Before I dive into knife cuts I want to make sure you know how to properly hold your knife. I have shown you the pinch grip but I wanted to go over more knife handling specifics like what to do with your other hand, and different ways of holding your knife for different tasks.
Pinch Grip Refresher
The pinch grip is the proper way to hold your knife. Your knife becomes more of an extension of your arm which is easier on your wrist and gives you better control of your knife.
In previous posts I described the difference between a French knife and a Santoku knife. The biggest difference is the way you move the blade as you cut. A French knife has a curved blade meaning that you will use a rocking motion to cut through food. A Santoku knife has a flatter blade meaning you cut through food with a more up and down motion.
Notice with both motions I am still sliding forward as I move down. This way you are letting the knife do all the work for you. Also with a french knife, the knife never leaves the cutting board. It always maintains contact.
The Kitchen Claw
The kitchen claw ensures that your fingers stay out of the way of your knife and helps stabilize your food while you cut. It also acts as a guide for your knife so you have better control over the size cut you are making. Use the kitchen claw most of the time when cutting foods.
To do the kitchen claw you take your non-knife hand and tuck all your fingertips under, making a claw. Then place the side of your knife directly on the knuckle of your middle finger. Your knife and finger should make contact the entire time you are cutting. By doing this you know where your other hand is the entire time you are cutting. You could even look away and not cut yourself. As I cut I can push food towards my knife with my thumb and pinky, and gently walk it back as I cut.
With the kitchen claw remember to keep your claw hand relaxed. When first using a kitchen claw it is tempting to put a lot of weight on the food to hold it in place. This will just make it harder to move your food and your hand. So shake out your arm, take a deep breath, and relax.
The pivot hold is for rough chopping. It allows you to run your knife through food over and over again to get uniform pieces. Use this hold for food like herbs or garlic. The more you run your knife through the food, the more uniform the pieces will be.
To use the pivot hold, use your kitchen claw hand to anchor the tip of your knife on the cutting board. Rotate your knife and use the tip of your knife as a pivot point. Focus on using the middle of your blade to cut your food. Every once in a while, move your food back to the center of your workspace.
Sometimes the kitchen claw just doesn’t work. I coined the term “straddle hold” to describe how to hold food under a knife that is too small or too wobbly and round. Sometimes you need to cut food this way to get to a point where you can use the kitchen claw. With this hold just make sure that your knife is sharp. A dull knife can easily slip and hit your fingers. A sharp knife is your safe knife. (You can read more about knife maintenance here)
With this hold you gently place your knife on the food first and then come over the top of your knife to pinch the food. Essentially “straddling” the knife. This helps stabilize the food and will expose a flat surface, giving you a more stable piece of food to cut using the kitchen claw.
Practice is definitely key to mastering the kitchen claw. In my cooking classes people’s kitchen claws were the first things to slip when cutting. Like everything with knife skills, check in with yourself every once in a while to make sure you are safely using your knife.
Next up will be specific knife cuts. Let me know if you have any knife cut questions down below!