How to Properly Use a Chef Knife

Learning how to properly use a chef knife is very important. Not only will it give you full control of your knife, it will also prevent you from cutting yourself.

For this post I used an 8″ Chef knife. Sometimes a chef knife is called a French knife. My knife is also a classic German style knife; yours may be different but you should still be able to follow along.


1.) Place the knife in the palm of your dominate hand. Position the knife so your index finger is over the bevel of the handle and the rest of your fingers are on the black part of the handle.

2.) Wrap your middle finger, ring finger and pinkie finger around the handle. Take your index finger and curl it up a little bit and rest it against the blade. Make sure you bring it up enough to avoid cutting your finger.

3.) Take your thumb and place it against the blade. You want your index finger and thumb to pinch the blade firmly, as this gives you full control of the knife. Make sure you’re not holding the knife too tightly though – you don’t want your hand to fatigue.

Now that you have the proper grip on your chef knife, we’ll go over what to do with your non-dominate hand. You will use your other hand to push what you’re cutting under the knife.

4.) Take your other hand and make a claw. Now place your finger tips on the cutting board. This is the shape you’ll want to keep when you’re cutting items. Notice how my fingers curl in and my knuckles stick out.

5.) With your knife in your dominate hand, place the blade up against the knuckles of your other hand. Make sure (like the picture above) that your knuckles stick out and your fingers curl in on your claw hand. This will help to keep you from cutting yourself.

Now it’s time to cut. I used celery for this demonstration. Celery is easy to cut and allows you to focus on your technique.

6.) Place the celery flat side down (Always cut something on its flat side. Never cut something on a rounded edge as you will almost certainly cut yourself). Hold the celery in your hand with the claw position. Place your thumb at the end of the celery. You will use your thumb to push the celery through  the knife. Keep your knife in the same place.

7.) Holding your knife in your hand and your celery in the other, it’s time to make a cut. Place the tip of your knife on the cutting board. During the cutting, the tip of your knife should not at any point leave the cutting board. Pick up you knife leaving the tip resting on the cutting board. Push the celery a 1/4  of an inch under the knife. Push down on the knife to cut the celery. Viola! You have just made your first cut.

8.) Now pick your knife up enough to make another cut and repeat step 7. Use your thumb to move the celery under the knife. Do not move your knife!

9.) As you are cutting you will notice that the celery has a tendency to stick and build up on your blade. You need to periodically lift your knife off the cutting board and push the celery off the blade. Repeat as needed.

10.) Keep repeating steps 7 through 9 until you’ve finished cutting your stalk of celery.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

  • Always cut on a flat surface. Rounded surfaces will almost guarantee that you will cut yourself.
  • Keep the tip of your knife on the cutting board at all times.
  • Take your time. Technique is more important than speed. The better technique you have the less likely you are to cut yourself.
  • Use your thumb to push what you are cutting to the knife. Do not move the knife. If you move the knife you will wind up with uneven knife cuts and you will be more likely to cut yourself.

Alla Cucina


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