Kitchen Skills: Knife skills

January 14, 2015

Slicing, dicing, chopping, and cutting: it’s hard to cook without using a knife to prepare the ingredients! Hard, but not impossible. A pizza cutter makes a perfectly excellent cutting tool for soft things that aren’t too big: bananas, for example, or tofu. And scissors are great for snipping up herbs and greens. But if an adult in your family thinks you’re ready and is willing to supervise you, it might be time to learn to use a sharp knife in a safe and responsible way. We got some tips from knife maker Adam Simha of MKS Design in Cambridge, MA.

Basic Knife Skills: A Step-by-Step Guide


 1. Hold the knife in the hand you use to write, gripping it firmly around the handle.

 2. Use your other hand to steady whatever you’re cutting, keeping your fingers curled under, away from the knife. Pay attention to where the knife is: as it moves forward, your food-holding fingers should move backward. The distance between the knife and your other hand should always stay the same.

 3. Keep the pointy end of the knife on the cutting board, and cut by moving the back of the knife up and down, like you’re working a lever.

 4. Round or cylindrical fruits and vegetables, such as zucchini, carrots, onions, and potatoes, are much easier and safer to cut if you slice them in half first, so that they can rest flat on their cut sides while you slice them, instead of rolling around.

5. When you’re all done, ask for help from an adult to wash and dry your knife.

Basic safety

  • Wear closed-toe shoes (no sandals).
  • Make sure you’re at the right height so that you can see what you’re doing and get the leverage you need. Stand on a sturdy chair or step stool so that the countertop is at waist level.
  • Use a non-slip cutting board (or put a damp dish towel under the one you’re using, to keep it from sliding).
  • Use a sharp knife. It’s actually safer to cut with a sharp knife than a dull one, as you’ll need much less pressure to use it, and it won’t skid off the ingredient you’re trying to cut.
  • Never move the knife in a direction that is towards any part of your body, especially the hand you’re using to hold the ingredient you’re cutting.
  • Use a knife whose size you feel comfortable with. You might want to start with a small paring knife and work up to a bigger chef’s knife as you get more comfortable.
  • Take your time.
  • Keep your eyes on your cutting at all times. If you need to look up for any reason, put your knife down first.
  • If the knife ever falls, don’t try to catch it. Just let it fall, then carefully pick it up.