technique

Ask restaurant chefs to name the most important equipment in their kitchen and you will get one answer: knives. For new cooks, knives can seem scary—­yes, they are sharp! But knives help us do so much in the kitchen. Here’s what you need to know.

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Two Essential Knives

While chefs often come to work with a pouch that holds a dozen knives, at home you need just two.

Chef's Knife

You will use this knife for 9 out of 10 kitchen tasks, from mincing herbs and chopping vegetables to slicing meat. A chef’s knife with an 8-­inch blade is best for adults, but kids are much better off with something smaller. Here are our two favorites.

Kid-Friendly Knife 2up

Best Option for Older Kids:
Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Pro 6-Inch Chef’s Knife

Best Option for Younger Kids:
Opinel Le Petit Chef Cutlery Set

Paring Knife

This small knife is for precision work, such as cutting out the core from a ripe tomato or the hull (the leafy green part) from a strawberry. A paring knife’s blade is typically 3.5 inches long and a little bit flexible.

How to Hold a Chef’s Knife

A knife is only as good as the person using it. You must hold the knife correctly. And don’t forget about your other hand—­the one that holds the food securely in place while you cut. Practice these steps with an adult to become a knife wizard.

3up cutting motions with knife

Control Grip:
For more control, choke up on handle and actually grip blade between your thumb and forefinger. This grip works best for most kids.

Force Grip:
For more power, wrap your hand around handle with your thumb tucked under curve of handle. This grip works best when cutting through hard foods such as carrots.

Protect Your Fingertips: Always use “bear claw” grip to hold food in place and minimize danger. Tuck your fingertips in, keeping them away from knife. During upward part of slicing motion, reposition your guiding hand for next cut.

Sharp Knives = Safe Knives

A dull knife is an accident waiting to happen. That’s because a dull knife is much more likely to slip off food. A dull knife is also a slow knife. Ask an adult to run the test below to determine if your chef’s knife is sharp. If your knife is dull, ask an adult to sharpen it. We recommend electric and manual sharpeners made by Chef’sChoice.

Determining Sharpness: With one hand, hold single piece of printer paper firmly at top. Using your other hand, draw blade down through paper, heel to tip. If knife fails to slice paper cleanly, it’s ready to be sharpened.

Basic Cutting Motions

Depending on the food being prepared, you will use different parts of the knife blade and different motions. Here are three basic motions to practice.

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3up Basic Cutting Motions

Small Items: Keep Tip Down
To cut small items, such as celery or scallions, push blade forward and down, using blade’s curve to guide middle of knife through food. Tip of blade should touch board at all times.

Large Items: Lift Blade
To cut large items, such as eggplant, lift entire blade off board to help make smooth strokes through food.

Mincing: Use Both Hands
To mince herbs and garlic, grip handle with one hand and rest fingers of other hand lightly on knife tip. This grip facilitates up-­and-­down rocking motion needed for mincing. To make sure food is evenly minced, pivot knife through pile of food as you work.