You are holding your chef’s knife wrong If you use a handle or a fingertip grip. That is one of the most heard phrases when we get a new apprentice at the restaurant. But are they holding the knife wrong? That is what you will find out in this article.
Before we jump into the gripping styles I want you to know that safety is your primary objective when we hold a knife. To be as safe as possible, you need a knife that is comfortable, well balanced, and will assist you with your cutting style. And in my case, it is the forward chopping motion (Pinch Grip at the blade/bolster) and slicing motion toward myself (Fingertip Grip with the index finger on the spine of the blade). You need to know why a certain gripping style is recommended over the others. But always use a claw grip when you slice or chop your food to protect your fingers when you accidentally slip with your knife.
Pinch grip at the blade/bolster/cap
The pinch grip at the blade or bolster is the most recommended gripping style because you will have a more sturdy and stable control over the blade. The blade will not move in all directions and therefore you are less likely to cut yourself. The handle and the fingertip grip will give you the opposite effect. The blade will wobble left to right a lot especially if you increase your cutting speed.
The handle grip
The handle grip is not a natural position for many cooks at the restaurant. However, the home cooks will naturally hold the knife at the handle since that is the most logical for them. With the handle grip, you will have less control over your blade and if you try to cut faster the blade will move sideways.
However, most knife brands that focus on home cooks will emphasize the handle design since they cut a lot slower and use a shorter knife length to compensate for the instability during use.
Like the handle grip, the fingertip grip is not stable since nothing supports the blade. In addition to the unstable knife, you will also strain your finger if you are going to cut a lot of dense food like potatoes or carrots.
However, a lot of sushi chefs will use the fingertip grip all the time but that is mainly to do with the cutting motion, knife style, and the type of food they are prepping which is softer and less dense.
The Chef’s knife or a Gyuto is one of the most versatile knives. You can rock chop with it on things like herbs, you can rock slice on things like bell peppers, and you can trim or slice things off with the tip without feeling any drag or food sticking to the blade because of the narrower front. But with the versatility, you need to have a comfortable grip that accommodates all the slicing or chopping motion. And that is why the chefs at the restaurant recommend the pinch grip at the blade or near the bolster since it is sturdier, more stable, and therefore safer. Especially if you increase your cutting speed.
Speed & Length
The biggest problem with gripping the knife at the handle is speed. The faster you try to cut your food the less stable your blade will be. However, if you slow down your cutting speed the knife is easier to be controlled.
The same comes with the knife length, the longer the knife the harder it is to get more control over the blade with a handle grip.
Knife style & different grips
Of course with each knife style, comes a different gripping style. For example, a Yanagiba is mainly used to slice through softer less dense food and the main purpose is to use long strokes to slice through fish or other less dense food. A pinch grip is not going to work since there is not much to grab onto at the blade and therefore you see sushi chefs using a fingertip grip with this type of knife.
They focus more on precision and precise cut than speed.
The same can be said for a petty knife which is used for delicate slicing work or on smaller produce. It is not designed for hard dense food or food that is bigger than the knife.
And a paring knife is used off the cutting board which also requires a different grip.
What grip should you use?
While I recommend the pinch grip at the blade or bolster, don’t be afraid to change the gripping style that accommodates you with your cutting task.
My primary gripping style will be a pinch grip at the blade or bolster, but I will change to a fingertip grip dependent on what I slice and what cutting motion I use. Dependent on what and how I slice, I will adjust my speed and grip accordingly.
One of the reasons why I pinch a certain knife at the neck or bolster is because of the point of balance. The knife will neither be front nor handle heavy and therefore giving me total control over the blade.
If the knife handles heavy it will resist my primary cutting motion constantly since it is not balanced for my preferred gripping point.
As long as you know why a certain grip is recommended, then there is no right or wrong.
Home Cooks gripping Style?
If you are a person who always used a handle grip, I suggest that you consider a few things. Do you need the speed? If you need the speed then I highly recommend a pinch grip.
But this also means that the knife design should accommodate this kind of gripping style. Since a lot of knives that are made for home cooks are designed to accommodate a gripping style at the handle. You should do what is the most comfortable for you with your cutting motion, speed, and knife design but always keep safety in mind.
I hope that you understand why the pinch grip at the blade or bolster is recommended and why it is not wrong if you deviate from it as long as you understand the why.
The handle grip knows many variations. You have the pinch grip at the handle, the grip with the thumb on top, the knife balancing on the index finger, and more.
Tell me what you are using and why in the comment section and feel free to ask me any questions.
🛒S H O P:
All knives used in this article:
German Made Knife:
🔪Henckels Zwilling Pro
🔪 Victorinox Paring Knife
Western Knife Style made in China:
🔨Japanese Blacksmith/Artisan Knife:
🔪Makoto Kurosaki, Gyuto Kurouchi – 240mm – Shirogami White #2
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