How to hold a chef’s knife for maximum control

One of the first things culinary students learn when they enter the kitchen is how to properly hold a knife. Where and how you hold your blade determines your level of control.

To maximize control, “choke up” on the knife. This term refers to bringing your hand up the handle of the knife so that it straddles the bolster (that thick piece of metal where the end of the handle meets the end of the blade), with your index finger and thumb gripping the blade itself (away from the edge, as shown).

The bolster gives the knife balance and helps keep your hands from slipping over the handle onto the blade. Holding the knife with your hand over the bolster will help to give you more control of the blade than simply gripping the handle itself. If you have a knife with a “bolsterless edge” (the handle meets the blade without a bolster), simply grip the handle and blade the same way, with thumb and index finger reaching over the handle to grip the blade. Be sure your index finger rests at the side of the blade and not on top of the blade (running the length of the blade, as if you were pointing) — it may feel like you have more control, but this will adversely affect the balance of the knife.

Choking up on the knife may feel awkward at first, but you’ll find it gets easier — and feels more natural — with repetition. You may also find your hand is less tired after working in the kitchen.

Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter