Knife Skills 101

Stay sharp with this step-by-step guide.

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Photo by: ANDREW PURCELL

ANDREW PURCELL

Knife Care

Here’s how to keep your blades sharp.

  • Wash by Hand. Dishwashers are harsh on blades: Knives can hit other items or corrode from food or water. Wash them in warm soapy water, then dry and store.
  • No Scraping! After chopping, avoid scraping the blade across the cutting board to move ingredients. Use the blunt side of the knife instead.
  • Sharpen Regularly. Look for knife-sharpening services at specialty grocery or kitchenware stores. Dull knives do a sloppy job — and they’re dangerous, too.

Essential Knives

Tackle any kitchen task with these three basic blades. 

  • Chef's: This all-purpose knife (8- to 10-inch blade) is your go-to for most prep work. It can handle small jobs, like mincing garlic, or big ones, like breaking down squash or carving meat.
  • Serrated: The saw-toothed edge of this long knife is essential for cutting bread but also does a great job slicing ripe tomatoes or trimming cake layers.
  • Paring: A small, sturdy paring knife (3- to 4-inch blade) is key for detail work, like deveining shrimp, hulling strawberries and other tasks that require precision.

How to Chop

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Step 1

Slice 1/2 inch off the stem end of an onion so it will sit flat, then slice the onion in half through the root. Peel both halves.

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Step 2

Lay the halves flat-side down. With your knife parallel to the board, make 2 or 3 horizontal cuts; stop before the root end. 

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Step 3

Make even vertical cuts, stopping before the root end.

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Step 4

Holding the root end and curling your fingers under, slice across the cuts you just made; the pieces will fall away.

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

How to Dice

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Step 1

Slice a bell pepper in half through the stem end.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 2

Cut around the stem and core; remove and discard. Trim the white membrane from inside the pepper. 

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 3

Lay the pepper halves cut-side up; slice lengthwise into long strips.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 4

Gather the strips and cut across them to create small pieces.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

How to Mince

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Step 1

Smash garlic cloves with the flat side of your knife; remove the peel.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 2

Thinly slice the cloves lengthwise.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 3

Cut across the vertical slices, then rock your knife back and forth over the cut pieces to mince further. 

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 4

If you want to turn minced garlic into a paste, sprinkle with kosher salt, then mash with the flat side of the knife.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

How to Julienne

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Step 1

Cut a carrot into thirds and trim the stem end.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 2

One piece at a time, cut a thin slice from a long side so the carrot will lie flat. 

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 3

Lay the carrot piece flat and thinly slice lengthwise.

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Step 4

Stack the slices and cut lengthwise into thin sticks.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

How to Shred

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Step 1

Fold a kale leaf in half, leaving the stem exposed; cut along the stem to remove it. 

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Step 2

Stack a few trimmed leaves on top of each other.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 3

Tightly roll up the stacked leaves.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

Step 4

Slice across the rolled leaves to create thin ribbons.

Photo By: ANDREW PURCELL

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