How-Tos(day): Knife Skills Part 1 of 2

Professional Chef (and my old pal) Valerie Bolon and I have been around the block together. We met many moons ago in a kickboxing class—both on the feisty side, we naturally gravitated towards each other when it was time to double-up. I remember when Val got the call to be on Top Chef Season 4 and I remember more how partner-less I felt when she was off filming. But I applaud her, she wasn’t allowed to say a word until after it all aired, and she did keep her mouth shut—which for a gal who can get in a hearty chat with the best of them, well. Bravo to her.

Val and I got back into the mix asap post-show. I talked her into joining my new-at-the-time boxing gym (where she now teaches yoga) and we even pulled off a few sold-out underground dinners together for my 24 Carrot Supper Club. This woman knows her stuff—yoga, kickboxing and of course, cooking (omnivorous Chicagoans, check out her supper club Culinary Speakeasy). I thought it would be great to get her to go over knife skills for my other favorite people—the YU community. So, here’s Part One of Two How-Tos(day) Knife Skills Videos.


Keep your fingers intact—tell your pals to watch this important video.

Here are the basics:
1. It’s really important to keep your knives sharp. Every 6 months take them to a professional, and have them sharpened. And every day, after every use (yes), sharpen them using a diamond steel or rod steel. When using a steel place pointer finger (carefully) between the blade and the steel—this is the perfect angle for sharpening.

Valerie Bolon & Heather Crosby

Before you begin sharpening, remove your pointer finger from between the blade and steel…

Valerie Bolon & Heather Crosby

10 pulls, from heel to toe, on each side is a good amount.

Valerie Bolon & Heather Crosby

Wipe the blade clean with a towel so no metal bits are left on the blade. Take good care of your knives. Bond with them.

2. If you have a knife block—awesome—but you really only need 3 knives to cook like a champ. A Chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife. And if you only have one sharp 8″ Chef’s knife on hand, you are “pretty much good to go” says Val. So, you don’t really need that knife block after all.

3. Hold your knife with a loose enough grip to create a rocking motion as you slice—no tight holding! You must relax when chopping. Breathe.

4. Do not place your pointer finger on the top ridge of the knife—you don’t have as much control in this position—and control is safety.

Valerie Bolon & Heather Crosby

Thumb should be on one side and the rest of the fingers on the other.

5. Fingers that hold the food should be tucked away from the blade. A great way to get the position just right is to pretend that you are holding an egg or something round like that. Grab a tomato or large mushroom and hold it from the top…

Valerie Bolon & Heather Crosby

Remove the object and keep fingers in the same position.

Valerie Bolon & Heather Crosby

6. When foods are round (which most are to some degree), slice in half so one side can be placed flat on the cutting board, so it won’t roll while you cut.

Valerie Bolon & Heather Crosby

6. You want to use the entire blade when you slice in a “down and away” movement. Start at the front of the blade and rock it down until you reach the back of the blade and repeat over and over until you slice up your veg.

Valerie Bolon & Heather Crosby

7. For safety, and to reduce potential frustration, you want your cutting board to be large enough that you can lay your knife across it diagonally and it doesn’t go beyond the edge of your board. If your cutting board doesn’t have a grippy bottom, dampen a paper towel and fold into fourths. Place between bottom of cutting board and counter—it will keep it from slipping!

8. Practice chopping with onions, tomatoes, celery and carrots. Use the pieces for a tasty soup or veggie stock.

Check in next week for Knife Skills Part 2 of 2.

Be sure to comment below with any questions or feedback. We’d love to hear from YU.
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  1. I have a hard time using knives in the kitchen, I’ve been known to give myself a few cuts! So this post really helps and has some useful information for me! Thanks!

    • Heather Crosby

      I’m so glad, Mandi. Stay safe! H

  2. marilia

    Excellent tips! I love the website! I found this website in search of simple injera recipe which I made and it was delicious! Thank you so much!

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