HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Clumsy in the kitchen?

All my life I have been criticised by my father for being clumsy in the kitchen. I am "cack-handed" apparently, and my attempts to cut bread are routinely laughed at (I can't cut it straight). He can't bear to watch me chop an onion, and to be fair I do cut and burn myself quite often.

I always assumed that I was just clumsy, but during the course of a conversation at work today it was pointed out that it's probably because I am left-handed. What a revelation! So it seems I really can blame my tools - the bread knife which is serrated on the wrong side for example. This also explains why I always found it hard to lay the table "correctly".

I am looking forward to having a stern conversation with my father the next time I see him!

So, a question to other "lefties". Is it worth getting any special equipment - scissors, for example?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm eagerly awaiting replies to this great post also. But I bet you type faster greedy. I just learned that the QWERTY keyboard was originally designed to slow down right-handed typists - faster for left-handers

    1 Reply
    1. re: givemecarbs

      SERIOUSLY? LOL I'm wondering if that's why I tested at 132wpm with only 2 errors in a typing test back in the mid-1980s during a job interview. The entire office ended up stopping what they were doing as they listened to me tickety-tack away on the electric typewriter in the testing room. :-) I attributed it to being a typing test with "easy words to type" that just flowed properly off my fingers.

      I write right-handed, but do everything else left-handed. But I'm completely comfortable cutting/chopping with my right hand, whereas I'd be clumsy as an bull in a china shop if I attempted to do the same with my left hand.

    2. As a lefty who is quite adept in the kitchen, I don't think you can blame clumsiness on being left handed. And the last time I looked at my serrated bread knife, it was serrated on both sides of the blade. Some fairly well known left handed chefs... Paul Prudhomme, Hubert Keller

      2 Replies
      1. re: bnemes3343

        Don't rain on my parade! (Actually I've just had a long chat with a developmental psychologist about this and left-handed people do have more accidents, because we're living in a world designed for right-handed people. We're an oppressed minority.)

        1. re: greedygirl

          Shun makes left-handed knives. You might have to do a special order but they are available.

      2. Don't be so sensitive -- people like you are delightful to have around....for laughs! Even now, the image of my mentally challenged neighbor carrying a platter of spaghetti with the strings of pasta hanging down the sides has me laughing. Just relax and watch some videos of Jacque Pepin cooking with his daughter, and you'll soon have him trained to do all the prep and cooking. But you could ask him for a left handed bread knife for Christmas or whatever -- he would love that!

        5 Replies
        1. re: neverlate

          Are you saying that left-handed people are mentally challenged?!

          1. re: greedygirl

            No, my neighbor is mentally challenged, and he's right-handed. What you have in common is umm.... a certain kind of charming naievete.

            1. re: neverlate

              I think I prefer the psychologist's explanation - which was that my brain function was different to most people's. This was based on the revelation that not only am I left-handed and can't cut bread straight, but I can only wink with my right eye, but not my left, for some reason.

              1. re: greedygirl

                You had me laughing so hard the other morning, greedygirl. I was spending the week with my mom who is naturally left-handed but was trained to write with her right hand. I said somewhere on this thread that she uses her right hand for chopping, but I was wrong. I was paying much closer attention to everything she did in the kitchen and noticed that she can't cut bread straight. Forgot to ask her if she can wink with both eyes. Will have to try to remember next time I speak with her.

                I did ask her specifically about knives, and she said she never had any problem with regular knives, serrated or otherwise. But maybe she only thinks that's true? Maybe if she had a left-handed serrated knife she wouldn't end up with a triangular heel of bread?

                1. re: JoanN

                  It's not just me then. We truly are cursed.....;-)

        2. I'm a lefty and not clumsy in the kitchen. My right handed brother is a perpetual home accident in the kitchen. But I also pace and time myself better and am rarely rushed. My brother stinks at timing and is always rushed and that's usually when things go awry.

          1. On the Canadian Food Network Chef at Home show he recently suggested that the secret for cutting a straight slice of bread was to watch the angle of the knife blade to make sure it was vertical. Try it you might not have to but a left handed bread knife. It's probably sold at the same store that sells a left handed pipe wrench which all plumbing apprentices have been sent to find.

            1. Please tell us that you're a brain surgeon.

              1 Reply
              1. One of the secrests to cutting is to watch the slice, not the part being sliced from. I, too, am a congenital klutz. It doesn't help to have someone tell me that I am. I already know that. Perhaps the response is, "Oh, here, you do it. You're so much better at it than I am. I'll just go arrange some flowers for the table." Hang in there. My guess is that when you're alone, it's a little less awkward.

                1. My mother is naturally lefthanded but was trained to do certain things, such as write, with her right hand. She does most of her chopping with her right hand, all of her sewing and cutting with the left. She has problems with a number of things in the kitchen, mainly can openers, but isn't what I'd call clumsy. She couldn't live, though, without her lefthanded scissors. Especially her sewing shears. No advice for the kitchen, but based on Mom's experience I would strongly recommend you try a pair of scissors designed specifically for lefthanded people and see if it makes as much difference to you as it did to my mom.

                  1. don't think you are clumsy,but a bit disadvantaged by examples.You can't just "copy" a skill or technique.You need to transpose,mirror image it,mentally and physically.Not so easy to do "fast" at any age.
                    Serrated knives come 3 ways,single side (either) or both.
                    You will like the advantage "lefty" scissors offer.

                    1. If you have any problem at all, its your father and his criticism. Tell him to shut the f^%k up and your skill will improve dramatically.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Luckily I no longer have to live with him and have not for nearly twenty years! He still remarks on it when he comes to visit though - not that he's complaining when he eats my food!

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          There's some truth to what Sam is saying -- athletes use mental programming to perform their best.

                        2. fellow left here. I have left handed knives, but not because of the blade, but because of the handle. Shun knives have a uni-handed handle design and it makes a dramatic difference in their stability and ergonomics. Besides that I have left-handed scissors(an absolute must!) and go out of my way to locate left handed spiral notebooks(for all you righties out there, imagine trying to write in a notebook where your hand is resting on and rubbing against the sprial wire all day!?...not good times).
                          I have also read a lot about the prevalence of left handedness and how if the social stigma where non existant, the general population would be about 45% left handed. I do notice more and more lefties as I get older(mainly in people younger than I) so maybe people have started to let their children develop as they will, instead of "correcting" them, like my grandmother tried to do to me!?lol

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: nkeane

                            Wow, they actually make left-handed spiral notebooks? Lefty that I am, i always just started in the back of the book....

                            Anyway, I think we lefties have the advantage here. We're more adaptable to performing tasks right-handed than righties are doing things left-handed. That being said, the only kitchen implement I find essential is a left-handed can opener....

                            1. re: clamscasino

                              http://www.thelefthand.com/ Lots of products for lefties there...including those spiral-bound notebooks.

                          2. Asking for my left-handed SIL who seems to be very "knife-sensitive": Beside serrated or bread knives, knives with asymmetrical handles, and kitchen shears are there any other cutting implements that a left-handed person needs to be aware of. SIL insists she is very slow at meal prep because she's left-handed. I can't know for sure but logic says that shouldn't be the case if she has the correct tools and methodology. How can I help her?

                            1. I am clumsy in the kitchen and have the scars to prove it! And I am right handed. We have a running joke around here that if mama hasn't cut or burned herself cooking a large dinner then it just isn't going to be good! But I can cut bread. Just dumb luck I guess.

                              1. i'm a lefty and don't have too many issues in the kitchen outside of just plain old stupidity!

                                the one thing that does irritate me is my risotto spoonula - it's got a ridge where your thumb is supposed to go, as long as you stir right handed....

                                good point on setting the table though - I always want my drinking glasses on the left

                                1. Lefty scissors are great . And take time to set up things so they work best from your side.

                                  Some people are more lefty than others. My mother is extreme and can't do anything with her right hand - which partly explains why she did not cook much. I'm essentially ambidextrous and my brother is lefty who can use his right. The more lefty you are, the more you should seek out specialized equipment. It isn't a crutch to use the right tools for you - anymore than if you were 7' tall and needed higher chairs and counters.

                                  1. Im usually pretty good with my knife. But on onions and garlic, the i sometmes fumble the knife and end up almost cutting my fingernail off! I also tend to spaz out and drop stuff on the lfoor

                                    1. Lefty trainee chef here. I do all cutting and chopping with my left hand, and yes, I thought buying left-hand scissors made a difference. We were going to get a serrated knife for lefties, but the internet company went bust before we could place the order. The only thing I do "normally" is holding knife and fork (and if I stop to think about it, I eat soup with my right hand), and I still need to be mindful when laying a table. So far, I haven't yet run up against anything my right-handed fellow trainees can do that I can't, it just bugs me that I sometimes need to rearrange the mise en place into a more logical order.