The Different Types of Knife Cuts and How to Make Them
Mastering the basic knife cuts is the foundation of proper and efficient cooking. Without them, the most simple tasks in the kitchen become a drudgery. Some people hate cooking for this very reason. This is why mastering all the basic knife cuts is an essential cooking skill. Not only does it simplify your work in the kitchen but having the right knife skills also protect you from injury. It is an important culinary art that comes in handy for both home cooks and professional chefs.
Mastering the different knife cuts is also important from a food presentation standpoint. Seasoned gourmands can instantly tell whether a dish has been prepared by a novice or professional chef simply by looking at the quality and precision of the knife cuts.
A good knife cut also serves a functional value depending on the type of food you are preparing. It enables you to achieve evenly cooked and delicious meals and depending on how fine it is, it can also have an impact on how fast your food cooks.
There are a number of knife cuts that you can master as a home cook or professional chef. These include the dices, baton, batonnet, brunoise, chop, julienne, chiffonade, paste and rondelle among many others. If you are a hobbyist, you may only need to master a few of these knife cuts. However, as a professional chef, you will need to master as many knife cuts as possible that will help you prepare your repertoire of dishes with efficiency.
Here is a brief overview of some of the basic knife cut skills that you need to learn to prepare the most delicious meals: -
Best Knives: Gyuto, Santoku, Wüsthof Classic 8-inch Cook's Knife
Almost anyone can do chops. This is probably the most simple of the knife cuts. It is a quick and easy knife technique that you can use to cut your vegetables into roughly even sizes but without any consideration for their uniformity.
You chop your vegetables by cutting them into small and roughly even shapes but you won’t be paying too much attention to the uniformity of their sizes. With chops, you are good to go as long as the chopped pieces appear uniform.
Chopped pieces are ideal for braises and stews or any other scenarios where you are planning to cook your vegetables for a long time. Use chopped pieces for any kind of dish where having perfect and uniform knife cuts would simply be a waste of your precious time.
Best Knives: Any Chef’s Knife
Some veggies such as garlic can be prepared into a fine paste and used in your cooking.
The paste is prepared by cutting and crushing the garlic into a fine paste. The garlic is first chopped up as finely as possible. A pinch of salt is then sprinkled on the chopped garlic and scraped with a chef’s knife. The salt provides an abrasive effect that will break down the garlic and help in further melting it down into a smooth paste.
This paste can subsequently be used in dishes where you need to create a garlic flavour without introducing the texture into the dish such as in uncooked sauces or dressings.
Best Knives: Gyuto, Santoku, any Chef’s knife
When making bias cuts on your vegetables, you slant the knife slightly to the side and cut diagonally to produce slices with oval shapes.
Once you have slanted the knife at a bias, you can make consistent cuts of the vegetable which will create pieces with a bias rather than ones that are consistently round. To create an extreme bias in the cut, you only need to slant the knife even more acutely. For less bias in the cut, slant the knife subtly.
This may sound like overkill but bias cuts actually serve a functional value in your cooking. Creating a bias cut increases the surface area of the cut pieces which in turn reduces the cooking time for the ingredients.
Use bias cuts where you are stir-frying, for example, as this will help ensure your ingredients brown faster.
Best Knives: Gyuto, Santoku, any Western-style Chef’s knife
Making a dice is the direct opposite of doing chops. Instead of an approximation, with dicing, you have to cut your fruits and vegetables into uniformly sized and neat cubes which will cook uniformly and which make for an impressive presentation.
When it comes to dices, the chef can reduce a large lump of fruits, vegetables, carrots or potatoes into evenly-shaped cubes. The cube is cut along vertically and horizontally to create a perfect dice.
There are three main types of dices that you can make. The large dices have a measurement of ¾-inches on all sizes; the medium dices have a measurement of ½-inches on all sizes while the small dices measure 1/4 -inches on all sides.
To make your dice, you begin by squaring off the sides of the vegetable that you wish to dice. After squaring it off, you slice the vegetable into even-sized planks. The planks are subsequently cut to form long matchsticks. These ‘matchsticks‘ are finally diced into evenly sized cubes.
Dicing is one of the essential knife cuts that you can’t afford to skirt around. It’s a general-purpose knife cut that will come in handy in a range of dishes. You can use dices in a number of meals depending on the size of the dice.
The small dices, for instance, are ideal for soup while the medium dices will work well with chunky stews. If you are making large or roasted vegetable dishes, you could do with the large dice.
The number of recipes that you could use with the dices is simply endless and limited only by your culinary imagination, so this is a core knife cut skill that you have got to have in your back pocket.
Brunoise is a tweeny-weeny dice that measures 1/8-inches on all sides. That is, 1/8-inch by 1/8-in by 1/8-inch and is therefore the tiniest of dices. It’s almost the same size as a mince. The sizes in a brunoise don’t have to be uniform but they should be roughly even-sized.
When making a brunoise, the vegetable is first cut into a julienne shape. A pile of julienned pieces is then made and these are subsequently diced into very tiny cubes to make brunoise.
The brunoise pieces are too tiny to be used in cooking. They are therefore typically used as last-minute additions to dishes or as garnishes.
The fine brunoise are even tinier than the typically tiny brunoise. They measure 1/16-inches on all sides or 1/16 by 1/16 by 1/16.
Like the brunoise, they are too tiny to be used for cooking and are best used as garnishes.
The julienne knife cut is also known as the matchstick cut or the allumette.
It is very thin and shaped like a thin matchstick. Julienne has a thickness of between 1/8-inch and 1/16-inch and a length of roughly 3 inches.
The very thin and fine julienne sticks will make for a superb meal presentation. They are also great for other uses such as topping up your salad, sautés or for quick-cooking recipes such as stir-fries. The julienne will also come in handy for raw serving applications such as in slaws. When julienned vegetable pieces are added at the end of cooking, they can soften up the hard edges of your veggies and make for a toothsome bite in your all-vegetable recipes.
To make julienne, the vegetable is thinly sliced along its length to make thin planks with a thickness ranging from 1/8 to 1/16-inches. The planks are subsequently stacked on top of one another and cut to make tiny strips with the same thickness as the slabs.
If need be, you can cut the vegetable into lengths of 2 to 3 inches to create juliennes of the same length.
The rondelle is a rather common knife cut that is regularly used on carrots.
The vegetable is sliced to create uniform round slices.
To make a rondelle, begin by gliding the knife through the vegetables and ensure the slices are as evenly sized as possible. To easily make the thin, round and uniform slices, you can also use a mandolin.
The rondelle cut also gives you a good deal of versatility. The slicing process is not only easy but also fast and efficient and will easily suffice in quick food preparations.
The rondelle cuts create two sides that have a large surface area that will brown easily when frying on a pan. If the vegetables you are cutting have a stronger flavor, it is generally recommended that you use a mandolin to make the thin rondelle slices as a knife is likely to give you slices which are too thick and overpowering or even radishes.
Best Knives: Santoku, Gyuto
Minces are the tiniest dices and measure 1/8-inch on all sides. Their sizes are even smaller than those of the fine brunoise. However, it is not as precise as a fine brunoise or small dice. The very fine cuts in minces make it difficult to achieve a high degree of precision.
To make minces, the vegetables must first be cut to make julienne. The sticks are then gathered together and diced to make the 1/8-inch cubes.
Minces are mainly applied in chopping garlic, shallots or herbs to be used in infusing your dishes with flavors, particularly when you are sautéing. The minces will distill the flavor of the herb and distribute it throughout the whole dish.
Chiffonade refers to the ultra-thin ribbons of your leafy vegetables.
This knife cut is used in slicing leafy vegetables and herbs to form very thin strips. The chiffonade cut is mainly used in making garnishes.
To make chiffonade, the vegetable leaves are stacked together to form a small pile after the stems have been removed. The pile is then rolled to form a small ‘cigar’ shape. Slice this roll thinly, against the roll, to form the ultra-thin and delicate chiffonade ribbons.
Chiffonade cuts are strictly used on the leafy greens, particularly on herbs such as basil. You can use your chiffonade cuts to garnish your pastas, bruschetta or any kind of dish where you wish to infuse the basil flavor without having to use large pieces.
In paysanne, you cut the vegetable slices into even widths while retaining the vegetable’s natural shape.
To make a paysanne cut, slice the vegetables to form thin and even slices without squaring off the veggies before slicing.
You can use paysanne in dishes where you need shaved vegetables such as in stir-frys and slaws, and where the shape isn’t a consideration.
Best Knives: special peelers, box graters
Shredding entails grating your vegetables to create julienne-like pieces with inconsistent shapes.
You can use a box grater or a special peeler to grate your vegetables. A commonly used tool is the julienne or shredding peeler that is designed with combed teeth to grate the vegetable into strips.
Shredded vegetables are used in a number of recipes including slaws, hash browns or any other recipe where you need to blend in some veggies into ground meats or sauces. Vegetables that are these tiny often tend to overcook and lose their texture which can be good for a veggie meatloaf or any recipe where you are trying to hide the vegetables.
Best Knives: Gyuto
The batonnet is a thick stick cut out from your vegetables with widths ranging from ¼-inches to ¾-inches and lengths of approximately three inches.
The batonnet is often the foundation for making the small dice, medium dice or large dice.
Like in the julienne cut, the vegetable is first sliced lengthwise to form ¼- inch, ½-inch or ¾- inch slabs. Cutting the batonnet usually takes time as the stacking done before cutting is quite elaborate and not as easy as in julienne.
Batonnet cuts are used mainly in making veggie sticks and French fries.
This wraps up our overview of some of the top knife cuts that you should master along with the range of knives that will help you make the most optimal knife cuts. With the right knife and cutting technique, you can make stunning and consistent knife cuts that will add efficiency to your cooking and make your food look really pretty. Good knife cuts will also make your food cook more consistently and can considerably reduce injuries in the kitchen. Start mastering these knife cuts today to develop the dexterity in your cooking routine that will outmatch that of any top chef out there.