How To: Kitchen Knife Basics

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Kitchen Knife Basics

Follow these tips to buy, use and care for your knives

Shopping Tips

Find a good fit:

  • Handles have different shapes
  • Hold a few knives in your hand before buying
  • Some may feel more comfortable than others

The essentials:

  • You don’t have to buy a knife block set, you can buy them individually
  • Most kitchen tasks can be done with just a few knives

Start with these three essentials

  • Chef’s knife
  • Paring knife
  • Serrated knife

Chef’s knife (8 to 10-inch blade)

  • Almost all cutting can be done with this knife
  • If you can only buy one knife, buy a Chef’s knife first

Paring knife (3 to 4-inch blade)

  • Use to peel or cut fruits and vegetables into small pieces

Serrated knife (8 to 10-inch blade with small “teeth”)

  • A long knife like a Chef’s knife but the blade is jagged, rather than smooth
  • Good for slicing bread and cutting soft-skinned produce like tomatoes

Safety Tips

Never put a knife in a sink full of water

  • You may forget the knife and cut yourself
  • And never put your knives in the dishwasher

Never try to catch a falling knife

  • If you drop it, take a quick step back so it doesn’t cut your toes or bounce back on you

When sharing a knife:

  • Hand it off by the handle
  • Or set it down and let the other person pick it up

Carrying a knife:

  • Always walk with the blade pointed toward the floor
  • This helps to avoid cutting someone who may come into your path

When not using your knife:

  • Place it at the top of your cutting board
  • Keep the blade facing away from you

Keep knives sharp:

  • A dull knife requires more force, which can lead to slipping
  • To sharpen knives, use a steel to align the edges of the blade
  • Or use a pull through knife sharpener
  • Do not sharpen serrated knives – it could ruin the knife

Using Knives Safely

  • Watch your fingers: Tuck your fingers toward your palm on the hand that his holding the food
  • Lead with the tip: Angle the tip of the knife toward the cutting board
  • Slice: Cut through the food with a single motion, don’t push down
  • Create a flat surface: When working with round foods like onions or potatoes, cut them in half first, lay the flat side down, then continue cutting

Practice these kitchen knife basics and enjoy creating delicious meals!


This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.