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I am now typing this with 1.5 hands because like a moron I cleared parsley that stuck to the knife with the edge towards my hand. After a quarter cup of blood it is a powerful lesson to never clear the knife with the edge towards my hand.

But how then do you clear the knife? My first guess is to always point the edge away from the hand, but even the greatest knife masters will forget every once in a while to clean with the edge in the opposite direction.

How then should you clean the food that sticks to the knife?

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even the greatest knife masters will forget every once in a while to clean with the edge in the opposite direction

No, they won't, not after cutting themselves a couple of times. It's natural to cut yourself while cutting food, occasionally, but I have never cut myself while slipping food from the blade.

Always keep the edge away from you, place the side of your finger against the flat of the blade keeping it absolutely rigid and straight, and run your finger down the blade. It's that simple. Using the side of your finger reduces the chance of you curling it around the cutting edge.

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    Now that you mention it -- I wipe with my hand angled so it's more the back of my hand (so if I were to curl my fingers, they'd go away from the knife). And I do wipe slightly along the blade, but it's a diagonal, so that I'm always going towards the sharp edge (from the back side). – Joe Jan 21 '16 at 16:19
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    Also note that I slide my finger off the edge of the blade rather than running it directly down the edge. IOW in reverse, so it has no chance of catching an edge. – Escoce Jan 21 '16 at 18:51
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    Muscle memory is a powerful thing. Grab the handle of a pan roasting in the oven a couple times, and you'll never again forget to use a towel or mitt either. – logophobe Jan 21 '16 at 19:12
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Always push from the back (non-sharp) side of the knife to the front (sharp edge).

So long as you only go in this direction, and move your hand away from the knife before pulling it back in, you shouldn't cut yourself. (at least, not from doing this).

The same rules apply when washing you knife -- only wipe in that direction, or at a diagonal to it. Never wipe along the sharp edge of the blade, or back towards the blade.

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    This is close to what I do. I use my four fingers as a broom to sweep off the food. Kind of like shoo-ing a tiny spider. This method is slower than running a finger along the edge but you don't have to think about cutting yourself. – jmathew Jan 21 '16 at 22:18
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Well I think you answered this in your question. Face the cutting edge away from you. Sometimes however if I am pushing food off the cutting board into a bowl or skillet, I'll run the sides of the knife on the edge of the cutting board and knock-off what little gets stuck to the board with the knife again.

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    This. I don't see any reason to touch the food with fingers, when the edge of cutting board works just as well. – jpa Jan 22 '16 at 6:16
  • Agreed! Or if you're following mise en place, on the edge of the bowl. – Timbo Jan 22 '16 at 22:06
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One thing that may help - pinch the blade between your thumb and forefinger (near the base), and run those fingers down the blade.

With your fingers bracing off each other, the edges of your fingers should never hit the edge of the blade - the sharp edge will run in the open air where your fingers curve away from each other, either in the space above the webbing of your thumb, or else pointed away from your hand. If you run them down the center of the blade, this is perfectly safe.

If you are clearing food from an edge, or your fingers start running off the edge - go with it, make sure your fingers move towards the edge of the blade, never back towards the center. Run your fingers right off the blade edge, and reset your grip if you must, as long as you're moving from center of the blade to edge you won't have any pressure at all backwards against the blade edge to cut yourself on. That way, even if the pinch of your forefinger and thumb hit the blade edge, they are not being pulled back against the blade. Or to put it another way, the movement from center-to-edge of a knife is always pulling away from the sharp blade, never towards it.

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With some food that gets stuck it is possible to whack the knife hard on the cutting board with the edge down (or the turn it and whack the spine of the knife to not blunt the knife), making the food fall of the blade.

Another solution is to try to minimize the need of wiping it in the first place. How to prevent sliced vegetables/roots from sticking to the blade

  • Doing that can blunt or downright damage some edges. – rackandboneman Oct 21 '16 at 7:37
  • @rackandboneman, good comment, added suggestion to turn the knife :) – Viktor Mellgren Oct 21 '16 at 8:58
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I do both. I'm right-handed, so I hold the knife in my right hand and brush the left side (the side near me) with the edge pointing at me, and the right side (the side away from me) with the edge pointing away.

For the near side, I move the pad of my finger along the spine of the blade, moving from the handle to the tip. This means the edge of the blade moves backwards up my finger and can't cut me. I also arch my finger a bit so the edge isn't really touching my finger.

For the far side, I keep the pad just above the edge of the blade, pushing slightly out as I run my finger towards the tip.

In either case, if my finger moves and I miss some food, I take my finger off -- moving it down the blade towards the edge -- then start over, rather than trying to reset while half a millimeter from the edge.

I do occasionally get tiny microcuts in the skin this way, but I've never had a major cut from it. I find it easier than switching hands to clear each side, and safer than trying to clear the near side with my left-hand fingers pointing down the blade (which requires odd contortions or twisting the knife so my finger is under it and I can't see what I'm doing).

On the other hand, I picked up a stack of salad bowls two weeks ago and had blood spurting everywhere because someone set the bowls down too hard and broke one, and the sharp edge of the broken bowl put two giant slashes in my finger. Safety is relative, I guess.

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For some it is easier to hold the finger still and move the blade against it, making sure that the blade movement is always backwards in relation to any edge. Also, keeping a plastic(!) bench scraper nearby and using it for such work is a very safe and sometimes very efficient option.

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