A chef’s knife is an all-purpose kitchen tool. A talented chef can use this blade to accomplish just about any task in the kitchen. Of course, he or she will prefer to have a filet knife or paring knife, if necessary and available, but it can be done with a chef’s knife. This handy tool is also known as a French knife, and using it safely is as important is learning to use it properly.
The first thing to learn about using a chef’s knife safely is how to hold it. A novice is going to be tempted to grasp it by the handle alone. This gives the cook absolutely no control over the blade of the knife. The handle is there so it can be held without grasping a blade. It is not there to be the sole method of control. Pinch the metal part of the knife that enters the handle between the pad of the thumb and the forefinger. The blunt top edge of the metal should press along the inside edge of the second knuckle of your forefinger. Your pointer finger should point down from there or be curled back toward the handle. The palm of your hand should be along the top of the handle. Wrap the three remaining fingers of your dominant hand (the one you use to chop things) around the blade.
The second thing to learn about safety and control over a chef’s knife is where to put your other hand when using the knife. This is easy. It is going to hold the food. You are going to have to learn to grasp with that hand while protecting it from the blade. That means holding food in a manner that keeps your fingers tucked away from the blade. A popular way to do this is to bend the fingers, curling the tips inward toward the palm and using the flat edge between the second and third knuckles of the fingers or one of the knuckles of the middle finger to guide the knife’s blade. Make sure to keep the thumb tucked out of the way or use it to guide the food from the back, being careful not to push so far that it comes under the blade.
Remember that which part of the blade you use on what kind of food will dictate how much it slips and slides. You will also need to learn the resistance of certain foods. For example, a pepper’s skin is slippery and tough. It is best to break it open and chop from the inside to prevent slipping. These little tricks and some food expertise will help you keep your fingers safe from the blade of your chef’s knife. Another option is to wear a cutting glove, if you are clumsy.