Slice the onions… dice the carrots… chop the potatoes… are all common recipe instructions, but do you really know what they mean? Properly cutting the ingredients is more important than you may think! The cutting technique you choose can significantly alter critical aspects of your meal, including the cook time, flavor and texture.
Here are five common cutting techniques that every home chef should know, as well as the proper knife and cutting board to use.
Chopping is the most basic cutting technique and a go-to for many amateur chefs. Chopping refers to informally cutting vegetables or meats into irregular, but similar sized pieces. The chop is perfect for quickly cutting foods that don’t need an aesthetic appeal – such as stir-fry meats or soup vegetables. For best results, use an 8”-10” chopping knife with a sharp blade and a wooden butcher block or edge grain cutting board.
Dicing is a form of chopping; however, it requires you to cut smaller, more uniform pieces. An easy way to remember this is that the cut pieces should be square like game dice. Dicing ingredients helps them evenly cook and distribute flavor through your meal. Plus, it makes your dish more attractive especially if you’re using colorful ingredients. Similar to chopping, a chef’s knife or a santoku knife on a wooden butcher block or edge grain cutting board is ideal for dicing.
Mincing is a form of chopping and dicing, but the pieces are very small and fine. When you are finished mincing, you may notice that the food has a paste-like texture. The purpose of mincing foods is to help release their natural oils and distribute them throughout your meal. This technique will help deliver more flavor in your dish. Most commonly, the ingredients you will mince include garlic and fresh herbs. You can use a chef’s knife and wooden cutting board to mince, but as you perfect your home chef skills you may want to invest in a mincing knife and mezzaluna cutting board.
Slicing refers to the technique of cutting thin, evenly sized pieces. When you slice food, you’ll want to hold the item with your opposite hand making sure that your fingers are curled in towards your palm and away from the knife. Use the knife to cut into the top of the food at an angle, then press down using the full length of the knife blade. Depending on the type of food you are slicing, professionals recommend a chef’s knife or serrated slicing knife on a wooden cutting board.
Have you ever noticed long, skinny slices of vegetables on your plate and wondered how they got that way? A cutting technique called julienne deserves the credit! Julienne refers to cutting foods into long, thin strips that resemble shoestrings or matchsticks. Julienne is a favorite amongst professional chefs because it can offer an instant aesthetic to a plate. This cutting technique does require the pieces to be uniform in terms of size, generally 1/8” x 1/8”. For optimal results, use a chef’s knife or cleaver on a wooden cutting board or butcher block.