Basic Knife Skills for Home Cooks

Want to hone your basic knife skills? This video tutorial shows you how to hold a knife, choose the best chef knife, and cut 18 fruits and vegetables!

Basic knife skills for home cooks

Are you wondering how to hone your basic knife skills for the home kitchen? Alex and I have created a resource of everything you need to know about knife skills! In the Basic Knife Skills below, we share our best chef knife, how to hold a knife, how to care for your knives, and a bit of basic info about different cuts (chop, dice, and mince). Then, we’ve got a separate videos for the best way to cut 18 different common fruits and vegetables! We hope that our basic knife skills videos can be a tried and true resource for you and your friends and family as you navigate the kitchen.

Related: 20 Knife Skills Videos: How to Cut Everything!

Video: Basic knife skills

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Use a good non-slip cutting board

Basic knife skills | Use a cutting board with non slip feet

Before you start with your basic knife skills, let’s talk cutting boards. It’s important to have a good cutting board with non-slip feet. Without this, the cutting board can move while you’re cutting, making the knife unstable and increasing the risk of cutting yourself! (If you don’t have a cutting board with non-slip feet, place a damp towel underneath the board.) Here are a few of the best cutting boards we recommend:

Our best chef knife

Basic knife skills | Best knife: 7" chef knife

People ask us all the time, what is the best chef knife you recommend? Here’s our best chef knife: a 7″ chef knife, which fits well into both small and large hands. Alex likes to use a huge knife, so we also have a 10″ chef knife. Keep in mind that a good knife will last quite a long time: ours have lasted over 10 years so far! So it’s a great investment. If you’re looking for a more budget knife, we’ve recommended an 8″ affordable chef’s knife. A few other essential knives for the kitchen are a paring knife and a serrated knife for cutting bread and tomatoes. These recommendations are perfect for outfitting your own kitchen, or great gifts for a wedding registry or someone who loves to cook!

How to hold a knife

Basic knife skills | How to hold a knife: incorrect
Basic knife skills | How to hold a knife: correct

THE MOST important thing you can learn to enhance your basic knife skills is how to hold a knife! Do not place your finger on the blade of the knife, or hold right at the start of the handle. Instead, get a firm grip on the knife handle right where the handle meets the blade. This will give you maximum control over the knife while you’re cutting.

Master the motion of how to cut

Basic knife skills | Cut in a circular motion

Once you’ve mastered how to hold a knife, you can practice the motion of how to cut. This motion is also essential for your basic knife skills! When you’re dicing, mincing, or slicing, you’ll use a circular motion with the knife. Use the end of the knife blade to help balance. You can practice using this type of motion without even cutting anything. Watch the video for this one, since it’s easiest to understand when you see it in action.

How to sharpen a knife

Basic knife skills | Knife sharpener

How to sharpen a knife? And how often? Alex and I actually get our knives professionally sharpened: there are a few stores in our city that offer knife sharpening. There is also a knife sharpening vendor that comes to our farmer’s market. Without a home sharpener, get your knives professionally sharpened every 6 months. Ask around to find a professional sharpener in your city.

You also can use a home knife sharpener. Use this sharpener every few weeks, and then get your knives professionally sharpened occasionally. Here is the home knife sharpener that we use:

How to clean knives

Basic knife skills | Never put your knife in the dishwasher

Never, never put your chef knife in the dishwasher! Putting a chef’s knife in the dishwasher causes the blade to dull faster. Always wash your chef knife with soap and water and dry it completely before storing it.

The best way to store kitchen knives

Basic knife skills | Best knife: 7" chef knife

So, what’s the best way to store knives? Above all, do not store your chef knives loose in a drawer! This causes the knives to become dull and is a safety hazard! Instead, use a knife block, magnetic strip, or a our favorite option, a drawer organizer. Since we have a toddler, we’ve found a drawer organizer with a child lock is a slick and safe way to store knives. Here’s the drawer organizer that we use:

What is chopped, diced, and minced?

Basic knife skills | Chopped

Here are some basic knife skills and how to distinguish between some common cuts. Chopped refers to cutting into rough, irregular pieces.

Basic knife skills | Diced

Diced refers to cutting into smaller, more uniform pieces, usually about 1/4″ squares.

Basic knife skills | Minced

Minced refers to cutting something into a very small dice.

And that’s it: basic knife skills for home cooks! Ready for all the vegetables?

Basic knife skills for home cooks

How to cut 18 fruits & vegetables!

Now that you know the best chef knife, how to hold a knife, and how to care for your knife, we’re ready! It’s time for your Basic Knife Skills. Here are separate videos of the best way to cut 18 common fruits and vegetables:

Related: Want to practice? Try what we like to call our Knife Skills Soup, which lets you practice several different vegetable techniques and results in a delicious soup!

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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