You can have a great knife but if you don’t hold it right, you’ve wasted your money (and time!) Having the right grip on your chef’s knife may seem like the most basic thing but it makes a huge difference in how you control your knife, which in turn makes cutting easier and safer. Many home cooks aren’t taught how to properly hold a knife, so now’s the time to get a better grip in just a few short minutes.
Why the Right Grip Matters
The right grip matters because it keeps your fingers out from under the blade. It also prevents fatigue during long meal prep sessions and can make you more precise without upgrading your knives. There are two different standard knife grips for holding your chef’s knife in your dominant hand, the handle grip and the blade grip. It’s also important to get up to speed on the “claw”—your non-dominant hand that guides the food into the knife.
The Handle Grip and When to Use It
The handle grip is sometimes called the all-purpose grip. It is likely the knife grip you’re already using and didn’t have a name for. Let’s review it anyway, because you might pick up on a few pointers to improve your grip. The handle grip is exactly as it sounds: Your fingers wrap around the handle on one side while your thumb wraps around the other and they meet solidly under the knife handle. An important note here: Your pointer finger really should never be out, pointed forward, or pressing against the spin of the knife.
If you haven’t adjusted your hand grip in a while, grab a knife and take a close look: Make sure that your whole grip is as close to the bolster of the knife as possible—this is the area where the handle and blade meet. This “choked up” handle gives you more control but also protects your fingers. This is the grip to teach beginner cooks and kids but it is also great for cooks with smaller hands.
The Blade Grip and When to Use It
This hold also has a few aliases like the pincher or pincer grip or even the blade-pinch grip. It is similar to the handle grip in that most of your fingers end up wrapped around the handle, but with one distinction: Your pointer finger should be bent in towards your hand to make an elbow and create a firm pinch on the end of the knife’s blade just beyond the bolster. This isn’t a two finger salt pinch, but rather the kind of pinch you’d imagine a grandmother would use to squeeze a baby’s check.
The blade grip is preferred by chefs and many culinary schools teach it because it makes the knife a little more agile. You have a little more control of the blade itself to quickly go from using just the tip of the knife to carve into chicken skin and then quickly pivot to using the whole knife blade to slice in between the chicken’s breast and thigh.
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What to Do With Your Non-Knife Hand: the Claw
What you do with your non-knife hand is just as important as your knife hold. This hand should move the food you're chopping into the knife blade, and not the other way around, but it should also protect its own fingers. The Claw is a little bit of a misnomer, in our opinion, because even though you might start your fingers in a kitty-cat-like claw shape, you will want to bring your fingers a little closer together and then relax your fingers and hands a little bit. This will feel very unnatural at first but once you get the hang of it, the claw will give you the ability to say keep a bunch of chives together while also moving them across your cutting board and into the knife’s chopping motion.
Like most things in life, what works best for you and your knife might not work for everyone. You might find that certain knives feel better with a handle grip or that some tasks just really require a blade grip. So don’t be afraid to switch up your knife grip, even in the middle of making dinner (which can reduce some hand fatigue too). It’s all in your hands!