Get a crash course on chopping, slicing, and julienning foods with these expert tips from an Iron Chef judge.
The foundation of a perfectly cooked meal is good prep work, and that begins with cutting technique, says Shape contributing editor Judy Joo, executive chef at the Playboy Club London, a judge for Iron Chef America, and an Iron Chef on the U.K. version of the show. Here, she shares her expert tips on how to slice everything right.
Step 1: Use a “choke" hold
Home cooks tend to hold their chef’s knives by the handles, but it’s safer to move your grip higher. The pros call it “choking up”: Your hand should straddle the finger guard, or the ridge where the metal meets the handle, with your thumb and index finger grasping the flat edge of the blade. The hold balances the weight of the knife, so you have more control when chopping. For smaller, blades, like paring knives, you can simply grab the handle.
Step 2: Center yourself
Most of the time, you’ll slice with the center of the blade. But when working with harder-to-cut items, like carrots and bone-in chicken, shift the focus to the back, or “heel,” of the knife to offer heft and leverage. For delicate items or scoring (small cuts in meat, fish, and veggies to allow marinades to penetrate), use the tip rather than the center.
Step 3: Safeguard your digits
Curl your fingertips beneath your knuckles and place them on the food to hold it in place. Then slice so the blade of the knife is alongside your knuckles while your fingers are safely tucked away.
Now that you’re familiar with the basics, watch the instructional videos below for more advice on tackling tough-to-chop items and mastering the art of julienning vegetables.