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3 Knife Techniques Every Home Cook Needs to Know

knife techniques you should know

Aside from using a good quality, sharp knife, there are three main knife techniques you should know that will make cooking at home a breeze! You might not think it at first, but how you use your knife while cooking can significantly impact the overall cooking experience.

In all of my cooking classes, knife technique is one of my favorites to teach. It’s probably because I didn’t understand the difference it could make in the overall cooking process until culinary school. 

Over 200 hours of knife skills will make you appreciate these techniques in a whole new way, trust me! 

You don’t have to be a chef-in-training or even pro cook to learn knife skills. I believe it is an important part of cooking that anyone who intends to pick up a knife in the kitchen should know. 

There are three main knife techniques that I’ve found to be used repeatedly in the kitchen and are most useful to know. 

#1: The 3-Step Knife Technique – planks, strips, cubes 

This first knife technique is most helpful when cutting a larger object into similar-sized cubes. For example, a sweet potato, beet, butternut squash, apple, etc. The goal with this technique is to efficiently transform a whole piece of food into similar pieces. 

How-to-Roast-Sweet-Potatoes-1---FitLiving-Eats-by-Carly-Paige

Here’s how it works: 

  • First, find a flat surface to work with, usually by trimming off the ends. If the object is fairly long, cut it in half crosswise to make it more manageable to work with. 
  • Second, cut planks. This step determines the overall size of your cubes and if they end up more square or rectangular, so pay attention to how thick the planks are. Typical cubes are approximately ¼ to ½” thick. 
  • Third, divide your stack of planks in two groups and place the largest flat surface on your board. Dividing the planks into two groups makes them a lot easier to work with. Cut strips or “fries” in the same width as the planks. Keep the strips grouped together as much as possible to make the next step easier. 
  • Once all of the strips have been cut, turn your two groups of strips 90 degrees and cut your dice. By now, you should have square pieces to work with that are similar in size. This is important for any cooking method so that they cook at the same rate. 

See this technique in action in this tutorial for How to Roast Sweet Potatoes.

Use this knife technique in these recipes: 

Vegetarian-Pot-Pie-Soup-2

#2: The Rolling Knife Technique 

For whatever reason, this particular technique can be the most challenging to grasp. The rolling motion can feel unnatural to some, in that it’s not typically one that we practice with our arms. 

You might be familiar with this motion outside of the kitchen. The rolling knife technique looks a lot like pedaling a bike. The motion you create with your arm looks exactly like the motion created when a tire is in motion. 

Here’s how it works: 

  • With your knife blade flat on the board, push the knife away from your body, lift up the back half of the knife (keeping the front of the knife in contact with the board), draw it back to your body, then lower the knife down, pushing through with the knife flat on the board away from your body to repeat the motion. 
  • When this is done in a repetitive motion, it looks like a spinning bicycle wheel. Try it! 
  • You might have tried chopping through green onion before, and ended up with a long string at the end that didn’t quite get cut through all the way? This technique helps prevent this from happening. 

Remember: Out – Up – In – Down – Repeat. 

Here are a few tips to make this knife technique effective: 

  • Always keep the knife on the board. This allows for a smooth motion that feels rhythmic after you get the hang of it. Even though the steps would assume an imaginary square shape, it really is more of a circle once it becomes more fluid. 
  • I find that about 1 of every 3 cooking class participants creates the rolling motion pulling towards their body. You always want to be pushing the knife away from your body for safety purposes. 

This technique is used for slicing or dicing long, thin objects, such as green onion, certain herbs, leeks, strips of bell pepper or carrot, etc. 

The purpose of the rolling motion is to create similar sized pieces. By not only chopping down on the food, but pushing through to finish the rolling motion, you’re able to get a nice, clean cut. 

Use this knife technique in the following recipes: 

Meal-Prep-Tips-You-Haven't-Heard - FitLiving-Eats-by-Carly-Paige - 26

#3: The Chop Method 

I haven’t had a name for this technique until now! I was trying to think of what to call it, so I asked myself “what does it accomplish?” 

When you are reading a recipe and it says “X amount of cilantro, chopped”, this is the technique that you’ll want to use. 

I’ve seen individuals in my cooking classes spend way too much time picking off the leaves of parsley or cilantro. There’s no reason to do this, as the entire bunch is edible. 

There is a slight texture difference between the leaves and the stems, and if used for a garnish, you’re definitely going to want mostly stems. 

To get your bunch of herbs ready for chopping, I recommend chopping off the bushiest part of the bundle, then holding the bunch of stems at a 45 degree angle and shaving the rest of the exposed leaves. This way, you get mostly leaves and minimal stems. Plus, it takes two seconds to do! 

Here’s how The Chop Method works: 

Once you have your pile of herbs on the board, hold your knife centered over the herbs and place the tip of your knife on the board. Holding the knife handle with your dominant hand and placing your non-dominant hand on top of the knife blade to sturdy it, work your knife back and forth through the pile. Once the leaves get too spread out, push into a neat pile again with your knife and continue the chop method until you’re satisfied with the overall size. 

Use this knife technique in the following recipes: 

mushroom-lettuce-wraps----FitLiving-Eats-by-Carly-Paige-3

These knife techniques might take a few times to get the hang of, and I encourage you to work through them until they start to feel natural. If you are someone who either loves to spend time in the kitchen, or you cook out of necessity, these knife techniques will be a game-changer for you. I promise! 

-Carly Paige

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Hi! I’m Carly Paige, a culinary nutrition expert and chef who believes that healthy doesn’t have to be frustrating, boring or restrictive. I’m here to show you how through my Simply Swapped Method so that you can feel more energized and confident from within. You’ll find tips for focusing on nutrition in the kitchen, along with plant-powered, gluten-free recipes that proves healthy can be delicious.

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