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How to Use A Chef's Knife
This tutorial will cover the correct way to hold a chef's knife, and how to grip the food with your other hand to avoid cutting yourself. You may want to review The Anatomy of a Chef's Knife before getting started.
This photo illustrates the proper chef's knife grip as seen from the inside or thumb-side of the cutting hand. The thumb grips the knife around the top of the blade, with the hand wrapped around the bolster of the knife.
While beginners find that this takes some getting used... to, it definitely provides extra control over the blade.
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Proper Chef's Knife Grip - Outer View
Here we see the same grip from the opposite side. Note how the index finger is wrapped fully around the blade. The index finger and thumb should be opposite each other on either side of the blade while the remaining three fingers are sort of loosely curled around the handle.
Note that you should be gripping the knife mainly with the thumb and forefinger. If you find that you're tightly clutching the entire handle of the knife, just relax and loosen up. With practice, you'll get used to... this grip, and soon any other grip will feel very unnatural.
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Secure the Food With the Guiding Hand
Now that your knife hand knows what to do, we need to make sure your other hand does, too. Your non-knife hand is called your "guiding hand," and its job is to hold the food to keep it from sliding around on the cutting board. This puts it in a uniquely dangerous position. With the knife blade flying up and down, you need to keep those fingertips tucked safely away, while still being able to firmly hold the food.
The grip shown here is called the "claw grip" and as you can see,... by keeping the fingers curled inward and gripping the food with the fingernails, the fingers stay out of harm's way. The side of the knife blade actually rests against the first knuckle of the guiding hand, which helps keep the blade perpendicular to the cutting board.
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Alternate Claw Grip
In this modified version of the claw grip, the first knuckle of the guiding hand rests flat on the food product, with the fingers again curled inward safely. And this time the knife rests against the second knuckle rather than the first.
Each of these claw grips is acceptable, so use whichever one you feel comfortable with.
Whenever you're ready, check out this basic tutorial on How to Chop an Onion.