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The Basics of Knife Skills



Authors as Published

Sarah Ahmed, B.S., former intern, Prince William County Extension Office. Virginia Tech.

Safety First:

  • Always work in a clean area with clean tools
  • Wash your hands before beginning to work
  • Never point the knife at anyone- carry the knife with the tip pointed toward the floor
  • Never try to catch a falling knife
  • Remember to use a “claw grip” to hold the food being cut- this means making sure your fingers are out of the blade’s way by curling your fingers in like a claw

Knife Skills:

  • Cut food by using the heel of the knife for a greater force
  • Chop food with the flat side down
  • Keep the tip of the blade on the cutting board
  • Use a rocking motion to cut food by pushing the knife forward as it is lowered into the food
Image of Five Different Types of Knives

Knife Skills Vocabulary

Julienne - Cutting food into very thin rectangular pieces Mince- Cutting food into the smallest possible pieces

Dice - Cutting food into small cube shaped pieces

Chef Knife - Larger knife used for general chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing foods

Paring Knife - Smaller knife used for close in or delicate work

Serrated Knife - Knife with a jagged edge used to cut crustybread or slice meat.

Fish Knife - Knife used to cut or fillet delicate pieces of food

Boning Knife - Strong knife used for cutting around car- tilage and bones

Slicing Techniques

Photo of a person cutting an apple

Hold the chef’s knife close to the blade with fingers wrapped securely around the handle for best control.

Place your other hand on the food to be cut. Curl your fingers in like a claw and keep your thumb and pinky finger behind your other fingers.

Photo of a person slicing an apple

Use a rocking, circular motion to slice the food. Push the knife forward as you lower it and slice. Do not lift the front of the knife off the cutting board.

How to Dice an Onion

Photo of slicing a whole onion with a knife

Peel the outer layer of the onion until all of the brown layers are removed.

Photo of peeling an onion cut in half

Cut the washed onion in half. Cut the ends off from the opposite side of the roots. Leave the roots in tact.

Photo of vertically cutting onion in half

Place the onion-half flat side down. Place a flat hand on the onion, palm side down, to hold it in place. With the other hand, cut the onion horizontaly toward the root by rocking the knife into the onion. Do not cut the onion into two pieces; leave about a half inch of uncut onion at the root end. Repeat this step so that there are two horizontal slices in the onion.

Photo of vertically cutting onion in half

Slice the onion vertically and perpendicular to the roots. Leave about a half inch of uncut onion at the root end.

Photo of dicing an onion in half

Dice the onion by cutting vertically and parallel to the root end. Chop any larger uncut pieces.

Go slowly at first until you are more comfortable and have control of the food and the knife.

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Publication Date

February 16, 2022

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