Food Hand Hand Therapy Knife Safety

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Kitchen Knife Safety

Serious hand injuries can occur during daily activities such as preparing food. Many hand injuries can be prevented with simple adjustments to routines. In preparation for the upcoming fall cooking season, please consider some safe, simple adjustments to your own routine in cutting various food items to prevent knife slips, which can cause injuries to the tendons or the nerves in your hand.


This delicious, yet slippery fruit can be a challenge when it comes to cutting and preparing for serving. The danger arises from removing the outside peel of the fruit. Once this is removed, the fruit center is extremely juicy and becomes difficult to hold. The fruit is also oval-shaped, difficult to place on a cutting board and has a large pit in the center.

Here’s a safe method for preparing mangoes:

  1. Keep the peel intact! Instead, stand the mango on a cutting board with stem side down and cut mango into two large pieces from either side of the pit. Be sure to cut toward a cutting board or solid surface and not the palm of your hand.
  2. Taking the two large pieces with peel side on cutting board, you can use a paring knife to cut cubes or slices of the mango, being sure not to cut through the peel. Again, be certain you are cutting toward a hard surface and not your hand.
  3. Once all your cuts are made, you can begin to peel away the skin of the mango by turning the skin inside out OR you can use a spoon (not anything sharp) and scoop the cut pieces away from the skin of the mango.


Many bagels come pre-cut, but it is the ones that aren’t that pose safety issues. Recommendations when cutting a bagel:

  1. When cutting your own bagel, a serrated knife works the best because less force is required to cut, and smashing the bagel is avoided.
  2. A technique professionals use is to place the bagel on a flat surface. With your fingers placed on top and the wrist and elbow lifted away from the knife, use light pressure to hold the bagel in place. Be conscientious of your finger position on the bagel as to not get in the way of the knife. Make several slow, back and forth slices horizontally to cut across the bagel.
  3. Adaptive or commercially-sold equipment is also available (online or in-store) to help with cutting bagels safely.
  4. You can utilize these steps for rolls and bread in addition to bagels.


If aesthetics can be sacrificed, a safe way to prepare an avocado is the ‘squish’ technique. The key to this is picking a ripe avocado – one that gives to light pressure all over and is dark green.

  1. Hold avocado in one hand. Use butter knife to make a cut all the way around the whole avocado down to the pit.
  2. Place knife down and simply twist the avocado gently. The pit is in one half and the other half empty.
  3. Using one hand, gently ‘squish’ the one half with no seed into your dish. Be sure to squeeze all the goodness out!
  4. With the other half, gently ‘squish’ the seed out.
  5. Then, just as the other side, ‘squish’ the rest of the avocado out into the dish.
  6. Stir and enjoy an injury-free avocado experience!

Hand and finger injuries, such as lacerations, tendon injuries and nerve damage often happen during kitchen mishaps; however, with a few simple adjustments, safety in the kitchen can lead to endless opportunities of food choices without risking the well being of your hands!

The American Society of Hand Therapists website has additional safety tips for cooking. See Safe Cooking Tips,  Safe Turkey Carving Tips and Safe Pumpkin Carving Tips.

Steph Clement, OTR/L, CHT, Stacy Baker, OTR/L, CHT, and Kerri Kitchens, OTR/L, CHT are Certified Hand Therapists and active members of the American Society of Hand Therapists.

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