Knife Skills

  1. First things first! Place a wet rag underneath a large plastic or wooden cutting board so it won’t move around.
  2. Make sure that there are no small kids, pets, or crazy roommates running around. They will take your attention away from the knife, and you might cut yourself.
  3. Always use a sharp, clean knife.
  4. Use the proper knife for the job. Do not use a cleaver for detail work or a paring knife to carve a turkey. Most work can be done with a 6-8 inch chef’s knife.
  5. Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger, and then grip the handle firmly. It should feel comfortable and have a nice weight to it. With your other hand, fold your fingertips under while holding onto the food. Your hand should look like a bear claw – GRRRR! It’s fun to say, and you won’t cut off any fingertips.
  6. Use cool and calm motions, concentrate on every cut, and always cut away from yourself and others.
  7. Never try to catch a falling knife. You will cut yourself!
  8. Keep knives away from young children. If young kids are cooking, use a plastic lettuce knife to cut soft foods (you can find one at or Bed Bath and Beyond).
  9. Do not throw knives into the bottom of a sink filled with soapsuds. People that reach their hand in the murky water could seriously hurt themselves. Wash knives by hand, dry, and put away immediately.
  10. Always store your knives in a safe place. The blades should be covered, and they should only be accessible to adults and trained young people.

When is a good time to teach knife skills to young people?

Young people in middle school, age 11-12, are at a great age to begin learning knife skills. This is a time when they are a bit more mature and independent, and they will want to cook snacks for themselves, siblings and friends. Practicing knife skills will reinforce what they learn in school cooking programs that begin around this age.

You can teach youngsters about knife skills by starting out with a plastic lettuce knife. It looks and feels like a metal-bladed knife, but it is safe for people of all ages to use.