The only sane way to look at knife skills is pragmatically. Whatever works.
Most western cooks with good knife skills use something called the pinch grip when they use a chef’s knife to make the “classic” stick and dice cuts” like julienne and batonet; fine dice and brunoise. It’s the grip I use and will show you here. It’s relatively easy to learn, and has the effect of automatically creating better knife work once it’s practiced enough to feel natural.
Why not give it a shot now? I’ll wait here while you go get your chef’s knife. Got it? Good.
Hold the knife between the pads of your thumb and forefinger, so that your forefinger wraps over the spine of the blade.
Here’s a side view from the thumb side:
If you look very carefully, you can see that I’ve rounded over the spine of the knife so it won’t cut off the circulation in my index finger or create a callus. You should too.
Don’t worry, you’re not missing anything by not seeing the forefinger side. Pardon the stains on the knife and the dirt under my nails. I was in the process of cleaning and sharpening my knives when someone asked for pictures of my grip. Once a ham always a ham. Who needs rehersal? who needs makeup? Oh to tread the boards once more, dear boy.
The pinch makes lots of good things happen. One of the best of them is the knuckles of your thumb and forefinger are well out of the way, AND the knuckles on your back three fingers have rotated to the side so they are not – or at least less – in danger of hitting the board when you chop.
It works even better when it’s refined into a soft pinch. A tight grip will tire your hand. Here’s a picture of my grip from underneath.
You can see that even though I have big hands and long fingers, my fingers don’t wrap all the way around the handle. If I held the knife firmly, the handle would be jammed into my hand – but (just in case you didn’t read the caption) you can see that it isn’t and infer that I’m not.
If you hold the knife straight, so its point, your wrist and elbow are on the same line, you can instinctively control the point by looking. You won’t have to swing your elbow around to aim the knife, or waste a lot of time aiming it. Just look and it will go there. It’s going to take awhile to make this instinctive – but that’s exactly what I’m going to ask you to do. A lot of people have trouble visualizing what a straight wrist grip should look like.
Here’s that 10,000 word picture (h/t Durangojo):
You can see that my wrist is straight. But perhaps an even better clue is that the handle lines up with the center-line of my forearm, and you can’t see it peeking out from either side of my wrist.
If you have to change the angle of your knife, keep your wrist straight and turn your body. Dammit
Is that really all? Yes, pretty much. To paraphrase a Russian genius, Is soft pinch grip.