How To Hold A Chef's Knife



How To Hold A Chef's Knife Using A Professional Grip

Shown below is the common amateur method for holding a chef’s knife, which is called the hammer grip. The problem with holding your knife in a hammer grip is that your wrist becomes out of alignment with your palm and fingers, making it harder to control the movement of your knife.

how to hold a chef's knife step one

Before being able to have good knife skills, you first need to understand the proper technique for holding your knife. A proper knife grip will give you more control and accuracy over your basic cuts, and it will keep you from cutting yourself.

 

To hold your knife in a professional grip, start by pinching the knife blade where it connects to the handle, between your thumb and index finger. Some people will pinch with the index, middle finger and thumb. Either way will work, it just depends on personal preference.

how to hold a chef's knife step two

Next, slip your middle finger (if doing a single finger grip), or ring finger (if using a two finger grip) up behind the bolster of the knife. The bolster is the vertical piece of blade that connects directly to the handle.

 

Continue by lightly wrapping the rest of your fingers around the handle of the knife. These fingers are here more for support; the focus of your grip should be on pinching the blade. Also, keep your grip nice and loose. Gripping your knife too tightly will lead to excess tension in your hand, wearing you out quickly and affecting the accuracy of your cuts.

 

This post is part of our ongoing Culinary Knife Skills Video Series, which teaches you a wide array of knife skills used in professional kitchens. For more information, you can also view our How To Cook Video Index.

5 comments

GreenBake's picture
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I noticed that the knife (Shun?) blade is much more curved than most. Does thus curvature influence how knife is held? Personal opinions on blade curvature are welcome.
Jacob Burton's picture
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@ GreenBake,

It's not so much the curvature of the knife as it is the width of the blade (from top to bottom) and what type of cut I'm making. For example, when I use a chef's knife or cleaver, I'm always using the professional pinch grip as shown in the video above or in the video "Asian Style Dice and Julienne." As a general rule of thumb, you always want to hold a knife with a thicker blade in a one or two finger pinch grip because it will give you more control over where that blade is going.

However, when I'm using a knife with a thinner blade, like a utility knife or a boning knife, I usually grab the blade with my thumb and middle finger and then rest my index finger on top of the blade. This has two purposes:

  1. When butchering, I'm trying to separate muscles or disconnect flesh from the bone (read intricate cuts with little space). I have fat hands and fingers, so if I hold my knife in a professional pinch grip, my knuckles and fingers get in the way.
  2. I always put my index finger on the top of my knife when I'm performing a cut that utilizes the tip of my blade. This makes the knife an extension of my finger, and allows me to control where the tip of the knife is going. A good example of this is in my video of how to slice mushrooms and how to butcher a chicken. In the video on how to dice, julienne, buronise and battonet, you'll notice that I'm holding the knife in a regular pinch grip, which gives me more control of the "sweet spot" (the middle portion of the knife used for slicing).
As far as the curvature of the blade is concerned, that's just personal preference. I really like the ergonomics of the Ken Onion Shun, but that's just because it feels good in my hand. Everyone's hands are different so choose your knife accordingly. Also, the curvature on the Ken Onion Shun is much more dramatic then that on their classic 10" chef's knife. Again, it's all about what feels right in your hand and what you use your knife for the most.
chef humes

when i seem to cut large meats my hands don't get in the way, that's because my hands are small making it easier for me to work with knives. i hold the chef knife more with my index on the top of the chef knife and my hand on the handle. this may not be professional but it makes cutting easier and allows your wrist to do the work.

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Hi Jacob,

Could you tell me if the knife you're using there is really a 10 inch?

It looks like an 8 inch, but it could be the video.

Kind regards,

John
Jacob Burton's picture
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Yes, the knife I'm using in this video is an 8".
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