Knife Skills

Great knife skills are every cook’s secret weapon for efficiency, safety, and speed in the kitchen.

Whether you’re chopping up a cucumber to dip in ranch dressing or slicing zucchini for homemade ratatouille, every cook (whether beginner or experienced!) needs a good set of knife skills.

We’ll walk you through all of the basics – from the tools, you need to the types of cuts you’ll master.

By the time you finish this article, you’ll be on your way to mastering knife skills in the kitchen!

The Importance of Knife Skills

In addition to looking like a pro, having great knife skills can also have quite a few practical benefits in the kitchen.

First and foremost, it’s a great way to ensure that your food is always cooked thoroughly and evenly. When you can wield a knife with confidence and ease, you’re able to chop, dice, cube and mince ingredients to a uniform size. This guarantees all of your ingredients will be cooked to the exact same point at any given time.

Proper knife skills also provide a bit of safety in the kitchen. The more you understand how to prepare your workspace, choose a proper knife and take care of your knives, the less likely you are to hurt yourself or others.

And don’t forget about the presentation! When you’re knife skills are well-polished you can create dishes that look just as good as they taste.

Almond-Ricotta Lasagna | Nutrition Stripped

Step One: Know Your Knives

Choosing the right knife for the task at hand can make all the difference.

Chef’s Knife

First up we have the chef’s knife. Think of this as your best friend in the kitchen! It’s probably the most versatile knife you’ll ever have. It’s the big professional-looking one that may be a bit intimidating the first time you reach for it.

The blade is generally about 8 inches long, but you can always go a bit bigger or smaller if that feels better in your hand. Whatever works best for you!

You’ll use your chef’s knife for almost everything. From chopping fruits and vegetables to cutting meat and slicing herbs, this knife does it all.

Serrated Knife

Next we have the serrated knife. This one is long and skinny with a uniform width and serrated edge.

Serrated knives are ideal for cutting through food items with a tough exterior and soft interior. Traditionally, they’re well known for their great performance on loaves of bread.

One of my favorite ways to use a serrated knife is actually on tomatoes! It helps grip the surface and create a clean cut without squishing the tomato or slipping off of it.

Paring Knife

The last knife you’ll realistically reach for most will be your paring knife. This is the teeny tiny one in your knife set.

Your pairing knife is great for small jobs – think peeling potatoes, deveining shrimp, etc. Essentially whenever you’re in a situation where a long blade will just get in the way, you want to reach for your pairing knife instead.

Sharp Knives Are Safe Knives

I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you this, but better safe than sorry; dull knives are dangerous knives. When the knife is dull, the chances of it slipping and causing an accident is significantly higher.

You can keep your knives sharp by sending them out to a knife sharpener like Knife Aide once or twice a year!

Step Two: Prepare Your Workspace

Preparing your workspace is vital! Before we get to the nitty-gritty of knife skills, you want to make sure your cutting board is all set, your tools are in place and you have plenty of room to work your magic.

Choose Your Cutting Board Wisely

You first want to make sure you have the right cutting board. If you’re someone who prepares animal or fish items regularly, it can be a good idea to differentiate which cutting board is meant for what. For example, in my kitchen the white cutting board is for animal protein, the green one is for fish and the wooden one is for plant products.

Raw meat, poultry, and seafood can spread bacteria even after it has been washed. Maintaining separate cutting boards can help keep things clean and prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen!

Stabilize Your Cutting Board

Once you’ve selected your cutting board, you want to make sure it’s stable. Kitchen countertops can be smooth and slippery, which isn’t exactly ideal when working with a sharp knife.

To help keep your cutting board in place, you can place a silicon mat, damp cloth or paper towel under the board. Some cutting boards come with little rubber feet or rubber handles that can help with this too.

Just be sure your board stays in place as you start to cut, chop, dice and mince!

Make Some Room

As obvious as it may sound, make some elbow room! When you have a sharp knife in your hand you want to make sure your elbows and arms won’t be bumping into things as you’re trying to work.

The more room and less clutter, the better.

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Step Three: Knife-Wielding

It’s finally time to pick up your knife!

First and foremost, your knife skills are only as good as your grip on the knife. There are quite a few wrong ways to hold a knife that are pretty common and a few right ways you can test out as well.

Holding the knife properly allows for minimal hand strain, safety, and efficiency. Give this video by LeCordon Bleu a watch to determine whether or not you’re gripping your knife correctly and how you can adjust it if need be.

As you practice using your knife, just remember to go slow and take your time. Think about gliding the knife through the food item as opposed to slamming it down like an ax or hammer.

Speed will come with time and practice, just take your time at first.

Step Four: Different Types of Cuts

Now that we know how to hold the knife, let’s chat about the different ways to use it.

You’ll use some of these methods a whole lot more than others, but these are probably the most common cuts referenced in recipes.


A slice is just about as straightforward as it gets. You’re simply making even-width strokes with the knife to create slices of a food item. You can slice fruit, vegetables, and even bread.


When a recipe calls for a chopped ingredient, it’s essentially giving you the go-ahead to be a little rough around the edges.

No need for perfectly sized items or perfectly smooth cuts, the goal is really to just get the food item into smaller, more manageable pieces that resemble one another.


On the other hand, when a recipe calls for a diced item, it’s looking for uniformly cubed pieces. Picture the tomato pieces in a salsa – small cubes all resembling the same size!

If we get really technical there are actually different sizes of a dice – small, medium and large. But since we’re not professionals here we don’t need to worry too much about the exact size, just aim for cubes that are all the same size.


When you see mince, think super small! Mincing is often called for when preparing garlic. When you mince an ingredient you’re cutting it into extremely small, fine pieces.

You can do it with a chef’s knife, but sometimes recipes will even require a food processor to do the job for you.


A julienne cut is one that essentially resembles a matchstick. It’s a French knife technique where you cut the vegetable into long, thin strips. Carrots, celery, and potatoes are often julienned!

Cilantro Lime Southwest Salad | Nutrition Stripped

NS Recommends

Now that you know all the ins and outs of basic knife skills, it’s time to get you ready for the kitchen! Here are some of our favorite kitchen tools to use when you’re practicing your knife skills:

  • Our favorite chef’s knife
  • This silicone baking mat is great for stabilizing your cutting boards
  • Glass storage containers for all of your leftovers

Recipes To Try

Now that you’ve got the basics down pat, here are some recipes you can use to test out your skills and get some inspiration!

  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Bahn Mi Tofu Tacos
  • Beauty Bowl With Turmeric Eggs

Connect With Us

Show us your cooking skills on Instagram!

The next time you make a delicious dish with your new knife skills, share it with us. You can show us by tagging us on Instagram with @nutritionstrippederica and @nutritionstripped or you can share it with the Nutrition Stripped community by tagging #nutritionstripped or #nswellnesscoaching.

We can’t wait to see your amazing work!

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