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Basic Knife Skills

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

When it comes to cooking, it's key to have great knife skills. Now, you don't need to be a professional to julienne or finely dice, you just need to know that there are key differences. A professional chef knows that there are almost 12 different terms when it comes to knife techniques.

But, we aren't professional chefs! We are your average people that just want to make a delicious meal and have it cook to perfection.

So, if you need some help on how to chop, dice, and slice, keep reading!

First off, WHY are there so many ways to cut a vegetable/fruit? Why can't we just have one way to do it and continue on with our lives? Well, it's because each way of cutting is specific for different meals. You aren't going to chop a carrot coarsely for a mirepoix and you aren't going to finely dice for a salad.

Second, we need to ensure that when we choose what kind of knife technique we want to use, that we ONLY use that specific one for the rest of the recipe. Say you're baking veggies, you can't have finely diced eggplant and then coarsely chopped zucchini because they aren't going to bake at an even rate. Everything you put into a meal should relatively be the same shape and size in order to ensure even cooking.

Third, in order to chop perfectly, you need to make sure you have a sharp, chef's knife that you love and will allow for an easy cut. You also want to have a steady cutting board, and not one that moves left and right while you're chopping. If your cutting board isn't a sturdy one, put a wet towel underneath and it will hold the board better. Lastly, don't be scared. Make sure your fingers are in a bear claw over the produce and not too close to where you're chopping. You'll be just fine!

Knife Techniques:

1. Minced: these are going to be cut into ⅛ inch pieces of smaller. You are going to ensure they are diced to the smallest pieces. For an easier dice, place one hand on the handle and the other hand lightly on the knife tip. This will facilitate an up-and-down rocking motion and will ensure an even mince.

2. Chopped fine: these are going to be cut into ¼ inch pieces. If you're chopping a carrot, I recommend slicing it down the middle horizontally, chopping it in half again vertically, and then slicing down into three parts vertically again. Then finely chop from there. --> you will see that there are two knife techniques that describe chopping "horizontally" and "vertically" at #8 and #9.

3. Chopped medium: these are going to be cut into ½ inch pieces. You can repeat the "chopped fine" steps and then instead of three parts you can chop down into two parts.

4. Chopped coarsely: these are going to be cut into ¾ inch pieces. These are more nonchalant. You can just slice the carrot down the middle horizontally, chop it in half again vertically, and then just chop away and you'll have larger pieces.

5. Cut into chunks: these are bigger than the "chopped coarsely", these are usually for vegetables like potatoes that need to be cut into chunks.

6. Sliced: to cut into pieces with two flat edges, and the thickness of the slices will depend on the recipe. To slice means to cut and to dice means to cut into very small uniform sections and the two actions are generally done sequentially.

7. Diced: to cut into uniform cubes, and the size of the dice will depend on the recipe.

8. Cut lengthwise: to cut with the length of the food, or from end to end. I refer to this as vertically chopping.

9. Cut crosswise or widthwise: to cut across the food, perpendicular to its length. I refer to this as horizontally chopping.

10. Cut into chiffonade: these will be cut into very thin strips. This is usually used for fresh herbs like basil. The easiest way to do this is by grabbing the basil, flattening it out perfectly on the cutting board, rolling it up, and then finely chopping from there.

11. Julienned (or matchsticks): these are usually 2 inches long and ⅛ inches thick. This is quite difficult to do if you are a beginner so if you can avoid this technique, do it at all costs. It's usually used for more of a refined look in your meals. But if you don't care and just want a delicious and perfectly cooked meal, then I recommend using the other techniques! However, if you want to know, what you do is to remove the top and bottom of the vegetable, slice each side off to square them off, and then cut the vegetable into thinner, julienned strips.

12. Rondelle: these are going to be cut into coin shapes.

13. Cut on the bias: these are the rondelles but fancier. They are cut at a 45 degree angle. I don't ever use this technique, it's more for a visual appeal.

I hope this helps! The biggest thing to remember is that if a recipe calls for a certain knife technique, you must follow the instructions in order for a perfectly and evenly cooked meal.


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