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Push cut vs Pull cut vs chop

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rmrf

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I've seen a few discussions around push cut vs rocking and the recent discussion about cutting techniques with vegetables. I would like to start a discussion about cutting techniques that do not involve prolonged board contact.
  • Do you notice a difference in speed, accuracy, or "quality of the cut" when comparing pull/push/chop?
  • The place I most see pull cuts is cutting fish. I have no experience cutting fish. Is pull cutting easier or better for some reason here?
  • Does sharpness of knife play any role in which style of cutting works best? For example, I suspect I don't feel comfortable with chopping cuts (no motion in the direction of the spine of the knife) because I started cooking with dull knives and its easier to cut things with a high cutting speed.
  • Do you observe a knife dulling faster with any of these techniques? From a machining standpoint, I've been told that running with too slow speed dulls the tool bit (I'm not a machinist, don't quote me). Is there an analogy here? Does chopping dull the knife appreciably more than a pull or push cut?
  • Does food release change with pull/push/chop or is it a purely knife dependent property?
  • Is push/pull/chop any different with a workhorse vs laser?
I am interested in this because on the internet, I've seen a lot of conflicting opinions about the same knife. I'm wondering if differences in how people cut can explain the difference in opinion. Or, are different opinions simply personal preference or wanting to optimize different aspects of the knife.
 

ma_sha1

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I think both knife, the condition of the knife & the person have influence in their feedbacks.

I do mostly push & pull cuts. Push cut is more natural & I can deliver more power if needed but pull cut is easier as I usually land the knife in mid front, pulling will result in having thinner portion of the knife going through food after landing.

Quick chopping is fun but its not as universally applicable to all type of food, for example it’s easier to do it on green veggies & potato than thick carrots.
 

spaceconvoy

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I prefer to cut everything horizontally, that way the cutting board never dulls my knife. I use my fingers like a cage, gripping around all sides of the item to stabilize it. Then I slide the tip of the knife horizontally between each finger gap, rotating the cutting board until I've hit every side. Then I roll the item and repeat. Hope this helps
 

ian

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I think pull cuts are faster, maybe since pull muscles are usually larger and quicker to twitch or something. Biceps vs triceps? Idk, maybe that's bullsh*t but they seem faster to me. It's also easier to put a lot of pull in a pull cut than it is to put a lot of push in a push cut (the latter is quite hard). So, if you're cutting something with a skin like a tomato that needs to be sliced open by the teeth of the knife, pull is better.

Push cuts allow you to use more downward force. If you push directly out from your shoulders while leaning forward, you'll be pushing down and also forward. I guess that's not exactly how a push cut works, but it makes sense that it would be a good way to exert a lot of force in the direction of the board. Much better than pull cuts in this dept. So, push cuts are better for dense ingredients that take some force to get through.

Pull cuts are better for food release imo. Part of this is what masha said: at the end of your cut the food ends up on the shorter part of the knife (spine to edge distance is smaller), so there's less knife for the food to stick to. Also, many knives have some distal taper, where the knife gets thinner toward the tip, so that can make a push cut feel nicer... in contrast, when you push cut with distal taper, the part of the knife going through the food keeps getting bigger and bigger (even more so than it usually does just from the knife getting thicker as you approach the spine), so maybe that makes it a bit harder to make the cut? Idk, maybe that's nonsense, but the cuts do feel different. I guess you could also make an argument that push cuts are good for food release, since at the end of the cut the food is on a part of the knife that typically has more convexity, since distal taper forces the geometry of the blade face to be flatter near the tip. I like the food release on pull cuts personally, though.

I find controlled chopping is easiest when there's enough weight on the knife, and a slightly forward balance, to get the knife to plow through the food mostly on the weight of the blade. A back balance will allow for really rapid, whippy chopping.

I'd expect pull cuts to be best for edge retention, since the impact with the board is usually less forceful, at least when I do them.


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What's with all the hate on this thread? I know y'all are sick of some other people, but this seems like a perfectly reasonable question.
 

aaamax

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am I the only one that feels like he's missing something???
 

rmrf

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I couldn't help myself. These discussions are amazing.

For the record. If r0bz and rmrf or future account jakemarklarry buy $500 worth of knife from me while taking on all the risk. I will vouch for them on BST.
🤣 I will try this.

I think pull cuts are faster, maybe since pull muscles are usually larger and quicker to twitch or something. Biceps vs triceps? Idk, maybe that's bullsh*t but they seem faster to me. It's also easier to put a lot of pull in a pull cut than it is to put a lot of push in a push cut (the latter is quite hard). So, if you're cutting something with a skin like a tomato that needs to be sliced open by the teeth of the knife, pull is better.
That's very interesting! I should practice pull cuts more and see if my speed improves. I definitely agree that pull seems to do better with tomatoes. When I still had heirlooms, pull cutting them was a lot easier than push cutting but I viewed it as a more, precise? type of cut.

Push cuts allow you to use more downward force. If you push directly out from your shoulders while leaning forward, you'll be pushing down and also forward. I guess that's not exactly how a push cut works, but it makes sense that it would be a good way to exert a lot of force in the direction of the board. Much better than pull cuts in this dept. So, push cuts are better for dense ingredients that take some force to get through.
The video posted by m1k3 and my own experience backs this up. Different strokes for different applications.

Pull cuts are better for food release imo. Part of this is what masha said: at the end of your cut the food ends up on the shorter part of the knife (spine to edge distance is smaller), so there's less knife for the food to stick to. Also, many knives have some distal taper, where the knife gets thinner toward the tip, so that can make a push cut feel nicer... in contrast, when you push cut with distal taper, the part of the knife going through the food keeps getting bigger and bigger (even more so than it usually does just from the knife getting thicker as you approach the spine), so maybe that makes it a bit harder to make the cut? Idk, maybe that's nonsense, but the cuts do feel different. I guess you could also make an argument that push cuts are good for food release, since at the end of the cut the food is on a part of the knife that typically has more convexity, since distal taper forces the geometry of the blade face to be flatter near the tip. I like the food release on pull cuts personally, though.
You've convinced me of both explanations! You must be a theorist 😆 (7th joke down)


I find controlled chopping is easiest when there's enough weight on the knife, and a slightly forward balance, to get the knife to plow through the food mostly on the weight of the blade. A back balance will allow for really rapid, whippy chopping.
All of the knives I've used have been fairly light. I will watch for this in the future though.


What's with all the hate on this thread? I know y'all are sick of some other people, but this seems like a perfectly reasonable question.
Haha, I am sort of inviting this behavior with my timing. 😄
 

Byphy

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🤣 I will try this.
Did you mean "buy" :oops:

Joking aside, my personal opinion. Learn all the cutting styles. The versatility is useful. Push cuts are much faster but someone with great knife skills can speed through pull cuts as well. In fact, before you even get to deciding between push and pull, or whatever, get your stance right. Something that I had to be reminded of frequently. You should be in a comfortable position where your wrist isn't straining and you can have a nice relaxed, repeatable motion. And then cut things. You'll find out what's best for you.
 

rmrf

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Joking aside, my personal opinion. Learn all the cutting styles. The versatility is useful. Push cuts are much faster but someone with great knife skills can speed through pull cuts as well. In fact, before you even get to deciding between push and pull, or whatever, get your stance right. Something that I had to be reminded of frequently. You should be in a comfortable position where your wrist isn't straining and you can have a nice relaxed, repeatable motion. And then cut things. You'll find out what's best for you.
Good advice, thanks! Ian and ma_sha1 convinced me to try and get better at pull cuts. With regards to stance, that makes a lot of sense and isn't something I would pay attention to. I'm a young home chef and home chefs probably don't cut enough that things hurt until they get old enough that changing habits is hard.
 

LUWerner

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Ok, this does not have anything to do with the cutting method per se, but something that I always avoid, and on this video you can see it. I always try to never scrap the pieces I just cut with the edge of the blade; if I have to shove stuff around the board, I use the back of the blade. I'm just a home cook, therefor I never have to do anything in a hurry, so maybe this is different for the professionals. But I have the feeling that dragging your edge horizontally over the board will dull the edge, so if I have to shove stuff around I either use the back of the blade or a spatula or something.

But I have to wonder - nonsense on my part?
 

Kippington

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Ok, this does not have anything to do with the cutting method per se, but something that I always avoid, and on this video you can see it. I always try to never scrap the pieces I just cut with the edge of the blade; if I have to shove stuff around the board, I use the back of the blade. I'm just a home cook, therefor I never have to do anything in a hurry, so maybe this is different for the professionals. But I have the feeling that dragging your edge horizontally over the board will dull the edge, so if I have to shove stuff around I either use the back of the blade or a spatula or something.

But I have to wonder - nonsense on my part?
It's fine if you do it lightly. The whole idea of a good board is that it preserves your edge, whether hitting it during a cut or lightly scraping it to move food.

Anyone that uses a knife often and knows how to maintain an edge, they won't care much.
 

M1k3

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Yeah, the scraping the edge bugs me too. But that's another thread and video :cool:
 

slickmamba

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You should learn both push and pull cuts like everyone is saying. I switch between the two styles, usually pull if the product is small/soft, and push if the product is tall/hard/large
 

sododgy

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Ok, this does not have anything to do with the cutting method per se, but something that I always avoid, and on this video you can see it. I always try to never scrap the pieces I just cut with the edge of the blade; if I have to shove stuff around the board, I use the back of the blade. I'm just a home cook, therefor I never have to do anything in a hurry, so maybe this is different for the professionals. But I have the feeling that dragging your edge horizontally over the board will dull the edge, so if I have to shove stuff around I either use the back of the blade or a spatula or something.

But I have to wonder - nonsense on my part?

It's not necessarily nonsense, but I also don't think it's nearly as big of a deal as people make it out to be. I was the same for the first week that I got my first nice knife. Then I remembered that I'm a working cook, knives are tools, and I bought stones for a reason.

Using your knife dulls your knife. IMO, using it to move food counts as using it just as much as cutting.
 

ian

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But... but...but... you can use the spine of the knife to push food around! Why waste your precious edge life on that when it takes like 1/4 of a second to rotate your hand? Plus, it makes a nicer noise on the board when you use the spine! Aiyah the noise! Aiyah the pain!

(If you use the edge, I won't say anything, but I will silently judge you. I don't care if it makes no significant difference in edge life.)
 

sododgy

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But... but...but... you can use the spine of the knife to push food around! Why waste your precious edge life on that when it takes like 1/4 of a second to rotate your hand? Plus, it makes a nicer noise on the board when you use the spine! Aiyah the noise! Aiyah the pain!

(If you use the edge, I won't say anything, but I will silently judge you. I don't care if it makes no significant difference in edge life.)
1.) If you add up all of the 1/4 seconds I save by not making weird unnatural motions, I fully believe that it outweighs however much time it takes to "repair" whatever wear is done by scraping.

2.) **** having to clean the spine. It bothers me way more than it should to have to wipe garlic/onions/anything remotely sticky off of the spine specifically. Add those seconds of something I can't stand to time I'm saving.

3.) twisting my hand in that direction is uncomfortable and feels wildly unnatural.

3.) using to lift and transfer ingredients. With my Shibata AS, sure, no problem. My Mazaki? I might as well try to pull food up onto a brick.

4.) I trust myself not to run or bump into anyone with my blade up. I can't say the reverse is true, especially in a working environment


I have way too many many neuroses to add one that I fully believe to be wildly unnecessary if you're using any degree of care and thought. Hell, even if you aren't.
 

ModRQC

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Twist the knife not the hand. It's a flicker of fingers.

Also use some basic sense, if you care about this specifically. Meaning: if you have a full board to scrape, or rather sticky ingredients, use the spine. As you cut use the edge, much faster, no biggie.

But of course that's just me. Here we like to pretend we know by not thinking. The video is perfectly alright - he uses the edge scrape as he cuts.
 

M1k3

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But... but...but... you can use the spine of the knife to push food around! Why waste your precious edge life on that when it takes like 1/4 of a second to rotate your hand? Plus, it makes a nicer noise on the board when you use the spine! Aiyah the noise! Aiyah the pain!

(If you use the edge, I won't say anything, but I will silently judge you. I don't care if it makes no significant difference in edge life.)
Yo handled and most knives with Machi make using the spine easier. It's also why I wanted my custom to have that.
 

M1k3

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4.) I trust myself not to run or bump into anyone with my blade up. I can't say the reverse is true, especially in a working environment
I had to put my leg down for this one. Why are you walking around with stuff on your knife?!?! Put it in something or use your hands!
 

sododgy

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I had to put my leg down for this one. Why are you walking around with stuff on your knife?!?! Put it in something or use your hands!
Lol, what? I think you missed what I was getting at. I could have been more clear, but I thought it was kinda obvious...

I know that I won't run or bump into anyone (because I'm not moving, because we're talking specifically about moving stuff on a board...), I can't say the same for the people around me. With an edge constantly down, I don't have to worry about people around me at all.
 
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LUWerner

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Plus, it makes a nicer noise on the board when you use the spine! Aiyah the noise! Aiyah the pain!
And that's the second (or first?) issue I have with scrapping the edge - the noise. It makes me feel kind of dirty, as if I'm molesting my knife.
 

ian

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I have way too many many neuroses
Me too, my friend. In my professional writing, I will alter my wording so that the last line in every paragraph is at least a quarter of the page in width. I feel compelled to do this even if it’s a rough draft that will be changed like 200 times before publication. In fact, upon publication the margin width almost always changes, so this compulsion doesn’t affect the final product at all. It just looks so stupid to have a single word or whatever on a line that I can’t bear to look at it while writing!
 

Uncle Mike

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Scraping board

spine of the knife is several mm tall. When you go to scrape food up off board with the spine, it has to go over this lip to get onto the blade. Dustpans are flat to the floor for a reason

I want the edge of my knife facing the board, not me

I have to flip the knife around to use the spine, then again to resume chopping

holding the knife at a 20° angle to the board and scraping isn’t going to dull it. Unless you’re using a cinderblock for a cutting board, you’re not going to dull the knife no matter what you do. If the knife does get dull - isn’t that why I have stones?
 

ian

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spine of the knife is several mm tall. When you go to scrape food up off board with the spine, it has to go over this lip to get onto the blade. Dustpans are flat to the floor for a reason
Oh yea, doing that would be totally dumb. You use the spine to just scrape stuff to the side, not when you’re lifting it up on the blade.

I have to flip the knife around to use the spine, then again to resume chopping

Unless you’re using a cinderblock for a cutting board
Hmm, looks like this technique has some supporters! ;)

Screen Shot 2020-09-24 at 10.30.20 AM.png



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I gonna beat this horse! Beat it! Die! Die! @M1k3, talk me down with one of your memes!
 
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