Instant Expert: Basic Cutting Techniques Every Cook Should Know
You've probably seen the terms julienne, mince and dice in recipes and maybe you know what they mean, or maybe you turn a blind eye and start hacking away. But mastering the different types of cuts isn't just a fancy way to show off your culinary skills, it can drastically change the taste of food. Why? Using proper cutting techniques can help ensure food cooks more evenly and maximizing flavor. For example: crushed or minced garlic will have a different taste than garlic that has been crushed or pureed. To help you get your cooking at it's best, here are some of the most commonly used knife cuts:
Chopping is probably the most used and "informal," if you will, of the techniques. It refers to cutting food into small, irregular pieces. Most recipes will specify what size pieces are required, with coarse (3/4") and fine (1/4") chop being common. If no number is given, go with 1/2" pieces.
This is where things start to get a little more precise. Unlike a chop, a dice refers to cutting food into small uniform or dice-like pieces, ranging from 1/8" - 1/2". With dicing comes some waste, since you'll need to cut the vegetable or fruit into a block shape, but the extra pieces can be reused for stock or other dishes. One you have your block formed, slice the blocks into strips in the desired thickness and then cut again into smaller pieces to create cubes.
Mincing refers to cutting food into very small or fine pieces--smaller than those that would result from a fine chop or dice. Mincing should give ingredients a soft, almost paste-like texture and is commonly recommended in recipes for garlic, herbs or ginger in order to release their flavorful oils or liquids, distributing them evenly throughout a dish.
To julienne is to cut a food into long ultra-thin strips that resemble matchsticks. Julienne is also known as 'shoe string' and is the method used to create crazy delicious shoestring fries.
This method is used to shred leafy greens or herbs into ribbon-like strips to use as a garnish or in cooking. To chiffonade, stack the leaves you plan on cutting and roll them up tightly, the startthinly slicing the roll.