Getting The Knife Grip Right

Today I thought I’d take us back to the basics a little bit. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how important proper knife handling is - for control and, yeah, for keeping all your fingers where they belong. So I'm going to get you away from that grabbing the handle thing you are doing and onto the proper grip that will give you more control, power, and safety.

In general, there are basically two grips that get used - a handle (or hammer) grip and a blade (or pinch) grip. The handle grip is used by most beginner cooks. It’s exactly what you would expect to to be. You grip the handle of the knife with your hand completely behind the bolster (you know, that part of the knife where the blade’s metal flares out to meet the handle). This grip is easy, comfortable, and natural enough; but it gives you more limited control as you try to cut more precisely. All the movement comes from your wrist, so you lose some of your control when you cut. Are you holding your knives this way? Or perhaps (gasp!) your index finger is finding it’s way up the spine of the knife as you grip the handle. Boy, that poor finger will get super-tired super-fast!

The Handle (or Hammer) Grip

The Handle (or Hammer) Grip

The grip you should try to master is the blade or pinch grip. It allows for so much more control. Your fingers can help move the blade a little as needed. It gives you tons of control over your knife. The blade really does feel like an extension of your hand. Does it feel natural? Well, to be honest…I didn’t think so at first. Touching the blade with my fingers? Yikes! Are you nuts? I tried it and it felt like my fingers were rubbing against the bolster a lot making it uncomfortable. But with more and more practice (and a bit of correction from more experienced cooks and kitchen store experts) I started to see what people were talking about. Once I found the right positioning I DID feel much more in control of my knife. It felt very strong.

The Pinch Grip (front view)

The Pinch Grip (front view)

The pinch grip is actually fairly easy. To me the pinch grip wasn't hard to actually do; the key was just getting used to how the knife felt in a new position in my hand. Here’s a quick-and-dirty way to master the pinch grip. Hold the handle of the knife in your hand, with your middle finger tucked against the finger-guard. Kind of curl your finger around the handle up against the bolster. Then “pinch” the heel of the blade with your thumb on one side, and the index finger curled up on the other. Grip the knife firmly, but gently. Yup, you got it. You are basically pinching the blade with your index finger and thumb while the handle sits comfortably in the palm of your hand. But don’t grip TOO tightly with those other fingers. The handle should be resting on them, not being held tightly by them. This might seem a little counter-intuitive; a lighter grip should mean LESS control, right? Nope. So much of the power and control in this grip comes from the pinching fingers not the fingers around the handle. I think THAT us what made this grip harder for me at first. I wanted to just grab the handle tightly.

The Pinch Grip (rear view)

The Pinch Grip (rear view)

Will it feel a little awkward at first? Probably. I know it did for me. Will it get easier? Yes, and soon you’ll get the feel of it - and won't want to go back. You'll realize what a big improvement it is over the handle grip.

Go ahead and try it. Practice it. Pick up the knife and practice getting it into the right position in your hand. Practice chopping with it - slowly at first. As you get more comfortable go ahead and speed up. Before you know it you'll be back to your old speed again - only this time with the right grip with great control and feel. Check back and let me know how it's going. Happy chopping!


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