#4 Chef’s Knife Basics

Learning basic knife skills are essential to cooking at home and incorporating nutrient dense foods into your daily eating.
Learning basic knife skills are essential to cooking at home and incorporating nutrient dense foods into your daily eating.
Rashmi Schramm, MD

Rashmi Schramm, MD

Dr. Schramm is a board certified family physician and integrative health coach with 20 years of practice experience.

You probably never thought a physician would be talking about kitchen knives did you?

Learning basic knife skills are essential to cooking at home and incorporating nutrient dense foods into your daily eating.

These skills will make preparation of food more efficient and it is actually fun!



If a lack of culinary skills is one of your barriers to home cooking,

then let us start off by talking about the chef’s knife.

A chefs knife is a versatile, all purpose knife that will help you slice, dice and mince a variety of ingredients.

In all honesty, it is the only knife that I use. I want to share a few basic tips on choosing and using a chefs knife.

Of note, there is a wide range of prices for a chefs knife but my first chefs knife was purchased on Amazon (not sponsored) for around $20 or so, it does not have to be expensive.



Chef’s knife basics and safety tips:

Most chef’s knives are made from a stainless steel blade (high carbon). The blades are usually 8 to 12 inches in length. An eight inch blade should suffice for most cutting.

Find a chefs knife that has a full tang which is a continuation of the metal into the knife’s handle (you should see the metal span almost the entire length of the handle). This will create a balanced feel in your hand when the knife is being used.

The handle should fit in your hand comfortably to help reduce fatigue.

As a general rule for all types of knives, it is important to use one with a sharp blade. This may seem contrary to what one may think but it not only performs better but it is safer to use because less effort is required to cut through food.

DO NOT ever attempt to catch a falling knife, move out of the way and let it fall to the ground.

Clean your knife after each use (i.e to avoid cross contamination between foods). I hand wash mine with mild dish soap and water and then pat the blade completely dry. Do not place your chefs knife in the dishwasher to clean which could damage the blade.

When you are passing a knife, lay it down on a flat surface with the handle extended toward the person.

When you are walking with the knife, hold the knife straight down at your side with the sharp edge facing behind you.

Use the right cutting surfaces. If you cut directly on metal, glass, or marble you can dull and damage the blade. Also, it is very important to secure your cutting board with a damp towel to prevent it from slipping when you are cutting.

Consider also purchasing a sharpening ceramic rod or steel to keep the blade of your chefs knife sharp.

Once you have your chefs knife, the next step is to practice using it!

I particularly like this set of videos from Stella Culinary, accessed HERE, demonstrating a wide variety of chefs knife techniques. I used to dread cutting an onion but now can do it in no time.


Source: The Professional Chef, 9th Edition by The Culinary Institute of America.

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