Home kitchen knife safety--best practices

I’ve never seriously cut myself in the kitchen, but I almost chopped my big toe off with an axe. I should have been wearing hard toe boots.

My daughter-in-law loved the ultimate utility sandwich knife I bought her–until she cut herself so badly she needed to go to the hospital.

To avoid that risk, some only work with dull knives.

With a little planning and organization, IMO, the opposite can be true.

It’s a series of “little things” to reduce risk–until there’s almost no risk at all.

The first little thing to consider is the tasks you want to accomplish–and most of them can be classified as prep work. Further, the prep work can be subdivided into vegetables and meat.

One safety practice is to have two cutting boards–one for the vegetables, the other for the meat–and be sure that the one for meat is super sanitized.

Then, identify the knife or knives to be used for these two kinds of prep. It’s probably better to do the vegetables first. For me, personally, I often do my vegetable prep a day in advance–so I can take my time (another important safety factor).

I’ve always used different knives for vegetable prep. For a long time, it was only a nakiri, but now I have a santoku, several cleavers, and an Asian utility knife to consider–and enjoy.

If one is doing all prep work just before cooking, and wants to use the same Chef knife for everything, doing the vegetables first is clearly the way to go.

Another not so little thing is to really get to know your knives. With different hand sizes and shapes–and handedness–each of us will feel our way a little differently–and hopefully have chosen the best fit. Now, we need to see how well it can do our prep tasks when we do it our way.

That will take some practice and experimentation.

Then there is the issue of matching the knives we choose to the strokes we make as we carry out our preps.

My choices?

For Western rock chopping, it’s a knife with a belly, like my Wusthof Classic Ikon

For Asian push cutting, It’s my Miyabi birchwood, and my Shun Kaji santoku

For vertical chopping, it’s my Chinese vegetable cleavers

An important factor that improves decision making is the immediate availability of the clean, sharp, knife.

I call it grabbability–and I make real efforts to make my knives grabbable near the cutting board:

What do you do to promote knife safety in your kitchen?

A very sharp knife is essential. If you do cut yourself it will stop bleeding and heal much, much faster than a jagged cut from a dull blade. Sure, I’ve cut myself a few times but a quick wrap with a paper towel, hold my hand over my head and I’m back in business within minutes. If I’m cutting meat/fish that’s done on a plastic board that subsequently goes into the dishwasher.


Why would you do this as it will lower the quality of the vegetables due to oxidation etc.


Veggies a day in advance? Bizarre. Maybe on a catering job for 500+, but the better caterers wouldn’t even do it then.

Otherwise, keep it sharp, keep it clean, and keep the handle dry. If the knife tends to slip in your hand with the slightest bit of moisture on the handle - get rid of it. If other people are in the kitchen, hold it buy the blade, pointed down, if you HAVE to walk with it but those times should be beyond rare in the home kitchen – fireable offense in some pro kitchens. You’ll get chewed out at a minimum unless the circumstances are very unusual.


Volume and speed. For the volume he has been working, his food preparation ability (knife skill and others) was unable to do everything in one sitting. “… I often do my vegetable prep a day in advance–so I can take my time”.


One of my biggest vegetable prep jobs is large canning projects, mountains of tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. If it looks really really big, it may take 20-30 minutes. If I want everything pretty, I use a mandoline on the firm things. Now if we are talking tedious prep projects, I am often tempted to buy frozen when I need to peel a lot of pearl onions…but I don’t. As for knife safety, keep them clean and dry, mind your technique, adapting suitably for things that roll and are hard to grip, like onions, or that need to be cut extremely fine, like slicing mushrooms or shallots. Go no faster than your technique allows. I get burned way more than cut, usually rushing and dropping or tossing things into hot liquids rather than slipping them in. There is not a serious cook out there in any restaurant kitchen who has not been splattered, brushed an arm on a hot pan or rack, or, out of haste, flipped something or pulled it out of hot water with their bare hands. If it’s done and you idiotically left your tongs somewhere or let someone borrow them, the food still comes first.


Perfect guide, and note the association that published it.


I gave my Matfer mandoline to a friend who was seriously admiring it - and would use it more than I. I get by with a v slicer now. Good prep makes good cooking easier. It shouldn’t be the source of doubt and tortured over-analysis :joy:. It actually calms me down, because I know I’ll be …prepared. I don’t even think about it much anymore, except to make sure I have all the needed ingredients. Doesn’t take me long, either.

I will admit that sometimes, with a particularly slippery onion, when my claw grip is feeling unsatisfactory, I actually have considered using my claws, er, fingernails.

But I do as I have been shown and taught to do with my knife, and don’t go faster than I can safely handle. It still goes plenty fast enough.


Hi Ray,

What is the reason you like to slice veggies before meat? Usually for me it’s the other way around, because meat takes longer to cook. Just saves time to do meat first. Plus I like to cut veggies at the last moment before cooking to keep them fresh.

Of course depending on the dish: e.g. I made Roman artichokes a few weeks ago and they needed quite some prep and cooking time so then I started with them.

As for safety, my routine is just based on my typical kitchen routine: keep your counter clean and tidy, think through the steps before you start cooking, buy a big heavy cutting board made from wood, buy good knives and learn how to keep them tip top. That’s it! :slight_smile:

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This is pretty common in a home kitchen where people have limited prep time (say - a few hours on a weekend) but they still want to cook through the week.

It’s a lot quicker to have prepped veg you can just toss into the oven to roast or quickly saute on a work night — vs having to prep every meal every time.

(Similar reason grocery stores sell prepped vegetables, peeled garlic, chopped onions, marinated meat, formed burgers, etc.)


Learn the claw grip for your non-cutting hand. Don’t forget to use it at all times. Especially the thumb tuck, and especially when you are drinking wine while cooking (ask me how I know this)!




We cook nearly every day (and don’t use and pre-prepped ingredients) and have each day limited time to prepare all ingredients but still I don’t think it is terrible difficult and time consuming to prepare all ingredients on the hour you need it. If you don’t have physical issue and don’t have to prepare for a large crowd (>20 people) I don’t see any reason to take a hit in quality to save a quite minimal amount of time

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Don’t rush and use a sharp knife.

Also, don’t rush when sharpening. :man_facepalming:t3:


this butcher’s block has been in use since the 1920’s - at the butcher shop.
and no one has yet died . . .


Ouch! Sorry for that, hope it isn’t too badly cut.

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Hi damiano,

Entirely safety risks with meat. If I need to do meat first, I’ll use different knives.


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Hi Gourmada,

Completely agree. I have had the same experiences.


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Hi honkman,

I don’t want to feel stressed.


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