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Whenever I chop veggies like onions or carrots they sometimes just fly off the chopping board into the open space of the kitchen. Carrots do that especially often – I cannot chop them (dicing is also problematic) without the occasional pieces flying off the board.

What am I missing here? I try to imitate Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay chopping videos bit by bit.

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Literally flying? The problem I've seen more with carrots (if you're just simply slicing) is that they roll off the board. – Jefromi Mar 10 at 15:47
    
How big is your cutting board? You're not trying to use a tiny 8 x 10 board are you? – derobert Mar 10 at 17:30
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@jefromi flying, rolling, jumping. Those bastards never behave. – Bar Akiva Mar 10 at 18:06
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Pro cooks on TV have dont-try-at-home skill levels, and use slice-hairs-in-length sharp utensils – Mindwin Mar 10 at 19:38
up vote 42 down vote accepted

Use a sharp knife, dull knives don't slice, they split the same way an axe splits logs and that will generate that sideways force that throws carrot bits.

Also learn to practice your slicing and chopping technique. You shouldn't be dropping the blade straight down like a axe or guillotine. You should be moving the blade in a orbital movement, so that you are slicing in a forward direction while the blade is on its way down to and through the carrot. By slicing properly much less of your veg will have that energy buildup because they won't "snap" apart but will be sliced apart neatly.

Search YouTube for Basic Knife Skills and watch several videos, then practice, and start slowly. You will get faster with time and time only, don't rush it or you'll get sloppy and may hurt yourself.

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Actually, there are several ways to chop depending on the country and the knife type (chef, santoku, chinese cleaver, usuba...). – TZDZ Mar 10 at 16:17
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@TZDZ - while that's true, the general chopping motion Escoce mentions (i.e., not straight down to "push cut" alone, but rather a combination of downward with forward or backward motion creating a circle or "orbit") is common to most knives around the world -- including all you mention -- particularly if you want to prevent flying bits. The exact angle and knife grip vary, but the motion is rather similar. – Athanasius Mar 10 at 16:52
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@Athanasius I disagree. If I understand well the motion in question, it works really well with chef knife, but not with an usuba or a chinese cleaver. – TZDZ Mar 11 at 13:58
    
@Athanasius : you need a curved front, like a chef's knife to go with a circular motion. It's possible, but more difficult with a santoku as they don't have as significant of a curve. With cleavers you make a more diagonal motion when slicing -- it's not the straight down for chopping, but it's not the circular motion you'd use with a chef's knife. – Joe Mar 11 at 14:41
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This all may be true, but I am talking basic knife skills here for the average home kitchen. The general home cook doesn't have cleavers or any other exotic knives except perhaps the santoku which seems popular in standard knife sets these days. All the knives you get in a 20 or less knife block that costs say $250 or less is going to have all curved blades except maybe the serrated bread knife. The average kitchen doesn't have a $1700 block of Shun knives. Shoot I don't even have anything close. Mine are a collection of random cheap knives I inherited and just take good care of them. – Escoce Mar 11 at 15:28

Both Escoce's and Elendil's answers are great: the key is a sharp knife, and the vast majority of people (in my experience) do not have very sharp knives in their kitchens. When people come over to my kitchen and try to cut something they are often shocked at how easy it is. If your knives slide off of food (like onion skins or tomato skins) rather than cut cleanly into them, they aren't sharp enough to make slicing easy.

The one thing I would add is to start with a long knife, and learn the "rocking" chop motion first with it. That is, keep the end toward the tip of the knife on the cutting board, and only lift the back end of the knife high enough to clear the carrot. With a smaller knife, you need to do what Escoce mentions and make an "orbital" motion rather than straight down. I think that's harder to do properly for beginners, so start with a big knife and rock it until you get the hang of it.

I tend to use a 10-inch chef's knife to chop carrots; minimum of 8-inch. Lots of people see such big knives and think they are too scary to use. But they really make chopping incredibly easy, especially if they are kept sharp. With a big sharp knife, you should barely feel like you need force at all to slice quickly through a carrot.

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Use a bigger, sharper knife. If you're having to apply so much pressure to cut a vegetable that it's flying off into the ether, your knife isn't sharp enough. Furthermore, a blunt knife is a dangerous knife, because it is more likely to slip off the surface of the thing you're cutting and end up in your hand.

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If you are not bothered about the shape of the vegetables, you can cut the (for example) carrot along its length, then place the flat side against the chopping board. You can then slice, dice or whatever with much less effort, and the carrot pieces won't roll off the board.

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It's a good idea to make a flat side of whatever you're cutting, so you don't have to deal with it trying to roll around as you're cutting. This is more important when you're starting out ... skill might help you avoid needing to do this, but you don't save any time if you end up slicing your hand open because the item moved on you. – Joe Mar 11 at 14:35

I agree with the other answers (particularly using a sharp knife). When I'm cutting something that tends to fly away like carrots, I'll keep the tip of the knife touching the cutting board.

It gives you a reference touch point so that you don't quickly cut through the object and hit the cutting board if you apply pressure. It also makes you cut it at an angle similar to scissors or one of those paper trimmers/cutters that you see in offices.

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It's crucial to consider the chopping surface here. If you are using a glass or ceramic board you will have problems with slippage.

Use a wooden or plastic board, and (as others have said) a sharp knife of a suitable type.

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Beyond the comments about knives, which is right on, I use cafeteria trays with sides in place of a standard cutting board for the majority of my chopping and cutting. I've never had the dreaded roll off problem and I can carry the trays from place to place without fear of the same vegetable fly off.

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