll with it’.

Or to have fun!
Grab yourself a variety of vegetables, turn on some tunes, and go to it.
I have a handy chart of the most popular knife cuts to help you out.

alison kent HOME KITCHEN knife skills sheet description most popular french knife cuts chart


Once you get your cuts on (which can take years to perfect, but let’s assume you’re doing a-ok!), it’s time to get cooking!

more TIPS?!

Try this video from my fave guys over at Serious Eats!