Techniques

There are several techniques for cutting foods. The method to use will depend on the type of food, the type of dish and the type of cooking that will take place. While many recipes will specify which cutting technique to use to prepare the ingredient, many don’t explain how to apply this technique.

Below is a short guide for common food preparation techniques. No matter which technique you apply, it is important to thoroughly wash and dry food prior to cutting.

Depending on the recipe, some techniques will also require the peeling (the removal of the exterior skin) and trimming (the removal of excess fat and skin) prior to cutting the food. It is also quite common when preparing to cut fruits and vegetables, that the food should be squared off, meaning that the ends and rounded sides be trimmed off so that the food can rest flat and even on the cutting surface to facilitate the next steps. In other cases, the removal of stems and seeds are required before proceeding. Make sure you read through the full recipe in order to understand how best to prepare your ingredients.

HOW TO CHOP

Tip-fulcrum method

As the name of the method implies, the tip of the blade is the fulcrum. Keeping the tip of the blade in contact with the cutting board, bring the knife down and slice forward through the food. Using your free hand (the one that is not holding the knife) carefully hold and push the food through under the knife to chop uniformly across, lengthwise. Be sure to protect your free hand’s fingers by tucking them inward (this is known as the claw grip).

Wrist-fulcrum method

In this method the wrist becomes the fulcrum. Keep the heel of the blade close to the cutting board, while the tip of the knife is pointed up. Use your wrist to pull the knife up and down to slice through the food. Your free hand (the one that is not holding the knife) is still in the same position, in a claw grip, carefully holding and pushing the food through under the knife.

Photo credit: Janice Lawandi

Photo credit: Barry C. Parsons

HOW TO BATONNET OR JULIENNE

Whether you want to julienne or batonnet, the concept is the same: cut foods (typically vegetables) into short, thin strips.

The difference between the two methods is the sizing of the strips – ¼ inch x ¼ inch x 2 to 2.5 inches for a batonnet and ⅛ inch × ⅛ inch × 1 to 2 inches for a julienne. The method for either is the same: begin by discarding any unwanted portions of the food (i.e. roots, seeds, stems etc.).

It is also helpful to trim the ends and edges to make four straight sides. Slice lengthwise all the way across, making strips about ¼ –inch for a batonnet and ⅛-inch thick for a julienne. Stack the cut sections and slice across again to either a ¼ inch or ⅛ inch strips and trim to the desired length.

HOW TO DICE OR BRUNOISE

The difference between a dice and a brunoise is the same as the difference between a julienne and a batonnet – the size of the cube.

To dice, you will need to first cut your foods into batonnets, and to brunoise, you will first need to julienne. Depending on how small you’d like your cubes to be, begin by either julienning or batonneting your food. Once you’ve cut your uniform strips, cut across horizontally to create equally sized cubes.

Photo credit: Janice Lawandi

Photo credit: Kelly Neil

HOW TO MINCE

Mincing is useful when cooking with herbs and bulbs (such as onions and garlic), as it helps best infuse the flavor in your dish. The finer the mince, the bigger the flavor.

To mince, first chop the foods in thin slices. Place the slices in a pile, or closely alongside each other. Holding the knife in one hand, and with your other hand pressing gently on the spine of the knife to keep the tip in contact with the cutting surface, rock the knife back and forth to cut the food into fine pieces. Depending on the desired consistency, readjust the pile of food so that it can be minced more and more finely, changing the orientation of the food if needed.