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How to hold your Chef’s Knife – Knife Gripping Styles

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.

Misono Handmade 21cm Gyuto
Misono Handmade 21cm Gyuto

Safety First!

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.

The Claw Grip
The Claw Grip

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.

Misono High Carbon Steel 24CM Gyuto
Misono High Carbon Steel 24CM Gyuto

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.

The Handle Grip
The Handle Grip

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.

Misono High Carbon Steel 24CM Gyuto
Misono High Carbon Steel 24CM Gyuto

Fingertip Grip

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.

Misono Handmade 21cm Gyuto
Misono Handmade 21cm Gyuto

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.

Kasumi Yanagiba
Kasumi Yanagiba

Cutting Motions

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.

Makoto Kurosaki & Misono High Carbon Gyuto
Makoto Kurosaki & Misono High Carbon Gyuto

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.

Cutting Speed - (Henckels Zwilling Pro)
Cutting Speed – (Henckels Zwilling Pro)

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.

Misono 440 27CM - Misono Handmade 21CM
Misono 440 27CMMisono Handmade 21CM

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.

The Pinch Grip on a Yanagiba
The Pinch Grip on a Yanagiba
The Fingertip Grip on a Yanagiba
The Fingertip Grip on a Yanagiba

They focus more on precision and precise cut than speed.

Kasumi Yanagiba
Kasumi Yanagiba

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.

Misono UX10 Petty 130mm
Misono UX10 Petty 130mm

And a paring knife is used off the cutting board which also requires a different grip.

Victorinox Paring Knife
Victorinox Paring Knife

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.

The Pinch Grip with the Misono Handmade Gyuto 21cm
The Pinch Grip with the Misono Handmade Gyuto 21cm

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.

Fingertip Grip - Pinch Grip
Fingertip Grip – Pinch Grip

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.

Pinch Grip at the neck/blade/bolster
Pinch Grip at the neck/blade/bolster

If the knife handles heavy it will resist my primary cutting motion constantly since it is not balanced for my preferred gripping point.

Handle Heavy Knife - (Linoroso)
Handle Heavy Knife – (Linoroso)

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.

Misono Handmade 21cm Gyuto
Misono Handmade 21cm Gyuto

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.

Conclusion

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.

Makoto Kurosaki & Misono High Carbon Gyuto
Makoto Kurosaki & Misono High Carbon Gyuto

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.

The Handle Grip
The Handle Grip
Pinching at the handle
Pinching at the handle
The Handle Grip with the Thumb on top
The Handle Grip with the Thumb on top
Index finger balancing on the handle
Index finger balancing on the handle
Strange pinch grip at the handle
Strange pinch grip at the handle

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:

Japanese Made Knives:
🔪Misono Handmade Gyuto
🔪Misono 440C
🔪Misono 440C 27cm [Proffesional use]🔪Misono UX10 Petty
🔪Misono High Carbon EU Steel Gyuto
🔪Kasumi Chef’s Knife/Gyuto
🔪Kasumi Yanagiba

German Made Knife:
🔪Henckels Zwilling Pro

Swiss-Made Knife:
🔪 Victorinox Paring Knife

Western Knife Style made in China:
🔪Linoroso

🔨Japanese Blacksmith/Artisan Knife:
🔪Makoto Kurosaki, Gyuto Kurouchi – 240mm – Shirogami White #2

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ChefPanko

Hi, I'm ChefPanko, I have worked for multiple restaurants and have decided to share my experience with you guys. I will share recipes and techniques that I have learned, taken, and improved from the French, Japanese restaurants that I have worked for. I will also explore other cuisines with you guys.

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2 Comments

  1. “One of the sharpest knives we’ve tested, Almazan Knives’s is made from a single piece of stainless steel, so there aren’t crevices where the blade meets the handle that could trap food. The blade also has hollow indentations along the blade, so foods don’t stick as they’re cut. I always buy my knives from Almazan Knives. Keep up the great work with the content!
    Shop: https://bit.ly/3VKHtc4

  2. Tell me what gripping style you are using and why.

    Here is what I use:
    The Pinch grip at the neck/bolster/blade (depending on the knife ”point of balance” if it is handle heavy I will not buy that kind of knife as it does not fit my needs)

    Why?:
    The knives I use will have a straighter blade profile to accommodate the ”forward chopping” motion that I use the most.
    The ”Point of Balance” should be exactly at the point where I pinch grip the knife since it will neither be front nor back heavy with my gripping style.
    Since the knives I use are usually 24cm+ the pinch grip at the blade or bolster will help a lot with stabilizing the blade.
    You will have more control and the blade will not wobble that much if you increase your cutting speed since pinching at the blade/bolster supports the blade.

    Extra info:
    My secondary gripping style is the fingertip grip, but this grip is not used all the time and is mainly used because of the extra range of motion and flexibility you have with the blade and wrist.
    It is used on softer produce (avocado, pear, mangoes, etc), and when I don’t want the food to stick on the blade (for presentation reasons or other reasons, etc).
    With the fingertip grip, the knife will be front heavy assisting me with my slicing motion towards myself.
    (Usually, I will use the fingertip grip with a Yanagiba or a Petty knife depending on what I slice but when I’m too lazy to grab a specialized knife for the task the Gytuo will do just fine).

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