Now that you’ve learned your knife grips, you’ll want to know how to cut fruits and veggies. There are four key components to cutting foods safely:
- Make sure your cutting board won’t slip.
- Use the “claw grip" on the thing you're cutting.
- Stabilize your food while cutting.
- Keep your knives sharp.
Let's take a look at each one.
1. Keep Your Cutting Board From Slipping
First, you want to make sure your cutting board isn’t going anywhere. We do not want the cutting board doing the tango while you’re chopping veggies—it will just create an unstable surface for chopping, which could potentially lead to accidents.
Some cutting boards have little rubber feet on the bottom, which is awesome and generally helpful. Many of them, however, don’t. If you’ve got a cutting board without rubber feet on top of a slippery countertop surface, you might want to call in for reinforcements.
Here’s what to do: Put a damp kitchen towel or a rubber mat underneath your cutting board. This will keep it from slipping.
2. The Claw Grip
The most common technique used to stabilize your ingredients while cutting and to protect your fingers is what’s referred to as the “claw grip.”
Take the fingers of your non-dominant, or guiding, hand and make a claw out of them. Then press your fingertips (and the tips of your fingernails to some extent) into the food itself—like this onion here.
This holds the food stable and also protects your fingers in case the knife slips. Super important!
As the pieces of food become smaller—say, if you are dicing onions—it becomes increasingly important to curl or tuck those fingertips safely under and away as you grip the food. Incidentally, it also helps you grip what remains of your incredibly shrinking onion as you cut it.
3. Put the Cut Side Down
In addition to using the “claw grip,” it’s also important to make sure that the food is stable—you want to create food with a flat surface to place face down onto the cutting board so it doesn’t rock or slip while you’re cutting. (So, not only do you not want the cutting board doing the tango, you don’t want the food dancing around, either.)
Think about an onion. So many recipes start with onions. An onion is round, which makes it hard to cut. No one wants to fight with an onion!
So it is super helpful to cut the onion in half and place the cut side down before chopping it into pieces. From that point forward, it becomes a much easier veggie to deal with.
With almost all fruit and vegetables, as long as you use the claw grip and think about creating a stable cutting surface, you’ll be fine. (Proper gripping and chopping can’t help you with the crying-while-chopping-an-onion problem, though...)
4. Keep Your Knives Sharp!
If you’re working too hard to slice up that potato, maybe your knife needs to be sharpened! A sharp knife will cut through your ingredients easily and without damaging them—or yourself.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not if you really think about it. A dull knife is more dangerous in the kitchen than a sharp one because it requires you to apply more pressure, which increases the likelihood that it will slip, you’ll lose your grip, and you'll cut yourself. A properly sharpened knife doesn’t have to work hard at all, which means that when it comes into contact with the ingredient, it will do its job with ease.
We recommend taking your knives to a professional sharpener for the job—it will make a big difference. Do this at least every six months, or more often if you notice you’re having difficulty cutting.
Like the onion, you should definitely not have to fight with your knives in the kitchen to get them to work. And you should not have to apply much effort to get the knife to do what you want it to—cut.
Practice Your Knife Skills With these Recipes!
Be forewarned: lots of chopping ahead...
- French Onion Soup
- Roasted Root Vegetables with Tomatoes and Kale
- Caramelized Onion Dip
- Sweet Potato and Yukon Gold Bake