Chopping, slicing and dicing, and knowing what knife to use for what fruit or vegetable. And you only need 3 knives to do all those chore with. That wraps up knife skills 101.
Let me back up for a second.
What knife do you need?
You know all those knife blocks people have taking up space on their kitchen counter. Skip the knife block. First of all, too many knives make food prep confusing. Not to mention they’re expensive. And we won’t even discuss all the room that block takes up on your counter.
And the magic number of knives to have for food prep–drum roll—THREE! That’s three (3)!And you need a handheld knife sharpener to keep them sharp between professional sharpening. I do that once a year (or at least try to).
As an FYI–dull knives cause more accidents than a sharp ones. Too much forcing of the knife to cut makes the food wiggle around on your cutting board. The knife can slip and you’re in trouble.
Back to those 3 knives:
Chef’s knife, usually 8-inch, “the workhorse” that can be used for everything on the cutting board
Serrated knife used to slice bread and tomatoes
Paring knife is used for everything off the cutting board
How to Select the Chef’s Knife
When it comes to knife skills, the chef’s knife is your workhorse. Many people believe you should get the best chef’s knife you can afford. But I honestly think you should get the one you can keep sharp and feels good in your hand.
Some of the inexpensive knives I have worked with operate just fine.
Depending on your hand size, or even personal preference, a 5-or 6-inch chef’s knife may be best for you. Most chefs perfect an 8-inch chef’s knife. The longer the knife, the more food you can chop at one time.
The brand you choose should be based on how it feels in your hand. Some like a lighter weight knife, and then there’s me, who likes a knife that feels heavy in my hand. It’s personal preference.
If you get a chance to visit a kitchen store–Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrell, or Sur la Table–they will let you try them out.
One inexpensive brand many prefer to use is the Victorinox Fibrox Chefs Knife
It costs around $40 or so. I have a 10-inch Victorinox that I use to cut large items (watermelon). I have to admit, it does a great job.
My personal favorite was a gift. It’s a Wusthof Classic 8-inch Chef’s Knife, currently priced at $120. Yes, pricey, but I’ve had it for MANY years. And it still sharpens as good as new.
There are so many great brands out there. Check them out for yourself.
My favorite sharpener
It doesn’t matter how great your knife is, if it’s not sharp it can’t do the job efficiently.
So remember, it’s super important to keep your knives extra sharp.
This handy sharpener does a great job. I use it ever time I use my knife. Run it across your knife 4-5 times and you’re golden. It’s the best $10 you’ll spend on a kitchen gadget. Accu Sharp Knife Sharpener
Learning to use your knife
1. Before starting, create a flat surface.
That means, cutting a small mount off the vegetable or fruit. Why? You don’t want anything wobbling around on the board. More accidents happen that way. So, provide the necessary stability.
Place damp towel/paper towel under cutting board for stability
2. How to Hold a Knife
With your thumb and first finger (index finger), PINCH the blade of your knife where it runs into the handle.
Wrap your other three fingers around the handle. Leave your thumb and index finger gripping the heel of the blade.
Always remember to begin the project by making a flat surface out of what you’re cutting—fruit or vegetable—so it doesn’t roll around on the cutting board
3. Cutting Vegetables
What you need: Onion, cutting board, and 8-inch chef’s knife
- Using a sharp 8-inch chef’s knife. Cut about ½-inch of the top of the onion off (stem end). Turn the onion to rest on this flat end and slice in half vertically right through the middle of the root.
Tip: If you’re only using half of the onion, leave the skin on (it will last longer with the skin on) and wrap what you’re not using in plastic wrap.
- Peel off the papery layers. Remove and discard the skin.
- With the flat side of the onion on the cutting board, begin slicing vertically through the onion but do not slice through the root. Leave about ½ inch near root. Follow the natural lines of the onion. Discard the root end and repeat with the remaining half of the onion.
Tip: The closer together the initial horizontal and vertical cuts are, the smaller the dice.
What you need: Celery, cutting board, and 8-inch chef’s knife
- To dice it, first rinse the stalks well, especially between the bottoms. Cut off and discard the flared out white bottom end.
- Cut the stalk into even sections, about two to three pieces.
- Cut the sections into lengthwise strips. Make the strips narrow for a small dice, and wide for a large dice.
- Hold the strips together and slice across the strips to dice.
What you need: Carrot, cutting board, and 8-inch chef’s knife
- Scrub or peel carrots.
- Cut off ends of the carrot.
- Cut carrot in half widthwise.
- Cut in half lengthwise and then into long sticks/strips. If you want them julienned, cut strips very thin.
- To chop, stack sticks/strips together, and chop across to get a dice.
What you need: Green pepper, cutting board, and 8-inch chef’s knife
- Cut stem of pepper off.
- Place pepper on the cutting board, “stem” down.
- Starting at the top of the pepper, place knife at top.
- Holding knife at a slight angle, begin slicing the pepper down around the inside seeds.
- Do this all the way around. You will be left with the middle intact. Simply throw this part away.
- To julienne, flatten the pepper, shiny skin side down, and start cutting by lifting the knife up and down.
To dice—Hold pepper slices together with your hand and start cutting across to create a dice.
4. Cutting Fruit
What you need: Tomato, cutting board, and 8-inch chef’s knife
- Pull stem off the tomato.
- Slice small slice off bottom of tomato to create a flat surface
- Place tomato on the cutting board, stem side down.
- Slice tomato vertically down toward the stem but not through to the bottom of tomato, 1/4-inch slices
- Rotate tomato and slice the same way on the other side, down toward stem but not through the bottom.
- Turn tomato on one side. Holding the tomato intact, begin to slice down. This will create a diced tomato.
What you need: Kiwi, cutting board, and 8-inch chef’s knife or paring knife
- Cut off bottom end of kiwi.
- Slice end with wooden with stem halfway and twist to remove.
- Place end on cutting board and begin to slice vertically to remove skin.
- Slice into half and then half again (quarters)
- To dice, cut in half and then in quarters and the slice again.
- Holding kiwi slices together, cut across to dice.
What you need: Pineapple, cutting board, 8-inch chef’s knife and paring knife.
Place the pineapple on its side on a cutting board. With a sharp chef’s knife, slice off the top green crown and about a half inch of the top of the pineapple. Also, cut off the bottom for a flat surface.
- Stand the pineapple upright on the cutting board.
- Use a sharp knife to cut away the skin, from top to bottom. Follow the contours of the pineapple.
- Now the eyes must be removed. Using a small paring knife, carefully carve out each one. Or notice the eyes appear to line up diagonally. You can cut across diagonally, V-shaped trench. Wastes more but takes less time.
- Removing the core—Starting at the top, cut in half. Then half again and again (so you have long slices).
- Turn each slice on side and cut away the core.
What you need: Avocado, cutting board, tablespoon, and 8-inch chef’s knife
- Place avocado in towel-lined hand.
- Cut avocado in half lengthwise using a chef’s knife.
- Twist avocado halves to separate.
- Holding the half with the pit in a towel-lined hand, tap blade of knife into the pit and twist knife. Pit should come out. To get pit off knife, grab with a towel and pull it off.
- To remove flesh, cut slices in each half being careful not to cut through the outer skin.
- You can also use spoon to remove flesh in one piece and slice afterwards.
What you need: Cantaloupe, cutting board, large spoon, and 8-inch chef’s knife
- Slice bottom and top for flat surface.
- Slice peel, top to bottom.
- Cut in half lengthwise
- Using large spoon, remove seeds
- Place a half, flat side down, on cutting board.
- Slice into fruit on a slight angle into slices
- Keeping halves intact with your hand, turn halves, cut into chunks.