Cooking School Basics

Knives are most precious to chefs. They are the most commonly used tool. Using the right knife makes the job easier and faster.  A knife should be razor sharp. When knives are used properly dull knives are more dangerous then sharp. Knives should cut through the food not bruise and smash the food. Knives should always be manually washed, carefully, as soon as you are done using them.

When cooking with kids they are intimidated by the large knives. I always start my Little Chefs out with a butter knife, then move to a steak knife, then to a pairing knife and up from there. By the time they are ready to move up from the pairing knife they are confident with their ability and understand the safety aspect of working with knives.

Just a couple notes on safety; always curl your fingers under on the hand that is touching the food. When you are finished cutting or need to take a break, leave your knife on the cutting board. Do not carry it around the kitchen with you. I always bring the knives to my Little Chefs and take them away when they are finished with their immediate task. Make sure your knife is sharp not dull. Use the largest cutting board you can find. A larger area is easier for Little Chefs to work on without feeling cramped. More space = relaxed kids = safer use of the knife. If your cutting board slides around place a wet paper towel under it, or something that grips so it does not move.

5 Most Common Knives and their Uses

  • Santoku – similar to a chefs knife. It has ridges on the blade which helps the food slide off the knife instead of sticking to it. Used for chopping, dicing and mincing. We also cut meat.
  • Chef’s – a multipurpose knife. It is curved to allow the chef to rock. Used for chopping, dicing, mincing, slicing fruits, vegetables and herbs. We also cut meat.
  • Pairing – has a small blade for small, delicate and intricate tasks like trimming, coring and peeling.
  • Serrated – has teeth instead of a single smooth blade. Used to saw through soft bread and other baked goods without smashing them.
  • Kitchen Shears – stainless steal scissors designated for food use only. Used to cut chicken, lobster and herbs.

Common Knives

For supplemental information read pages 12-13 in the Martha Stewart’s Cooking School Cookbook.

Though technically not a knife we have found a pizza cutter is a great tool to use to cut french toast, pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches and more. We have also used other chopping devices such as a hand chopper and a vidalia chop wizard.


  • Go to your kitchen and locate the 5 common knives. Carefully trace the outline of each knife on a piece of paper. Put the knives away.
  • Label the knives in your picture with their name and use.
  • Share what you have learned with a friend to solidify your knowledge.


I am a mom to Five Little Chefs who love to cook and create anything with their hands. Watching over 10 additional hands keeps me busy but is so much fun! We laugh and cry everyday, but then want to do it again the next day. That is how we know we are enjoying life!

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