Cooking Tips

Perfecting Your Knife Skills

Julienne, brunoise, mince, and batonnet: what do these four terms have in common? They are all basic knife cuts. To excel at these knife strokes, it’s important to learn how to hold, sharpen, and clean knives properly, as well as to understand the different uses for each knife. By knowing and recognizing all these skills chopping and slicing will become second nature.

How to Hold a Knife to Prevent Injury

Place your thumb on the top side of the blade, then wrap your hand around the bolster. This method provides extra control over the blade; otherwise, if held improperly the knife can slip and cause injury. Once you begin cutting, you will want to secure the food with your guiding hand. To protect your fingers, curl your hand to form a claw shape. This will keep your fingers safe, while also holding the food firmly in place.

Types of Knives

  • Paring - Best for peeling, trimming, and slicing small fruits and vegetables
  • Chef’s - Versatile knife that can be used daily for tasks such as chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing
  • Bread - Serrated knife that cuts bread without squashing or tearing it; also great for slicing tomatoes and citrus fruits

Basic Cuts

  • Julienne - Lay the produce skin down and move your guiding hand backward to make thin, uniform cuts. Peppers, carrots, leeks, celery, and potatoes are often julienned.
  • Brunoise - Cut produce into small, fine dices that measure 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch. This is also known as fine diced. For an example of how to make this particular cut watch this video on how to dice an onion.
  • Mince - Roughly chop or dice the food, then rock the knife back and forth over the produce until it forms very small, tiny pieces. Garlic and shallots are often minced because this helps permeate its flavors deeper into the dish.
  • Batonnet - Slice the produce into rectangles, then square off the sides, forming even sticks.

How to Sharpen the Blades on a Knife

Using a honing steel, hold it straight down with your non-dominant hand above the guard. Make sure the tip is resting firmly on a dry cutting board. Using your other hand, hold the knife perpendicular against the steel with the back of the blade touching the steel hone. A simple way of remembering what angle the knife needs to be at to sharpen follow these steps:

  • Start at a 90 degree angle.
  • Then, cut it in half to 45 degrees.
  • Half that again reaching the appropriate angle of 22.5 degrees.

While keeping the knife at the 22.5 degree angle, pull the blade toward you while gliding it downward along the shaft of the honing steel. You will want to make sure to sharpen the entire blade, keeping it at the appropriate angle throughout the process. Repeat 10 times, then switch to do the same thing to the other side of the blade. After sharpening, be sure to wash off the knife and cutting board to remove any metal shavings before using again.

Important Knife Safety Tips

  • When not using your knife, secure it by placing it back into either a sleeve or knife holder.
  • Never place a knife in a sink full of dishes as it might cause injury while moving items around.
  • Always wash your knives by hand after use, dry thoroughly, and immediately store to prevent accidents from happening.

*HHS Culinary policy requires cut gloves in commercial kitchens. This video is intended for the home cook who we understand will likely not have a cut glove, though we do recommend it.