Have you ever wondered how to hold a kitchen knife safely? Professional chefs are all taught basic knife skills, but unfortunately, this knowledge isn’t always known by home chefs.
Without official training little things can be overlooked, and without anyone there to tell you the proper way to hold a knife in the kitchen, how could you ever know?
It’s easy to pick up a knife the first time and never really give a second thought to how it should, and shouldn’t be held.
Holding a knife wrong will create additional strain on your hand and wrist and could even lead to injury.
In this article, I’m going to discuss how not to hold a knife, and show a few examples of better ways to hold a kitchen knife.
One of the best ways to hold a knife is to use your index finger and thumb to grip the blade of the knife, with the rest of your hand holding the handle. You should not press your index finger down onto the spine of the blade.
The right way and the wrong way to hold a knife
There is no single right way to hold a kitchen knife, but there is one wrong way that is often mistakenly used, using your index finger on the spine of the blade.
Below I will run through why that isn’t a good technique to adopt, and we’ll also run through three much better ways to hold your kitchen knife, here’s a list of the methods if you want to skip to them:
The wrong way to hold a knife
✗ Stabilize with index finger
The 3 correct ways to hold a knife
✓ Choking the blade
✓ Just the handle
✓ Stabilize with thumb
Do not put your index finger on the spine of the knife
So many home cooks hold a kitchen knife this way, it’s such a common mistake and can easily lead to injuries.
This common method includes holding the handle with three fingers and a thumb, whilst trying to use your index finger to stabilize the blade by pushing it down onto the spine of the blade.
Your index finger is not strong or stable enough to fully control the blade, and the constant backward pressure of the blade on your relatively weak finger whilst you’re chopping will lead to strain in your hand with prolonged use.
This method is so common because it can feel like the most natural way to hold a knife when we first use it. It’s not dissimilar to the way we would hold other smaller objects, such as a pencil, using the index finger to control the movement.
The problem though is that we’re doing a very different action with our hand when chopping, it is repetitive and you’re using a much larger (and sharper!) object.
If this is the way you currently use a knife I would urge you to try the suggested techniques below.
In the long run, it will actually make using your kitchen knife much easier and safer.
The correct way to hold a knife – Choking the blade
This is the most common method that professional chefs use to hold their knife and is my personal favorite.
Choking the blade involves holding the handle with three fingers and using your index finger and thumb to ‘choke’, or grab, the steel of the blade itself.
This gives you really strong control over the blade and leads to much less hand strain than trying to stabilize the blade with your index finger only since the spine of the blade is not pushing back on your finger.
This method is really easy and is a much safer way to use a knife.
This is how I use a knife and if you don’t already chop this way I would recommend trying the choking technique next time you’re in the kitchen.
The correct way to hold a knife –Handle only
Another method is by having a firm grip of the handle only. For this, you will need a knife with a very good non-slip handle to prevent your hand from moving during use.
This technique will probably give you a little less control over the knife than the blade choking technique I’ve described above, but it is quite safe since your fingers should be fully protected from the blade of the knife if your cut did go slightly astray.
The correct way to hold a knife –Thumb on the blade
The third, and probably the least popular method is the technique of using your thumb on the spine of the blade in order to stabilize it.
Your thumb has much more strength than your index finger and so using your thumb to stabilize the blade can give you more control, it’s also far less likely to result in hand strain than using your index finger.
Example of how to hold a kitchen knife
This video does a great job of showing each method:
When it comes to chopping your food you want to use a similar approach no matter which of the above techniques you adopt to hold your knife.
You should keep the tip of the knife blade touching, or close to, the chopping board, with the handle raise and the food under the knife.
Push the knife down and out, slicing through the food and letting the knife do the work. Bring back up and repeat.
When holding the food make sure your fingers are curled to keep the blade away from your fingertips, for a more thorough description of how to protect your fingers whilst chopping read our article on the proper way to hold a food item which is being cut.
The movement of the knife should be much more of a slicing motion than a sawing motion, if you find you need to saw through the food then your knife may not be sharp enough, which brings me nicely onto my final point.
Keep your knife sharp
No matter how you choose to hold your kitchen knife, there is one factor that most chefs would agree is far more important to the ease and safety of your knife than the way you hold it, and that is keeping your blade sharp.
A well maintained and sharp knife will easily cut through meat, fruit and vegetables, making it far less likely for any accidents to occur and leading to less strain in your hand.
So remember, whichever technique you choose to hold your knife in the future, don’t forget to keep it sharp and keep it safe.