While it seems like a no-brainer, holding a kitchen knife in the most effective manner does not necessarily come naturally. Mastering the hold is the first (and most important) step in becoming a kitchen whizz in your home kitchen. After all, what is the point in possessing high-quality Damascus knives if you don’t know the most effective way to use them
Knife Anatomy 101
Before revealing the best way to hold a knife it is important to understand all the elements of a knife so that the instructions to follow will make sense. In effect, there are three main components - the blade, the tang and the handle.
The blade - The blade is made up of 4 parts that are critical to cutting. These parts are:
- The spine - the straight, long edge that runs along the top of the blade
- The edge - the sharpened part of the blade that incorporates both the tip and the heel
- The heel - the part closest to the handle
- The tip - the sharpest, most severe angle that the knife possesses
The tang - This refers to the extension of the blade that is contained within the handle. Some knives are designed with a full tang (extends the entire way up the handle), while others possess partial tangs. In rare cases, usually in the case of poor quality, inexpensive knives, there is no tang at all contained within the handle.
The handle - The part where you grip and control the knife which can be made from a wide variety of materials. This is obviously where the kitchen handling techniques discussed in the following sections largely relate to.
The two effective ways to hold your knife
When it comes to home cooking, you are best served if you adopt one of the following ways of holding the knife:
- The handle grip (also known as all-purpose)
- The blade grip (also known as the pinch)
The Handle Grip
With this heavily promoted technique, your entire knife wraps around the knife handle and your fingers are tucked behind the back of the blade. It is commonly used by amateur cooks, or those with smaller hands. It is a comfortable grip to use however, it does not allow for much control when the task at hand is one that requires precision.
The Blade Grip
A slightly more advanced grip technique, the blade grip is often utilized by those home cooks who have acquired a little more experience. Here, the thumb and index finger are placed in front of the bolster and lie directly on the face of the blade. This allows the user to pinch the blade to help stabilize it during the cutting process. It may take some getting used to initially, but is a controlled grip and becomes easier over time. While it takes a little getting used to, the pay off is a greater level of control that leads to faster and cleaner chopping.
What about the non-grip hand
Just as important is understanding what to do with the non-grip hand. It is effectively used as a guide to ensure that slices and cuts are performed with stability in mind. To do this, make sure that the fingers are angled away from the blade. The knuckles should be pointing towards the blade which is crucial in making sure that slicing through the finger is avoided. Ensure that you never elevate the cutting edge of the knife above the second knuckle as this can lead to slicing of the finger on the way back down. Because, let's be honest, absolutely no one wants to be dealing with a cut finger and blood on the cutting board!