You’ve learned how to hold a kitchen knife properly and how to slice cleanly, so let’s move on to the basic knife cuts you will find often in recipes. Becoming comfortable with these techniques will make your cooking quicker and more enjoyable. In this part 2 of our Essential Knife Skills Everyone Should Know, we’ll cover the cutting terms: dicing, julienne, chiffonade and mincing.
Many recipes start out with a magic ratio of aromatic ingredients that build a base of flavor for your dish, whether it’s a mirepoix in French or sofrito in Italian, Latin and Spanish cuisines, this first step requires a lot of dicing. Dicing involves cutting ingredients into small, similarly sized cubes. The first step is to cut an ingredient into planks, and then lengthwise into long batons, and then stacked and sliced crosswise, which will lead you (with some practice) to perfectly uniform cubes. Ingredients like onions do a lot of the work for you thanks to their ring structure.
One tricky part to dicing round ingredients like onions, beets and turnips, is making sure to create a flat surface to keep the ingredient stable. This is easy to achieve by cutting the vegetable into two roughly equivalent halves. Another option is to remove a small strip from the bottom, which will create the stability needed to work safely and quickly without the vegetable slipping.
Performing Julienne and Chiffonade Cuts
Since these techniques are rooted in French cuisine many retain the French language names. Julienne is one of those. Don’t be intimidated by this delicate and useful cut that resembles thin matchsticks. Again, you start by creating planks, in this case very thin ones, you can lay them on top of each other or shingles and then slice crosswise.
Chiffonade also creates thin strips, but with soft ingredients like herbs. Instead of starting with planks, you stack the leaves (such as basil) on top of one another and roll them into a cylinder and slice into paper-thin ribbons.
Mincing is reserved for dishes where you want the flavor of the ingredients, but not the texture. In other words, the minced pieces should be so small that you don’t see them at all. This essential knife skill is widely used with garlic, but also ginger, onions and herbs. You take the basic approach to dicing, but more loosely. You can begin by chopping repeatedly in one direction, before doing the same motion perpendicularly. Using the back of your blade or a scraper, you can gather the ingredients into a pile and repeat the process.
Having a sharp comfortable knife is essential to making quick clean cuts. You will get better results and have a better overall experience. Knives for every essential kitchen skill are available on the Chubo Knives website. Choose from multipurpose and Japanese vegetable knives for what will become the essential tools in your collection.