Honing your knife skills

On the advice of a professional chef, I took a knife skills class about a year ago. The class was through a local recreational cooking school, and was targeted toward people who love to cook and want to learn to wield a knife like a professional.

The class was phenomenal and certainly worth the $80 I paid in tuition. However, like all new skills, you have to practice them to get better. I found myself wishing I could be a vegetable prep cook on a line in a busy restaurant so I could have a continuous supply of produce to use for practice. Obviously that isn’t the case, so I’m still working on many of the skills to improve my speed and accuracy.

If you have a local cooking school that offers knife skills classes, specifically hands-on classes instead of demonstrations, I strongly recommend taking the class. If you feel comfortable using a knife in the kitchen, look for a class like I took that moves beyond the basics and helps to improve speed and accuracy as well as advanced techniques.

In the meantime, or if you don’t have a cooking school near you, check out chef Roger Mooking’s video on basic knife skills. All home chefs can benefit from reviewing and learning these techniques:

If you can’t see the video automatically, check out the clip on YouTube directly.

I’m also considering getting a cutting board with measurements on it to help improve my visual accuracy while cutting.

How have you worked to improve your knife skills over the years? Share your resources in the comments.

5 comments posted

  1. Posted by Keter - 03/28/2011

    Erin, I’m guessing that you are a visual organizer/thinker. I am, too. So what I’m about to suggest may seem counter-intuitive, but it works.

    Stop looking so much at what you are doing. Learn to do it by feel. The motor portion of your brain works MUCH faster than the visual portion, and you are less likely to overthink and klutz out if you are operating out of the motor center. I’ll bet that chef can slice safely and accurately with his eyes closed.

    Years ago, when I was doing cable assembly, I used to train new hires to use their motor centers (made them much faster) and would do a trick that really got their attention: I would correctly assemble a 32-pin cable connector with my eyes closed. I would set up the cable end the same way each time, and assemble in the same order…I could do it in 15 seconds. Same motor skills apply to cutting quickly.

  2. Posted by Jim - 03/29/2011

    The cutting board that you link to is made of glass… It’s cool that it has measurements on it, but it’s gonna beat your knives up pretty badly.

    Something like this might be a better idea:


  3. Posted by Erin Doland - 03/29/2011

    @Jim — I use a ceramic knife when cutting vegetables, so a glass cutting board isn’t as big of a deal as if I were using a carbon-steel blade. Probably should have mentioned that in the post …

  4. Posted by Living the Balanced Life - 03/29/2011

    This is a cool video. I am okay with cutting, but my 18 year old daughter is somewhat afraid of knives. I will have to show her this so she can cook for herself, lol!

  5. Posted by Nick - 04/01/2011

    Practice makes perfect is probably the best advice – the video is absolutely right on having a very sharp knife to start with – a lot of accidents happen when a knife doesn’t bite and slice but skids and slices into the holding hand.

    If you’re buying knives – make sure that you have the means of sharpening them – they won’t stay sharp for ever.

    The other thing is don’t try and start chopping fast right from the start – the more that you practice the quicker you’ll get. Trying to go for professional speed on your first go is a recipe for less fingers. Concentrate on technique speed and accuracy will naturally follow.

    The best guide to knife skills I found is here http://bit.ly/eOWkRL – it even shows you the best technique for preparing specific vegetables

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