Our guide to knife skills

Our guide to knife skills

First published date February 26 2014 Amended date April 22 2015

Do you find chopping vegetables or meat the most arduous and least enjoyable part of the cooking process? Want to be able to slice and dice among the best chefs in the world? Then why not take a look at the courses in knife skills we have on offer? Whether you just want to improve your culinary skills purely for home cooking for friends or family or if you’re an aspiring chef, there will be courses on offer that will suit your needs. Knife skills aren’t just there for aesthetic purposes to show off with, a lot of professions like butchers and sushi chefs need the very precise cutting skills for their jobs, and you can learn that!


I’m no good in the kitchen...

Well here’s your chance to start taking the steps necessary to not be daunted by the prospect of cooking! If you want to become a whizz in front of the stove, knife skills is a pretty important step in getting to grips with cooking, as you’ll be hard set to find a meal to cook that doesn’t require cutting or chopping something!


The importance of knife skills

Top chefs regard knife skills as an art and hold it in just as high esteem as cooking itself. Chopping a certain vegetable can hinder the entire dish if not done properly. Taking an onion as an example, chopping it incorrectly could result in the onion ‘bleeding’ which can create an overly bitter taste and it’s that which causes the dreaded tears when preparing one.


What will a knife skills course offer?

Knife skills courses are actually more varied than you would imagine at first. Courses range from beginner to advanced options and will take a look at a number of uses for knives not just how to finely chop an onion. Beginner courses will more than likely first show you knife safety, for obvious reasons, before taking you through the basics of knife skills. You will be taken taught how to choose the correct knife type, chopping methods and techniques for particular uses, whether it’s dicing meat or chopping tomatoes. More advanced courses will go through specific techniques and areas such as butchery, which might involve jointing a chicken or filleting a fish.

There is more to knife skills courses than just chopping however, as some sessions will take you through a number of things like knife maintenance which will show you how to keep your knives sharp and clean as well as a bit of cooking too. Generally speaking courses go on only for a couple of hours over the course of a day but can be a week long or more.


Course benefits

A course in knife skills is great for all kinds of people from those who struggle in the kitchen, to passionate cooks or professional chefs looking to gain new skills. With a knife skills course under your belt, you’ll grow to love the chopping part of preparing a meal instead of it being a boring, necessary chore you dread. If you’re looking to get on the chef careers ladder or courses in butchery, for example, then knife skills is a brilliant stepping stone for you. Even though most courses don’t offer a formal qualification, your newfound skills with a knife will give you the perfect head start and help you along your way.


Types of Knives

Kitchen knives – The most common knives found in any kitchen. You can get serrated edged ones for cutting soft products with tough outer layers like bread or sausages and straight edged knives for chopping raw meat and vegetables very precisely.

Chef’s knife – Most used by professional chefs, they tend to have large weighty handles and broad blades to allow greater control and speed when chopping. Good for meat, fruit and vegetables also.

Pairing knives – These smaller knives are used for intricate duties in the kitchen like peeling or removing seeds and pips. It’s a vital utility knife.

Boning knife – These are used to debone meat and vary in size depending on the kind of meat you are working with.



Some chopping jargon... (Yes, there is chopping jargon!)

Julienning – This chopping technique slices vegetables into thin strips like fries or match sticks. Julienning your vegetables is great for stir frying meals where the meat is also cut using the julienning style.

Brunoise – This is the technical term for a very fine dice of more chunky vegetables. The vegetable is first julienned then turned to the side and diced again to make small cubes.

Chiffonade – This style is best applied to leafy green vegetables like spinach or herbs and basically involves turning them into thin ribbons. To do this for basil for example, stack the leaves and roll them tightly together, then slice very thinly at an angle to create slender ribbons.