Cooking largely revolves around knife-work. Hence, it’s important to truly understand how to use a knife. Whilst learning the different types of cuts will enhance your skills as a chef, first, it’s fundamental to develop a thorough understanding of proper knife safety.
Below, we’ve shared the guiding principles that when followed, will ensure that your knife is being used with care. Safe knife handling will create a safe environment for you, and everyone around you in the kitchen.
Read on to learn more.
First and foremost, ensure that your knife blade is always in tip top condition, i.e. sharp. Blunt knives require their users to apply more pressure when cutting. In turn, the risk of a slip or having to cut at an awkward angle increases. You’re only as good as your tools, and a sharp knife is necessary to cut with precision and minimize the above mentioned risks. Keeping your knife sharp requires dedication and consistency, but it’s unequivocally worth it.
Know Your Knives
Different ingredients and desired end results require different knives. For instance, whilst paring knives are well suited to most fruits and soft vegetables, they don’t fare well with harder foods, such as tough meat cuts and potatoes. With the latter, its user will be required to apply extra pressure when making the cut, therefore increasing the likelihood of unsafe slips occurring.
Stable Surfaces Only
Uneven and loose cutting surfaces make for considerable danger zones. Ensure that your work surface is steady and unmovable, either by default or failing that, via the use of a non-slip pad. Only then can you be sure that you won’t lose control of your knife, and that you’ll be able to make the cut in the direction you intend to. Wobbly boards pose a substantial threat, and exist as one of the major sources of injury in the kitchen.
Chefs employ several types of knife cuts, depending on what they're aiming to create and which ingredients they're working with. However, whether a general slice, chop, or julienne cut is on the cards, remember that the cutting motion should always be directed away from yourself and others.
Let It Fall
As the saying goes, “never catch a falling knife.” If you accidentally drop a knife or it falls off the chopping board, under no circumstances should you attempt to catch it. If you do, you run a tremendously high risk of cutting yourself. Yes, you’ll need to wash the knife but it’s better than procuring a nasty hand injury.
Put The Knife Down
This is a fairly obvious one. Waving a knife around in the air is an obvious danger. If you need to point to something, don’t point with your knife. If you’re excited and can’t contain your joy, put your knife down before you start dancing and waving your hands around. If you generally speak in an animated way, hands and all, keep your knife down. Simple.
Keep The Knife Visible
Ensure that any knives out of their usual storage area are visible to all. Be careful not to cover them with a dish cloth, plate, or anything else for that matter. Be aware of how many knives you have out, and know where they are at all times. Only then can you be sure that nobody, not yourself or anyone around you, will rest their hand down on a surface or pick up a cloth, only to unexpectedly cut themselves due to an inconspicuous knife.
Cut With Your Dominant Hand
This one’s a given. Not many of us are ambidextrous. Most of us have a dominant hand, and it’s that very hand that we should use when making knife strokes. That way, our cuts will be more precise and stable, and the risk of potential injury will considerably diminish.
Keep A Safe Space
Just as important as your stable cutting surface, is that the floor around you is clear of hazards. That means clearing up any spillages and removing any potential hazards. The less clutter and slippery surfaces surrounding you, the less likely you are to slip or trip with your knife in hand.
Take Your Time
Finally, take your time. Whether in the movies, at home, or in restaurants, we’re accustomed to seeing professional chef’s use their knives with immense speed. It’s efficient, but although they make it look effortless, such cuts are much harder to do than they appear. So if you have a new knife, or you’re simply not adept at cutting quickly, there’s no harm in taking your time. This way, you’ll be able to maintain full control over your work station, and don’t worry, you’ll be able to achieve the same quality cuts as the chefs you aspire to. It may just take you a little longer.
Using a knife is an exact science. We keep them sharp so that we can create the best possible dishes, but it’s this very sharpness that poses a significant risk to injury too. That’s why it’s so important to put the above principles of knife safety into practice every time you use one. Taking care reduces the risk of mistakes, and thus, injuries to not just you, but those around you too.