How To: Knife Skills

It’s almost impossible to make soup without a knife! Think about foods like celery, onions, and carrots which are the base of many soups and which need to be chopped, sliced, and diced. Using a knife can be intimidating, but once your family masters knife skills you’ll all be able to cook more--and more safely and efficiently. Here are some tips to help your family learn basic knife skills together.

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.

How To Chop An Onion

1. Trim the root end and stem end off the onion. 

2. Cut the onion in half from end to end. 

3. Peel off the papery skin. 

4. Put the flat side down on the cutting board, and cut the onion into slices one way and then into slices the other way, so that you end up with a grid of little squares. 

Remember: 

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

Use your other hand to steady the onion 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. 

Onions can make your eyes tear up! Try refrigerating the onion before you cut it, to reduce the crying factor.

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.