I consider a good knife to be one of the most important pieces of kitchen equipment. Although any sharp tool can be dangerous, if you make sure to use it properly you needn’t worry too much.
Aside from the obvious (don’t run with, throw knives or wave them around), here are my top 5 rules for knife safety:
1. Use a sharp knife
It’s a little counterintuitive, but a sharp knife is safer than a blunt knife. This is because when you use a blunt knife, you have to put a lot more force behind the blade. This makes you more likely to lose control of it.
2. Always cut away from yourself
Not putting any part of your body in the path of the knife is the best way to avoid cutting yourself. There are some advanced techniques which break this rule, but you need to be comfortable handling a knife before you try these.
3. Cut downwards
Don’t try and fight gravity – it makes it harder to keep control of your knife. Some more advanced techniques do involve cutting sideways, but you should never cut upwards.
4. Use a flat surface
It’s important when you’re chopping ingredients to have a stable, flat chopping surface. A chopping board or plate can help with this, but also make sure that your table or worktop is steady, and your ingredients aren’t going to go rolling off by themselves while you’ve got a knife in your hand.
(This flat surface is also the best place to put down your knife when you aren’t using it.)
5. Stand up if you can
For most people it’s safest to cook standing up. This is because if you drop anything it’s much easier and quicker to just step back than to push a chair backwards.
If you find standing difficult, I would recommend using a chair with wheels. If your kitchen is adapted for it a wheelchair is great, but if not I can recommend a wheeled office chair. If you are cooking sitting down, you might want to consider putting something solid like a tray over your lap.
These five tips should help keep you safe in the kitchen, but even following best practices accidents can happen. You can find great first aid advice from organisations like the Red Cross (link) and the NHS (link), or you can read on for basic first aid for the kinds of cuts and scrapes you might get from kitchen knives.