How to Use Knives Safely and Properly – Guest Post by Emily Perkes
Knives are one of the most commonly used tools to prepare food across the globe. Unfortunately, they also can cause a lot of accidents. Using some basic tips and training yourself to make them a habit in the kitchen can keep you and your family safe in the kitchen.
First, the most popular tip is to keep your knives sharp! This is a well-known fact but also seems a bit counter-intuitive. For example, when keeping my kids safe in the kitchen- I never hand them the sharpest knife in the room so why exactly is this true?
Sharp knives are safer for a few reasons. The sharper the knife, the less pressure you have to use when pressing down to cut an object. Imagine using a lot of pressure with a dull knife that then slips and can then cause much more danger. Another reason is that when a knife is dull, we tend to use it incorrectly by stabbing instead of slicing or cutting at a bad angle or position. ( Think about when you’re trying to cut a really big, tough pumpkin or watermelon. If the blade doesn’t slice right through- what do you resort to doing that you instinctively know is not safe? These are the types of things that happen more frequently on everyday cutting if the knife is dull.
Therefore, make sure you are sharpening your knife frequently. How often obviously depends on how much it is used. Professional chefs hone their blade with a sharpening steel rod before and after each use.
What kind of sharpening equipment is the safest and how do I do it safely? There are several different ways to sharpening your knives and each can be done safely if done right. The best tip would be to read the instructions carefully, follow all the tips that come with your safety equipment and most importantly don’t do it until you are confident and comfortable. Watch YouTube videos on your equipment or invite someone you trust to show you how to do it with the same equipment and knives you will be using. With guidance and practice, sharpening knives will become a comfortable routine.
Storing you knives in a proper casing will also help keep them sharp. You can get special trays, sheaths, or wood blocks to store knives safely and in a way that will keep them sharp. When considering how and where to store them make sure they are kept out of reach from young curious chefs. Put the knife block towards the back of the counter or in the back of the drawer.
Using the proper cutting board will also help keep your knife sharp. Always cut on a plastic, wooden or composite cutting board or surface. Other surfaces will dull your blade. Along with the right kind of cutting board, make sure your cutting board is secure and stable. One tip to help your cutting board stay still is by laying a wet flat cloth or towel underneath it to add grip and keep it from slipping.
Make sure you have a good tight grip on the knife. Holding the knife properly is similar to holding a pencil in that everyone can do it slightly differently and that is ok- as long as it is safe! The most common mistake that can be dangerous is holding the knife with your index finger running along the back of the blade. This is not a secure hold and will make your wrist sore. Practice holding the knife instead with your knuckles curled- there are a few different options so make sure you find one that is comfortable to you. The most comfortable hold will ultimately be the most confident and safest position for you.
Just as important is your grip on the knife is you grip on the object you are cutting. Make sure you are holding the object with a claw grip. This has your knuckles curled with your fingertips and thumb always tucked safely away. The tips of your knuckles can actually hit the flat of the knife every time as a sort of guide. No matter how big or small the object is that you are cutting is, you should always use this technique to protect your fingers. To help you hold the grip on a round object like a carrot or onion, make a thing slice on the object first to give it a flat edge to lay on so it is not wobbling.
The right kind of knife can make cutting a lot easier and therefore a lot safer. Don’t just grab the closest knife or the last one clean in the drawer but make sure you have the best knife for the job. No matter how sharp your large chef’s knife is, if you try to cut a fresh loaf of bread with it instead of a knife with a serrated edge, you will be frustrated and have to press more than is necessary or safe. Don’t use a knife for something it is not meant for like opening a can or packaging.
Assure you always have the right knife available by cleaning them immediately. Clean your knives by hand instead of putting them in the dishwasher to keep them sharp and the best quality. Do not place a knife in a sink full of water. This could cause rust or be dangerous for someone to try fishing it out blindly.
Use caution whenever handling a knife in your kitchen. Don’t walk around with a knife while you are cooking or talking. Leave the knife on the cutting board when you have to leave the counter. When you have to walk with a knife do so carefully and always check your surroundings and floor. Get in the habit of holding the knives with the tip down and the edge behind you. Consider storing knives in a central location so they are not far from the sink and favorite cutting counter. When you do need to pass a knife to someone, lay it flat on a surface and slide it to them allowing them to pick it up by the handle instead of the blade.
Knives are a common household object and are extremely helpful in making fresh, healthy meals for your family. Following these simple tips, they can also confidently be a safe object in your home as well.
Guest Post by Emily Perkes