I’ve taught scores of cooking classes over the years and if I had a dollar for every student with an improper grip on a knife, I could buy…well, I could buy something that costs A LOT of money. But no matter the class subject, no one leaves one of my cooking classes without being shown the correct way to hold a knife.
I’m not sure how this epidemic started, but people always plant the top of their index finger on the back of the knife’s blade. (See picture at left.) For whatever reason, this seems to give the false impression that you can control the direction of the knife with a firmly-planted index finger. NOT SO!
The best (and safest) way to hold the knife is to use your thumb and index finger to grip the actual blade. (I know. I know. A knife has a handle and a handle implies that it should be, well, handled.) In this case, you’ll use the rest of your fingers to actually grip the portion of the handle closest to the blade.
This new and proper hold will feel strange the first 500 times you try it; but, boy, will that 501st time be worth it! Why is this hold better? First, you’re able to get a far more secure grip on the knife and because your grip is concentrated on one small area of the knife, you’ll have far more control as you slice or dice than you would with your fingers splayed across the entire handle. This hold also enables you to cut using the rocking motion that you see TV chefs use. This is not to be confused with the psychotic, blade-damaging chopping as seen on late night infomercials where chefs in tall toques try to hypnotize you into buying a knife that will cut a penny in half. (I’ve cooked all kinds of foods and seen all types of recipes and not once has a penny been on an ingredient list.)
Remember to grip the knife tightly in one hand and hold the item you’re cutting tightly in the other, fingers bent at the knuckle to keep you from cutting off your fingertips. Like anything, practice makes perfect so don’t get discouraged if you can’t keep time with Rachael Ray or Emeril right away.
If you hold the knife correctly, speed will come.