Knives are the most fundamental and versatile of cooking tools. With a well-made, keenly sharpened blade of the right size and shape, you can easily and efficiently complete almost any kitchen task.
Whatever brand or style of knives you prefer, your knives should feel comfortable and relatively heavy in your hand. Before deciding which to purchase, hold a range of different knives to find those that feel balanced, and seem like an extension of your own hand. If you purchase the knives as a set, you may also want to buy some individual knifes for specific tasks. Having more than one chef's knife is a good idea too, so that friends or family can help with the prep work.
Sharp knives are safer than dull knives because they cut cleanly and easily. You need to use a lot of pressure to cut with a dull knife, and it is more likely to slip or get stuck in what you are cutting.
Use a cutting board, made from wood or plastic, every time you cut. Other surfaces may be slippery, or they may dull your knife.
When cutting, the knife handle should feel comfortable and secure in your grip. Hold down the item you are cutting with your other hand, placing the food on a flat side whenever you can. If you're cutting a round or oblong item, cut a little slice off the bottom to create a flat surface before you cut.
As you are cutting, curl under the fingertips of your other hand to keep them away from the edges of the knife. With experience, you can move your knuckles directly against the blade to help you gauge the width of the cut.
Finally, always cut away from (never toward) yourself. This rule is sometimes hard to follow. If the angle is wrong, turn the food item around, or turn your cutting board around. It's often helpful to use a cutting board equipped with rubber feet on the bottom, or, if the board has none, place it atop a damp kitchen towel so the board doesn't move while you're cutting.