Chopping foods is a basic skill that every cook needs to master. Knowledge, practice and the right knife will turn you from Jack the Ripper to a knife skills ninja.
Step 1: Choose the right knife
All chefs know that the right tool can make a chore almost effortless. There are three types of knives that are used most often for chopping.
- A chef’s knife can be used for most chopping jobs.
- A Santoku knife is thinner and lighter than a chef’s knife. It works well when chopping vegetables and fruit.
- A serrated utility knife is not often used for chopping but is invaluable when chopping a block of chocolate for desserts.
Choose a knife that is well balanced and fits comfortably in your hand. When you hold the knife it should not tip forward or feel heavy on the handle end.
An eight inch blade is the size chosen most often. Six inch blades are too small for some jobs and ten inch blades can be difficult for the novice to maneuver.
Step 2: Keep it sharp
A knife with a dull blade is dangerous. It can slip while you are chopping and slice your finger before you realize what is happening. Keep your knife blade sharp and in good condition. Always wash the knife by hand and dry it well before placing it back in a knife block. If the blade gets chipped, bent or damaged in some other way be sure to replace it rather than using it again and risk being injured.
Step 3: Control the knife
Pick up the knife firmly by the handle and hold it securely at the base of the blade with your thumb on one side and your index finger, slightly bent, on the other. This gives you the most control.
Step 4: Hold the ingredients
Always steady your ingredients with your free hand as you chop. Be sure to hold the food with your knuckles facing upward and your fingertips curled under. As you chop move the flat of the knife blade down, using your knuckles as a guide. Keep moving your fingers back as you chop.
If you are doing a rough chop, one where the sizes do not have to be exactly the same, you can use your free hand to stabilize your knife by placing the palm of your hand on the top of the knife as you chop.
Step 5: Quality not speed
While many professional chefs wield the knife so fast that it becomes a blur, most home cooks will not achieve that level of skill. Concentrate on creating uniform sizes as you chop no matter how long it takes. Keep the tip of the knife on your chopping board and raise the rest of the blade up to the height of your first knuckle before bringing it down in a smooth, rocking motion.