Knife Skills 101

Updated:Nov 18,2014

knife skillsMost cooks will agree that your knife is the most important tool in the kitchen. With just a few tips and practice, you can become more comfortable with using knives to prepare foods for healthy and delicious recipes. Here are some basics:

What kind of knife should I have?

There are many types of knives but if you can only afford one, a chef’s knife (usually 8-inch or 10-inch) is your best bet because it can be used for many different cutting jobs. A good second knife to have is a paring knife, which is much smaller and good for cutting or peeling smaller, delicate foods.

It might sound strange but it’s safer to have a very sharp knife in the kitchen because a sharp knife will cut through food smoothly needing less pressure from your hand compared to a dull knife. There are inexpensive knife sharpeners available and some kitchen stores will do promotions for free knife sharpening throughout the year.

What’s the best way to hold a chef’s knife?

Have your thumb grip the top part of the blade and wrap your hand around the bolster (where the handle meets the blade.) It may seem awkward at first to have part of your hand on the top of the blade but with practice, this will give you more control over your knife.

What’s the difference between chopping and dicing?

Recipes usually tell you what shape you should cut an ingredient.

Here are the more common cutting terms:
  • Chop – This is a chunky type of cut; usually cubes the size of half of your thumb. If a recipe says “coarsely chop”, your pieces should be bigger.
  • Dice – A smaller cut than “chop” (usually less than ½-inch cubes), food should be the size of playing dice. Sometimes this is called “finely chopped.” Diced foods cook faster than chopped foods.
  • Mince – A very small cut, food is cut into very tiny cubes. Foods that are often minced include garlic, onions and fresh ginger.
  • Julienne – A long, thin cut; your pieces should look like long match sticks. This cut is often used on vegetables that you can eat raw like carrots or leafy herbs like basil.

Find more tips on using and storing kitchen knives.


Article copyright © 2014 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.