Using your knife – Learning different cutting  techniques

There are several ways  techniques to use while cutting. The way you  use it depends upon  the  ingredient you are cutting, the shape you want to cut your ingredient, your knife profile as well as your personal preference

Mastering these different knife motions and learning how to use your knife is essential and  the first class when attending  any culinary school. As Kenji Lopez-Alt said, “cooking without learning these basic strokes, is like trying to run without knowing how to tie your shoes”.

There are plenty knife motion techniques during cuts. Below the most common and the most appropriate knife profile to use for it:

  • Chop – vertical motion to the cutting board and parallel to the ingredient.
  • Rock chop – the tip of the knife remains in contact with the cutting board while the rest of the blade moves vertically up and down parallel to the ingredient. This requires a curved profile gyuto knife (or other curved belly type)
  • Push slice – Forward slicing motion until the knife touches the cutting board.
  • Pull slice (or Back slice) – Blade touches ingredient and pulled back and down in a single stroke (the sashimi cutting motion, can also be used in 45 degrees angle in sashimi).
  • Push cut (or Locomotive) – Similar to push slice but with a shorter move forward.
  • Sawing cut – move back and forth like using a saw.
  • Horizontal cut – moving the knife parallel to the cutting board and vertical to the ingredient (used in onions for smaller pieces cut – Mince)
  • Katsuramuki – specialized cutting in Japanese and Asian kitchens  and the most difficult to master. First the ingredient is cut in a cylinder. Then is held in hand and the knife is slicing it paper thin turning the ingredient around.  Used for Japanese radish (daikon), cucumbers, carrots etc.

As the knife motion / cutting techniques exist for specific reasons, different types of knives exist for the same reasons. In our Knives types article we have presented the different types of Japanese knives. Depending on which is your favorite cutting motion technique and what you are usually cutting, is an important factor that will determine the best knife for you.


Santoku Gyuto Kiritsuke Nakiri Usuba Bunka Chinese Cleaver Sujihiki Yanagiba Takohiki Bread Knife

Rock Chop

Push slice

Pull slice

Push Cut


Horizontal cut


How to properly hold your knife

There are a few ways to properly hold your knife during cuts and they depend on the knife type you are using and the ingredient to be cut. Below are the most common knife grips:

Pinch grip – the most common grip. The hand is held as far forward to the blade as possible, allowing our middle finger to get under, exactly where the blade ends (at the choil). The thumb and the pointing finger “pinch” the blade. Pinch grip offers control so it is used with most of the cutting techniques like chop, rock chop, push cut etc.

Point grip – it is basically the same with the pinch grip but the pointing finger is placed on the spine of the blade. This grip is used by sushi chefs for precise sashimi slice cuts but can be used with other cutting techniques also, mainly those who require slicing.

Hammer grip – All the fingers are wrapped around the handle in a strong grip. Mainly used for butchering hard ingredients or bones, this grip provides power but less control.

Thumb grip – Mainly used for hand held cuts that require precision (fruits/vegetables) All 4 fingers are wrapped around the handle and the thumb is facing the blade while the other hand holds and controls the ingredient.