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Why You Should Know Basic Knife Cuts
While properly cut ingredients make dishes more visually appealing, another reason to learn basic knife cuts is to help your food cook uniformity. Larger pieces take more time to cook than smaller pieces of food. So if you have a tapered, oblong-shaped vegetable like a carrot and it's in your best interest to learn how to cut it in uniform pieces so that when you cook it, each piece cooks at the same rate.
How to Properly Shape Your Hands While Cutting
When using a chef’s knife, grip with the palm of your hand against the handle, while the thumb and index finger grip the top of the blade. It’s the most efficient way to have control of the knife while maximizing the strength from your arm, making for easier cutting.
The “bear claw” is the safest position for your guiding hand, which requires having your fingertips curled into a 90º angle with your finger tips pressing straight down, holding the food in place while your knuckles of your fingers gently lean against the blade of the knife. The hand that is holding the knife should rock forward and back cutting the food, while the guiding hand moves with the food, ensuring even slices.
7 Tips for Cutting Vegetables
- Use a sharp knife: When sharpening kitchen knives, make sure your thumb is behind the guard of the steel sharpener. Never expose your fingers to the blade.
- Use your knuckle as a guide: Don’t forget the three finger rule when slicing: one knuckle in front (your middle) and two behind.
- Relax your grip: When holding the knife handle, try to relax your grip and let the blade do the cutting.
- Rocking Motion: Move your knife in a rocking motion, from front to back and up and down.
- Keep your knife level: The knife should be at the same level as your elbows, so that your upper body can put pressure on the knife.
- Secure your cutting board: Make sure your cutting board is secure by sliding a kitchen towel underneath. This trick keeps the board in place if your work surface becomes wet.
- Start slow: Developing knife skills takes practice, so take your time to find your stride before adding speed.
9 Different Types of Knife Cuts and How to Use Each
- The Batonnet: In French, batonnet translates to “little stick” and is often used as a starting point for other cuts, especially a small dice. A true batonnet cut measures ¼-inch by ¼-inch and is about 2 to 3 inches long. These vegetable sticks can be eaten raw with dips, made into french fries, or roasted, steamed, and sautéed in side dishes. To create a batonnet: Peel the vegetable if needed and cut it into 2 to 3-inch lengths. Slice one side to produce a flat surface, repeat with remaining sides. Cut into uniform planks about 1⁄4-inch across. Stack a few planks at a time and slice them into ¼-inch-thick strips (the same width as the slabs).
- Large Dice: Large cubes that measure ¾-inch on all sides. Start by cutting a larger version of the batonnet, then cut it into squares. A large dice is great for long-cooked dishes such as hearty soups, stews, or roasts.
- Medium Dice: Medium cubes that measure ½-inch on all sides. Start by cutting a larger version of the batonnet, then cube it into squares. A medium dice is a basic knife cut that can be used for soups, stews, chopped salads, and hearty sauces.
- Small Dice: A small dice is measured at ¼-inch on all sides. First cut the vegetable into batonnets, then gather the sticks and cut down into small pieces that are ¼-inch squares. A small dice is a basic cut, ideal for soups and sautéeing with other vegetables such as in a mirepoix (a mixture that includes carrots, onions, and celery).
- Mince: The smallest of dices, measured at ⅛-inch on all sides. First cut the vegetable into julienne, then gather the sticks and cut down into ⅛-inch squares. This method of finely chopping shallots, garlic, and herbs helps flavors to infuse evenly throughout your dish, especially when sautéeing.
- Julienne: The julienne cut (also called the matchstick cut or alumette) is stick shaped and very thin. The fine sticks make for an elegant presentation and are great for topping salads, stir-fries, and sautées. To julienne: Peel the vegetable, if needed, and cut it into 2- to 3-inch lengths. Slice one side to produce a flat surface, repeat with remaining sides. Cut into uniform planks about 1/16 to ⅛-inch across. Stack a few planks at a time and slice them into 1/16- to ⅛-inch-thick strips (the same width as the slabs).
- Brunoise: A brunoise is a tiny cube cut from julienne sticks that is turned a quarter and diced again, producing cubes that are ⅛ by ⅛ by ⅛ by ⅛ inches. A fine brunoise measures 1/16 by 1/16 by 1/16 by 1/16 inches. The brunoise cut can be used in sauces, as a garnish on soup, or in a consommé.
- The Baton: The baton is the largest stick cut. It is not a commonly used cut, but can be used for crudites and vegetable sides. It is the foundation for the more common medium large dice. It measures ½-inch by ½-inch and is about 2 to 3 inches long. For a baton cut: Peel the vegetable, if needed, and cut it into 2 to 3-inch lengths. Slice one side to produce a flat surface, repeat with remaining sides. Cut into uniform planks about ½-inch across. Stack a few planks at a time and slice them into ½-inch thick strips (the same width as the slabs).
- Chiffonade: The chiffonade is used to slice herbs and leafy vegetables into thin strips. This cut is mainly used for garnishes. To chiffonade: Stack the vegetable or herb leaves, roll them into a cigar-shaped roll. Slice the roll into thin ribbons.