The ABC's of Cooking with Lynn Fredericks
author of Cooking Time Is Family Time

Lynn Fredericks
gives new meaning to our ABC's.
Each installment will focus on a new ingredient beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. K is for knives features safety tips, instructions and recipes using simple knife techniques.


 K  is for Knives

Most parents become extremely fearful imagining their child using a 10-inch chef's knife! Children under 8 years' motor skills are not reliable enough to safely use such tools. But little ones can make quick work of soft vegetables and even a whole head of broccoli using a mere table knife. What's important to understand is that kids love to chop; it's repetitive and a pile of chopped food gives them a great sense of accomplishment.

Children 8 years and older have more developed motor skills and can begin to learn how to properly use a chef's knife. Professional knife techniques take much of the fatigue out of these assignments and make quick work of them as well. They also significantly increase the safety factor. Following are my "Family Knife Safety Commandments" and some basic knife techniques that are embellished to include parental participation as well as supervision.

Additionally, I've provided some recipes from my book
Cooking Time Is Family Time. I chose recipes that require a lot of chopping and knife wielding to offer plenty of opportunities to practice.


Family Knife Safety Commandments

1) The first and most important thing to remember in knife safety is not what you do with the knife, but what you do with your other hand. That's the one in danger of being cut. Always cut, chop, slice, dice with the fingertips of your other hand curled down and around so only the flat part of your knuckle is facing the blade. This then becomes a guide for the top of the blade to work against. In this way, fingertips are safely away from the blade and in no danger of being cut.

2) The second most important knife safety tip to remember is to keep your knives sharp. When a knife is kept sharp evenly along the length of the blade, it will cut quickly, efficiently and cleanly. If it is not sharp enough, the blade will drag and that is how accidents can happen; the knife can drag and slip and consequently cut fingers that have already gone on to the next step because the knife was not supposed to be lagging behind.

3) The third knife safety commandment involves the movement and storage of knives in the kitchen. Sharp knives should be stored in a stand-up type knife rack with the blades concealed. This is by far the safest type of storage. When moving around the kitchen holding a knife or when handing it to someone, the knifepoint should always be pointed towards the floor, with the hand gripping the handle. This way, the blade and point are never waved around in danger of injuring someone. Knives should never be left in the sink. Their wooden handles will get wet and ruined and some small hand may reach in, not see the knife and get hurt. Knives should be used, and immediately washed, dried and then put away.

4) Always stay in the room and close by your child while they are working with a knife. Even once you've all become accustomed to working together and your older child has become quite competent with a chef's knife, you'll want to keep your eye on their technique. Kids and adults alike tend to forget and get lazy. That's when they forget to curl fingers or start exerting more force out of rushing and over confidence and this can lead to accidents. Keep an eye on the kids with knives, gently and supportively admonishing their lack of 'form' and remind them that proper technique is the safest way and you love them, so you want to make sure they don't get hurt.


The slicing technique involves a gentle rocking motion. Practice with a potato or apple, peeling it first and then cut it in half lengthwise. Right-handed family members should hold the knife in their right hand. With your left, hold down the item to be sliced as your curl your fingertips under. Make sure kids really curl their fingertips under; this is very important for safety. Next, hold the knife at a 45-degree angle and come down swiftly through the potato on its extreme right end. Before coming up again, be sure you continue to have a proper grip and slide the knife down to the end of the blade near the handle, then gently rock back along the blade to the tip of the knife. At this point, slowly adjust the knife to come down again -- this is all one smooth movement -- slicing through the potato once more at the desired width. (If you or the child is left-handed, reverse the above instructions.)

All along, fingertips should continue to be tucked under and are firmly holding the potato in place. As you make progress slicing, you must be sure to continue to move you left fingertips away from the blade and at the same time, inch the food towards the knife. The knife motion should feel like one continuous movement and the blade never lifts off the cutting board. Have the children practice the rocking motion with the knife on the cutting board not cutting anything. If they are doing it correctly, it should feel easy and relaxed. The knife should not be held too hard or strenuously; the controlled rocking motion of the sharp blade should be doing the real work -- not your muscles!

Uniform Dicing

When you have your apple or potato sliced, you can now make uniform dices very easily. Stack 2 slices of potato horizontally in front of you, now slice through them to make 1/4" slices, keeping the pieces snugly together with your left hand as well as you can. When it is completely sliced, use your left hand to pivot the slices so they are now vertical, slice again in 1/4" slices creating a checkerboard dice of 1/4" size. Continue in this fashion until all the potato is diced. Place your diced potato in a bowl and move on to your next

Let's Cook!


Check out other recipes that bring the whole family together:

>>> Buy This Book

Cooking Time is Family Time: Cooking Together,
Eating Together, and Spending Time Together

by Lynn Fredericks, William Morrow & Co., August, 1999

In COOKING TIME IS FAMILY TIME, Lynn Fredericks shows people how they can improve the time they spend with kids by inviting them into the kitchen to help prepare meals.

Included are 125 recipes emphasizing a variety of fresh, healthful ingredients and strategies to get kids to gobble them down. Each recipe offers directions that specify which steps are right for younger kids and which are more challenging for their older siblings.


Cooking with Kids Home
The ABC's of Cooking ::: Aa |Bb |Cc |Dd |Ee |Ff |Gg |Hh |Ii |Jj |Kk |Ll
Kid's Meals | Lynn's Thoughts on Feeding Her Children | Recipes | Book