Let’s face it: not everyone feels comfortable in the kitchen, especially when it comes to handling knives. A lack of confidence can make preparing a fresh home-cooked meal seem more daunting than it needs to be. But a little bit of knife know-how can give you the confidence to try new recipes and even whip something up for a few friends or someone special. As part of our ongoing quest to help you turn your kitchen into a flavor factory, we give you 5 simple tips for knife care and usage. Follow these steps to gain experience and grow more comfortable with your cutlery, and you’ll find it easier than ever to prepare awesome food without the worry.

1. Proper storage.

Storing your knives in a protected and accessible place is essential for kitchen safety and efficiency. Don’t just toss them all loosely into a drawer where they will clash and become dull. Not only will your expensive kitchen tools endure unnecessary wear-and-tear, you’ll also put your fingers in peril every time you reach for aknife. A magnetic wall rack, ordinary countertop knife block, or drawer tray will ensure that your knives stay sharp – and your digits remain intact. A well-organized set of knives will also provide a new and refreshing aesthetic for your kitchen.

2. To each its own.

When preparing a meal from scratch, it is important to use the correct knife for each task. To safely cut bread or tomatoes, use a knife with a serrated edge. Carving a turkey requires a fork and carving knife, a larger knife with a wider blade for neat, long cuts of meat. You can use a chef’s knife for chopping many everyday vegetables, fruits, starches, and herbs. It may seem less intimidating to cut an onion with a steak knife or paring knife, both smaller, seemingly safer alternatives, but a chef’s knife is specifically designed to make fast work of the task. The more you know about the uses of each knife in your kitchen, the more effective your preparation will be. Find extensive information about the types of knives available and their various uses here.

Basic Knife Set

3. If it’s sharp, it’s safe.

Working in your kitchen with a dull knife poses a certain threat to your hands and fingers. Although a sharp knife seems more of a danger to your delicate appendages, a dull knife requires more pressure to make clean, even cuts. The more pressure you place on the knife, the less control you will have, and the higher your chances of injury. If you cannot effortlessly pass your knife through a smooth vegetable like a tomato, you need to sharpen it. You can easily use a sharpening stone or a honing steel to keep your blades sufficiently sharp – and safe.

4. Get a grip.

A good grip on your knife provides safety, accuracy, and control. Once you have chosen the correct knife and sharpened it properly, hold the knife in your dominant hand. Your non-dominant hand will serve as a guide. The most basic, most common grip involves pinching the knife where it connects to the handle. You can use a single-finger or double-finger grip, pinching with either your index finder and thumb, or your index finger, middle finger, and thumb. Next, depending on the pinch you prefer, place your middle or ring finger underneath the knife next to what is known as the bolster. Last, wrap your remaining one or two fingers around the rest of the handle. These fingers make your grip more secure, but focus primarily on the initial pinch. So as not to wear out your hand too quickly, hold the knife with only a semi-firm grip. This will also improve the accuracy of your cuts.

The Proper Grip

5. Concentrate.

This seems obvious, but it’s all too easy to forget about the many ways you can hurt yourself in the kitchen. In the comfort of your own home, the intricacies of your life – the errand you’ve forgotten to run, the guy who cut you off on the way home, tomorrow’s deadline – can crowd in on you as you cook, distracting you from the moment. By focusing on each and every cut that you make, you not only minimize your chances of injury, you also open yourself to the real pleasure of cooking. Just like everything else in life, preparing a meal becomes more meaningful as you let go of distractions and devote yourself to it entirely. The end result is bound to be tastier, too.

With the proper tools, a little bit of practice, and dedication to the task at hand, anyone can safely and efficiently prepare a delicious meal. Developing some basic skills and confidence using knives is a great way to start. Or, if you’re planning to host a dinner party or celebration and you’d rather spend your time with your company than in the kitchen, you can also visit our website, browse our diverse menus, and let one of our professional chefs prepare an extraordinary meal for you and your company, right in your own home.

Photo Credits:

Magnetic Wall Rack: http://madtasty.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html

Countertop Knife Block: http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/21262-zwilling-ja-henckels-knife-block.aspx

Drawer Tray: http://drawersss.com/page/80/

Knife Set: http://lparchive.org/Clock-Tower-3/Update%2028/

The Grip: http://www.justaddspinach.com/poll-holding-a-chefs-knife/