Cutting Safety: The Claw (method 3 of 3)

Chef Debra demonstrates the Claw Method of safely cutting food, Step 1

The Claw Method is helpful when you are cutting large pieces of food into smaller pieces or cylindrical food such as carrots, celery or parsnips into slices. Part of its attractiveness is that you can examine where you intend to make the cut before you cut it (as described in Step 7). 

The Claw Method is a very safe as your fingers holding the food are pulled in outside of the knife’s path. As with all new skills, start slowly and deliberately. As you practice, you will see that your accuracy increases and at some point will probably not have to do step 7 as your confidence and control increase.

The hand holding the food

The hand holding the food will be the focus of this article. The position of the fingers and the thumb are key to the claw method as the objective is to draw the fingers and thumb safely out of the way of the blade of the knife as it cuts the food.

Let’s start with a piece of celery. This it a good food to practice with because it has a curved side and also a flat side where the food is not likely to roll out from under the hand holding the food.

Step 1

Place the celery with the curved side facing the ceiling and the U-shaped side facing downward on your cutting surface. We recommend you wear a cut glove on your non-dominant hand. The hand that will be holing the knife is safe (see how to hold a knife safely article) but the hand holding the food to be cut will be the focus of this article. 

Step 2

Place your non-dominant hand on top of the celery near the end where you want to start cutting. Draw your fingers back tightly so they appear to be touching the top of the inside palm of your hand. Then curl the thumb back against itself, with the tip of the thumb now curled toward the base of the thumb. When your fingers and thumb are in the correct position your hand will resemble a claw of a bird, or the paw of a bear.

Chef Debra demonstrates the Claw Method of safely cutting food, Step 1
Chef Debra demonstrates the Claw Method of cutting. Her fingers of the non-dominant hand are drawn back and holding the celery.

Step 3

Bring your “claw” down onto the food and place it so that the celery is positioned with the end to be cut resting between the curved thumb and curved index finger. The downward pressure of the hand is what will be holding the food firmly in place under the weight of your palm. The end of the celery should extend outside of the clawed hand, at least as far as you want the cut to be.

Step 4

With your finger and thumb holding the knife in your dominant hand, pinch the back of the blade that is closest to the knife handle. The base of the blade nearest the handle is where you want  the cut to happen. It is the spot where both of your hands will be closest to the action and where you will have the most control and tactile information of what is happening at the very place the cut will be made. 

Chef Debra demonstrates the Claw Method of safely cutting food, Step 2
Chef Debra demonstrates the Claw Method of cutting. While holding the knife in her dominant hand, she is cutting the celery with the base of the blade nearest the handle.

Step 5

Place the knife with the blade facing downward on your cutting surface and lightly drag the blade toward the celery keeping the blade in constant contact with the cutting surface. Drag the blade lightly to the exposed end of the celery. The part of the blade closest to the handle should be resting against the end of the celery. 

Step 6

Slowly lift the knife blade while keeping it in constant contact with the celery end. In this method you will NEVER bring a knife straight down onto the food without being in contact with the food first. Raise the blade, tracing the end of the celery and slowly guide the knife up the celery until you feel the knife losing contact with the celery. This means your knife can now move to the place on top of the celery where you want the cut to happen. 

Chef Debra demonstrates the Claw Method of safely chopping food, Step 3
If you want to check to see where the cut is going to happen, you can place the knife on the cutting surface, and use the fingers of the now knife-less hand to check and see if the size is correct.

Step 7

Slide your clawed hand across the top of the celery until the side of your curved index finger makes contact with the side of the blade of the knife which should be close to the handle. If you want to check to see where the cut is going to happen, you can place the knife on the cutting surface, and use the fingers of the now knife-less hand to check and see if the size is correct. If you want it a bit thinner or a bit thicker, adjust the curved index finger claw hand to be at the exact spot you would like the cut to happen. Then, pick up the knife, drag it across the surface and guide it up the end of the celery until it clears the top, and then slide the side of the blade to the curved index knuckle of your clawed hand and make the cut using the method described in the next step.

Step 8

Your fingers and thumb should still retain their claw-like shape. Make sure your thumb is drawn toward your body and out of the way of the pending cut. The part of the knife blade that is closest to the handle, being pinched by your thumb and forefinger will be where the cut happens. Gently push the blade downward and forward in a rolling forward motion so the blade moves slowly forward as you push downward. Do not push straight down on the blade, but slowly move it forward in a gentle motion. You will feel the knife gently scrape the cutting surface when you have completed that cut.

Step 9

Check your work. If the slice is the correct width, repeat the steps until you produce the amount of food you desire.

Read more about knife safety

This post is part of our series about knife safety. To learn more, read these posts:

Next steps

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