The 3 Most Important Kitchen Knife Skills Everyone Should Know

You might not think twice when using a kitchen knife to chop up some fruits or veggies for lunch — but you probably should. There's no question that knife blades can be pretty sharp, so knowing how to handle them properly is essential to keeping yourself safe as well as getting the most precise results when cutting. That said, we decided to turn to the professionals for some pointers on kitchen knife skills.

Having grown up in an Italian-American family that loved to cook, Frank Proto, Director of Culinary Operations at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), is no stranger to handling knives in the kitchen. Now that he has decades of experience under his belt, Chef Frank translates his admiration for cooking to teaching culinary classes at ICE. One of the most important things he teaches his students? The three most crucial kitchen knife skills everyone should know: how to hold a knife properly, how to avoid cutting your guiding hand, and how you should be standing.

How to stay safe while getting the most out of your knife

The way you hold a knife determines everything from how precise your cut will be to how safe your fingers will be, which is why Chef Frank emphasizes that using a "handshake grip" is the best way to work with a knife. A "handshake grip" is exactly what it sounds like, Chef Frank explains to Mashed. "You hold the knife as if you were giving someone a handshake."

Once you've got the grip down, the next skill everyone should know is how to avoid cutting your guiding hand. "The hand holding your food is your guiding hand. I teach my students a bearclaw grip that will help them guide their knives without cutting themselves," Chef Frank says. "To do this, curl your fingers and thumb inwards and hold the food item with the tips of your fingers, so your fingertips are tucked in. Your fingertips will be pointing away from the knife and as you're cutting food, the knife will glide along your knuckles, keeping your fingertips out of harm's way."

So, we've mastered the handshake grip, we're keeping our guiding hand safe — what else could there possibly be? As it turns out, your stance is really important. Chef Frank Proto's advice? "Don't hunch," he tells Mashed. "And keep your shoulders straight and your head down while cutting food."