5 Basic Types of Knife Grips You Should Know About

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Holding a knife correctly is a skill often overlooked by a lot of home cooks because many believe that grabbing one then gripping it in your hand is something that comes naturally.

It’s not.

And the truth is, it’s something that you have to physically be aware of and constantly practice so that you can make the right cuts, do this with ease and efficiency, and prevent accidentally cutting yourself in the process.

What Are the Basic Types of Knife Grips?

Depending on the expert you talk to, you may hear of several ways on how to hold a knife well. Some may even have specific flourishes in their hand that works for them.

But we won’t go into all those because we compiled everything that has been described and categorized it all into five basic types.

Special note: the descriptions provided for the grip are for those with a dominant right hand. If you’re a lefty, simply try the directions with your left hand.

It’s Hammer Time!

How is this done?

The Hammer Grip, as the name implies, is done essentially the same way you would grip a hammer: the thumb curled on the right side of the handle while the four other fingers are curled on the left.

For what knife and cutting style is this for?

This particular style is best used when holding a cleaver or any hefty chopper which is usually heavier on the blade part than in the handle.

By fully clutching on the knife grip, you’re balancing the weight of the piece and ensuring it doesn’t fly off when you chop through a dense ingredient like a pumpkin or thick cartilage.

Bit of info that may interest you

Some call this the ‘noob’ grip. But this is the safer style if you’re holding the aforementioned knives.

Done in a Pinch

The right way to do it

Again, as the term suggests, this style requires you to pinch the spine of the blade closest to the bolster (or where the bolster should be) with your thumb and forefinger, while the rest of your fingers are curled around the handle.

This is best used on

This is a more controlled way of holding a piece as it allows you to slice and dice more delicately.

Many pros and connoisseurs will tell you that this is one of the best grips (if not the best) and is perfect for the versatile knives in your block like the Chef’s knife, the Santoku, and even the Gyuto.

Here’s a fascinating factoid

If the Hammer style is for noobs, this is said to be for experts and a must-learn for newbies.

Point Well Taken

How is this done?

This is very much like the Pinch, except that the forefinger lays gently over the spine. The thumb rests on the right side of the handle and the rest of the fingers are lightly curled under it.

For what knife and cutting style is this for?

This method is perfect for Yanagibas and Sujihikis, those narrow, long, extremely sharp blades used to slice thin slivers of sashimi.

Here, the knife becomes an extension of your hand so you aren’t clutching it tightly; you’re simply wielding it like a wand over the ingredient.

This type of grip may also work with similar knives like the butcher’s cimeter/scimitar and other Japanese slicers.

Bit of info that may interest you

Surgeons use this particular style when they are operating with their scalpel.

This is No Cloak and Dagger

The right way to do it

Known by almost everyone and possibly the first way people hold a knife, this is pointing the blade’s tip towards the ground.

Your clasped hand should be positioned in this manner: four of your fingers are curled around the handle and your thumb can rest over the forefinger or the end cap of the handle.

This is best used on

Considered a strong grip, this is used to halve and pre-process carcasses (whether it’s hanging on a hook or laying on the ground) with those curved butcher’s knives.

Here’s a fascinating factoid.

This is the most common way to hold any sharp tool as a weapon and/or for self-defense.

A Great Rule of Thumb

How is this done?

This is very much like the Pinch since the thumb is on the side of the spine, the forefinger is slightly bent on the other side, and the rest of the fingers are curled around the handle.

The difference is that the sharp edge of the blade is facing your chest and not downwards facing the chopping board.

For what knife and cutting style is this for?

The ‘Toward the Thumb’ is best used with smaller pieces like the different paring knives (bird’s beak, sheep’s foot, etc.) or those with narrow blades and short handles.

This is the best grip when you’re peeling or slicing ingredients that you’re holding with your non-dominant hand.

Bit of info that may interest you

This takes a lot of practice because it’s generally not safe to be ‘facing’ the sharp edge of the blade. But if you learn this style, it is one of the most efficient ways to prep food.

Don’t Forget the Claw (for most of the Grip Styles)

When doing your chopping board chores, you need to make sure that the item you are slicing or dicing is in a stable position (so slice a bit of the arc on those round ingredients) and on a flat surface.

To help stabilize the food, you need to make a claw with your non-dominant hand. That would be the hand not holding the knife.

When making this claw, make sure to bend your fingertips in so that the blade’s profile touches your knuckles.

Doing this effectively guides the knife along with the piece of food you’re slicing and protecting your fingers from getting nicked by the blade.

As aforementioned, this does not apply to one style – Toward the Thumb – since you’re holding the food with your other hand and not laying it flat on the cutting surface.

Helpful Tips to Aid with Your Grip

• Let the knife do the job

Except for the Hammer style which requires a bit of tightness, don’t clamp too forcefully on the handle. This will tire you out and may cause accidents.

• Check your fingers all the time

Position your fingers in a way that they will not get caught by the blade or any other sharpened parts like the edge of the heel, if it doesn’t have a bolster or finger guard.

• Upper body strength is needed

This is true whether you’re splitting a chicken in half or julienning a button mushroom. And to do this, your board and knife must be lower than your elbow.

Try All and See Which Works For You

As noted above, certain grip styles are perfect for particular knives and cuts. But it doesn’t mean that what you’re currently and comfortably using now is downright wrong.

However, if you do want to be more efficient with your chopping board chores and lessen the stress on your arm and hands, try practicing the recommended way of gripping those knives.

You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with when you do it right.

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.