How do you use a knife?

One of the things that I run into more than most anything, bad knife skills. 

(Excerpt taken from The First Timer’s Cookbook)

No matter what knife you use, knife skills are basically the same and come down to this–don’t cut yourself.

If you watch your mom or grandmother cut things like potatoes, vegetables or meat with a knife, you may think that it looks safe enough, since they are not cutting themselves each time. But then you watch a professional chef slice up an onion, in half the time it takes your mom, all while keeping their fingers right next to the blade. You may think to yourself, “How do they keep their fingers so close and cut it so fast and not cut themselves?” That’s because you know that from watching your mom or grandmother, if they were to go that fast, cutting the way that they do, they would most definitely be without some fingers. Just remember, the reason that your mom cuts the way she does, is because Grandma showed her. And the reason that Grandma cuts the way she does, is because Great Grandma showed her, and so on and so forth. Cooking is an essential skill that almost everyone at one time or another has wanted to master at some level. So when we want to learn how to do something, we look to those who are there who already know how and we emulate them. Good recipes can travel through a family for decades. But so can bad habits formed through ignorance.

You know that if your mom knew a better, faster way, she would show you. But if she doesn’t, then look to those who do.

Always keep your fingers and thumb out of harm’s way by keeping them back and letting your fingers guide your knife.

If you follow this rule you will not cut yourself. One of the first chefs I ever worked for told me this and I did not believe him until after I cut the tip off of my finger for the second time. Then I really started to listen.

Keep your blade against your knuckles, so that you know that your hand is out of harm’s way. By using your knuckles as guides, you will always have a bearing on the knife. This is how the chefs you see on TV can always look at the camera instead what they are cutting. They know exactly where their knife is at all times. They are constantly in contact with the blade and know that if they keep their fingers back, nothing will happen.

Right wayWrong way

                                                 Right Way                                    and the                        Wrong Way

The right way keeps you safe and improves your skill, making you faster and more efficent.

The wrong way. . .uh. . .your slow and you cut yourself.

About the author, Shawn

Chef Shawn has worked in almost every segment of the foodservice industry. He holds business degrees and certificates in Culinary Arts, Hospitality & Tourism Management, Accounting and Professional Sales. He is Certified Executive Chef (CEC) and a Certified Culinary Educator (CCE) through The American Culinary Federation. A Certified Culinary Professional (CCP) through the International Association of Culinary Professionals. He is the author of The First Timer’s Cookbook and The First Timer’s Bakebook. His work has been recognized nationwide as well as being a regular contributor to numerous food service publications and outlets and is the recipient of numerous awards-most recently the 2015 Culinary Educator of the Year through the local American Culinary Federation’s chapter-Beehive State Chef’s Association.

He the owner of multiple food service businesses and currently the host of the Business Chef Podcast.


  1. Michelle on 06/17/2008 at 4:16 AM

    This one could’ve been written for me. It’s a miracle I haven’t cut my fingers off yet. The website looks great. I can’t wait to get the book!

  2. Keni Aikau on 06/23/2008 at 6:01 AM

    I have cut my self more times than I can count. These times though have never been while cutting or chopping but usually when I am being careless and using my knife as another tool. Remember the knife is for cutting or chopping, Not prying, can opening, frozen burger splitter, steak flipper, and so on. You get the Picture. Shawn I am glad you brought this to everyones attention.

    Mahalo my bruddah

  3. on 09/22/2009 at 3:38 PM

    Big LOL! Although … am I the only person to notice that the “Right Way” person isn’t actually cutting anything!

    The “Wrong Way” may be wrong, but assuming he survives, he will actually have some dinner to put on the table (and he needs to turn that celery stalk over, too)!


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