The F.N. Sharp Guide to Cutting Up Those Veggies
I think we can all agree that cutting vegetables takes the patience of a saint. I mean, how many times have you stood over your cutting board and mumbled a few choice words that would make your mother blush while you attempted to cut vegetables that seemed to intentionally make your life difficult?
Did you eventually give up and decide to eat that bag of frozen tater tots from the back of your freezer? “Taters are vegetables”, you told yourself.
The thing is, using fresh vegetables in your recipes is not only way better for your health, but also makes you look like a very capable person. And if there’s one thing that’s better than vital health, it’s feeling superior to your friends and family.
To that end, we are about to make your life a whole lot simpler by sharing the simplest techniques to cutting some of the most popular vegetables.
From A to Z: The Ultimate Guide to Cutting Vegetables
When it comes to prepping fresh veggies, one of the biggest things to get right is using the right tools for the job. So, before we even get into the specifics of how to cut the darn things, let’s talk about knives.
The Best Knives for Cutting Veggies
You wouldn’t try flipping a pancake with a whisk or beating eggs with a carrot peeler. The same is true for slicing, chopping and dicing; you’ve got to use the right tool, and in this case, that means the right knife. Here are four knives that will help you prep veggies like a pro.
The Chef’s Knife
Perhaps the most classic of knives, the chef’s knife is great for slicing, dicing, and mincing most types of veggies. And because it’s bigger and a bit heavier than some of the other knives on this list, it’s a good option for cutting through dense veggies like sweet potato and butternut squash.
Knife Knowledge 101: How to Use a Chef's Knife
The Santoku Knife
Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Santoku Knife
The Paring Knife
Most of us can remember our mothers or grandmothers sitting at the kitchen table with a little paring knife cutting up something-or-other. This knife is great for delicate, in-hand work like peeling, segmenting and trimming, as well as slicing small ingredients (like garlic).
Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Paring Knife
The Utility Knife
How to Cut 22 Types of Veggies
We’ve decided to make your life even easier. We’ll not only tell you how to cut the following 22 veggies, but we’ll also tell you how to choose the right ones and how to store them after prepping. You’re welcome.
How to Cut Acorn Squash
Choose – Look for smooth skin that has a nice balance of green and orange tones. Also choose one that is heavy for its size, as this one will be loaded with water and not dried out. There should be no soft spots.
Chop – Roasted acorn squash makes a delicious side dish in the fall. To make prepping really easy, pierce the skin in a few places, then microwave on high for 2 minutes and let stand for a few minutes. Next, cut the squash in half and remove all of the inner fiber and seeds. Then cut into the size and shape you desire for roasting. You can cut along the length of each half, leaving you with long wedges, or you can cut into cubes.
Store – If you have too much cut squash, you can simply wrap the raw pieces in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to four days. Cooked squash can be sealed and kept in the fridge for up to four days or frozen up to 12 months.
How to Cut Artichokes
Choose – Look for tightly-packed leaves. The further spread apart they are, the less fresh the artichoke.
Chop – You’ll definitely need a sharp knife for this one as artichokes are pretty tough. Start by slicing off about half an inch from the top so you’ll have a flat surface to work with. Then, holding the artichoke by the stalk, snip off the pointy spikes from the bracts with kitchen shears. To reach the artichoke’s most-valued part – the heart – you’ll need to remove both the outer and inner bracts until you reach the hair-like choke. Then carefully remove all of the choke from the heart.
Tip – If there are too many spikes on the bracts and you don’t have time for that, simply slice off the plant’s crown with a knife. The stem is also edible and delicious, so you can either slice off the brown end before grilling, or slice off the stem completely for a roasted artichoke served upright.
Store – Unwashed artichokes can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. When you notice the leaves begin to spread, cook as soon as possible. For cooked artichokes, refrigerate within two hours of cooking in a shallow, airtight container or wrap tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap for up to five days. If freezing, sprinkle with some lemon juice to prevent darkening and store in a heavy-duty freezer bag or airtight container for up to a year.
How to Cut Asparagus
Choose – Look for thin spears that are straight with closed tips. Avoid curved or wilted spears with open tips.
Chop – Cut or snap off two inches of the stalk, then use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to trim any tough, woody stems. Then simply roast, steam or grill.
Store – If you’re not going to use asparagus right away, then do not wash it (and certainly don’t soak it). Simply trim off the ends and stand the stalks upright in a jar with about an inch of water at the bottom. Cover jar with plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
How to Cut Bok Choy
Choose – Look for bok choy stalks that are pure white, not a brown/rusty color. The stalks should also be firm (not wilted) with leaves that are dark green.
Chop – Chop an inch from the bottom of the stalk before giving it a good washing under cool running water. You can either separate the individual stalks with your fingers, or leave them together and give a rough chop for a salad or to use in a stir fry.
Store – Leave the bok choy unwashed if you’re not going to use right away. Keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 3 days.
How To Cut Broccoli
Choose – Look for a firm head with closed florets. There should be no odor and the head should be dark green.
Chop – Wash broccoli head under cool tap water and shake off excess, then cut off the large stalk. Many people throw this away but it’s actually very sweet and delicious. Just trim off outer tough skin with a veggie peeler or paring knife and cut stalk into long strips for a dipping plate, or you can dice them up to use in rice dishes. Turn the head over to see all of the individual florets and cut these apart. You can either leave the florets large for a dip tray or cut them into smaller pieces.
Store – Do not wash until ready. Fresh broccoli can last in your refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you want to freeze, you will need to wash and cut the broccoli into little florets. Steam these for about five minutes, then immediately put in ice water to stop cooking and prevent them from getting mushy. Place in sealed bags or containers and into the freezer for up to 12 months.
How to Cut Brussels Sprouts
Choose – When possible, select Brussel sprouts that have been left on the stalk. You can find these at farmer’s markets. If not available, look for brightly colored firm heads.
Chop – Remove from stalk and cut away the little remaining stem. If you’ve purchased sprouts off the stem, simply submerge in cool water and move around for a few minutes to clean, then pat dry. You can leave the sprouts whole or slice in half before roasting them.
Store – You may refrigerate Brussel sprouts in a plastic bag for up to one week.
How to Cut Butternut Squash
Choose – Look for an even cream color. The squash should also be firm (no soft spots) and heavy for its size.
Chop – Give the squash a rinse, then cut lengthwise. Remove the inner fibers and seeds. Some people prefer to peel the skin before cutting into medium-sized squares and roasting, but it’s not necessary.
Store – A whole uncut squash can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a month. Once you’ve cut it, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
How to Cut Cabbage
Choose – Look for heads with compact, shiny leaves. Heads should feel heavy for their size and be free of blemishes.
Chop – Remove the outer leaves, then cut cabbage in half to remove the tough, inner core. From here you can either cut into wedges or rough chop into smaller chunks.
Store – A whole head can be refrigerated for up to 7 days in an airtight plastic bag. If you’ve used half a head and want to save the other half, be sure to cover it tightly with plastic wrap and use within 2 to 3 days.
How to Cut Cauliflower
Choose – Look for a compact head with creamy white curds and bright green attached leaves. Avoid heads with brown spots.
Chop – Don’t wash until you’re ready to use. Then rinse under cool running water. Remove the outer leaves, stem and core. You can cut off the individual florets for a dipping tray or roasting. You can also mince up the cauliflower for salads, or pack in some extra veggies in rice dishes by replacing the rice with cauliflower rice.
Store – You can refrigerate cauliflower in a plastic bag for up to 5 days.
How to Cut Celery
Choose – Look for straight, stiff stalks that have fresh, not wilted, leaves. They should smell fresh and not musty.
Chop – Chop off about an inch from the bottom (the white part), then separate individual stalks. Rinse these well. You can trim off additional bottoms of each stalk if necessary. Then either leave stalks as is and fill with cream cheese or peanut butter for a quick snack, or dice it up to add to soups and stews, chicken and tuna salad and other recipes that call for diced celery.
Store – Prepare the celery into the trimmed individual stalks, then store in the fridge in a Tupperware container, covered in water to keep crisp.
How to Cut Fennel
Choose – Look for bulbs that feel heavy for their size and have tightly packed layers. No stalks should feel wilted or rubbery.
Chop – Trim off the fennel stalks close to where they connect to the bulb. You can save the stalks and top fronds for something else like making stock. The fronds are also great raw in a salad. Trim a bit of the bottom of the bulb so it can sit stable on your cutting board (check out our F.N. Sharp guide for more on cutting boards and which is best for your knives). Then, slice down through the middle of the bulb. Next, cut those halves into quarters, then cut as per your recipe. Generally, the quarters will be sliced crosswise to get thin slices.
Store – Loosely wrap in plastic and store in your crisper drawer for up to one week.
How to Cut Green Onions (Scallions)
Choose – Look for stalks with fresh, green tops with slightly white ends. Be sure to avoid yellowing tops or greens that have wilted.
Chop – Rinse thoroughly, then trim the roots and the very tops of the greens. Chop into desired width slices.
Store – Green onions can be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week.
How to Cut Leeks
Choose – Stalks should be firm and crisp, not wilted. Look for as much white and light green as possible. This is one veggie where dark green is no good.
Chop – These buggers are grown in sandy soil so it’s important to wash them thoroughly. Cut off the root end, then slice leek in half vertically. Chop into smaller pieces and place these in a bowl of cold water. Move them around, then drain the pieces. Then cut into whatever size pieces your recipe calls for.
Store – Unwashed leeks may be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to two weeks.
How to Cut Lettuce
Choose – Iceberg lettuce heads should be compact and heavy for their size. Avoid any heads with loose, wilted leaves. Romaine lettuce heads should have closely bunched leaves that look crisp and fresh, not wilted.
Chop – Remove any loose outer leaves on your iceberg lettuce head. You can easily loosen the core by giving the head a good hit, core down, on the kitchen counter. The core should pull right out. You can then chop or slice the head, then place into a colander for a good rinse and pat dry or use a salad spinner. For romaine heads, chop off the bottom of the stalk, and loosen each leave. Wash these well and spin or pat dry. You can then chop up for a salad.
Store – Both iceberg and romaine lettuce can be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week.
How to Cut Kale
Choose – Look for dark green bunches that have small to medium leaves. Avoid any brown or yellow leaves.
Chop – Wash the bunch well. Individual leaves may simply be pulled apart. Using your hand or a knife, remove the stalk and central vein. You can then chop or tear the leaves up for cooking. If you’re going to eat the kale raw, it’s best to let the leaves marinate in a dressing to soften them up a bit.
Store – Store kale in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 5 days.
How to Cut Jicama
Choose – Look for small or medium jicama that is shiny without any blemishes.
Chop – You will have to remove the skin of the jicama because it is not edible. First give it a good scrub to remove any dirt. Then peel it. Next, you may cut the jicama into cubes, strips or slices, depending on your recipe. Jicama may be eaten raw or cooked.
Tip: Jicama is very much like potato in that it will begin to discolor once you’ve started cutting it. Simply submerge jicama slices or pieces in a bowl of cool water with a few drops of lemon juice to stop discoloration.
Store – Uncut jicama can be stored in a cool, dry place uncovered for up to 3 weeks. Warning: Jicama will mold if it gets wet or is stored in a damp area. Once you cut your jicama, refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 3 weeks.
How to Cut an Onion
Choose – Look for onions that have smooth and dry outer skin. There should be no discolored or black patches.
Chop – To reduce the chance of crying your eyes out, refrigerate the onion for an hour beforehand. Then, cut off the stem and root end and remove the layers of papery outer skin. Cut the onion in half and lay each half down on its flat side for stability while cutting. From here you can slice, chop and mince as desired.
Store – Whole onion may be stored in a cool, dark place for up to one month. Just don’t store them next to potatoes. Chopped or sliced onion may be placed in a tightly sealed contained and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
How to Cut Mushrooms
Choose – Look for button mushrooms that are firm with a creamy color. Avoid any that have soft spots or are a bit too pungent.
Chop – Use a damp paper towel to gently wipe away dirt from the mushrooms. Next, cut off the stems, then place the cap flat side down and slice them perpendicular to the board. If desired, you can cut these thin slices in half.
Store – Mushrooms may be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week. DO NOT wash them until you are ready to use them.
How to Cut Potatoes
Choose – Look for potatoes that are firm with no soft spots and smooth outer skin. Avoid potatoes that are cut, bruised, discolored, or have eyes.
Chop – Give a good rinse under the tap, then peel off the outer skin. Cut in half lengthwise. Now from here you can continue to cut thin strips along the length for fries, or cut strips then cut smaller squares. It all depends on your recipe. Sweet potatoes are great left in bigger chunks, then roasted in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Store – Never store potatoes in the fridge. Store them in a cool, dark location for up to 2 months.
How to Cut Spaghetti Squash
Choose – Look for a firm squash that is heavy for its size. It should be free of soft spots and cracks.
Chop – Give the squash a good rinse under the tap to remove any dirt, then cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and inner fibers. Next, bake or boil (bake is best in our opinion) following directions for whichever way you choose to cook it, then let cool. Once cooled, use a fork to “rake” out the stringy flesh all the way down to the rind, then toss the rind. The stringy flesh makes a great replacement for noodles in pasta dishes.
Store – Store uncut spaghetti squash in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. Cut spaghetti squash should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.
How to Cut Swiss Chard
Choose –Look for deep green leaves and firm stems. The larger Swiss chard stalks are thicker and great for sauteing, steaming and pickling, while the smaller stalks are great raw in a salad.
Chop – Holding the stems, run the sharp edge of a chef knife along them to remove the leaves. Then, cut the stems crosswise in a fluid forward and down motion while keeping the tip of your knife on the cutting board. Then stack the leaves and cut crosswise in a similar motion or for a chiffonade cut, stack the leaves and roll them up like a cigar, then slice crosswise to create the ribbons.
Store – Place in an unsealed plastic bag and store in the crisper for up to a week for larger stalks. Younger stalks with smaller leaves will turn faster.
How to Cut 8 Types of Vegetables That Aren’t Really Vegetables
Fruit is sweet, right? Well, that depends… do you think an avocado is sweet? What about cucumbers – are those sweet? It can get confusing because most of us call the not sweet produce veggies and the sweet produce fruit, but they don’t always follow these rules.
So may we speak botanically? A fruit is the seed-bearing part of a flowering plant no matter if it’s sweet or not. So, a tomato and a cucumber are as much a fruit as apples and grapes.
Sometimes the “is it a fruit or a vegetable” debate can get pretty heated. So heated the law must step in, as it did in1893, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Nix v. Hedden case, that an imported tomato should be taxed as a vegetable, rather than a (less taxed) fruit. Our government, always there to help.
With that said, let us take a look at some vegetables that are actually fruits and how to choose, chop and store them.
How to Cut Avocado
Choose – An avocado that is ripe and ready to go should be a deep dark green color and slightly soft to the touch. That is, if you push your thumb into it, it gives just a little. If you want to use the avocado in a few days, then choose a harder green one.
Chop – Grip the avocado in one hand and gently use a sharp knife (the chef’s knife is a great choice) to cut the avocado lengthwise around the pit. Twist to separate the two halves and, holding the half with the pit in your hand, carefully tap the pit with the heel of the knife and twist to remove. You can either scoop out the flesh with a spoon or peel the skin off and cut into slices.
Store – Unripe avocados may be stored on the kitchen counter. Ripe avocados may be stored in the fridge for 3 or 4 days. Sliced avocado will easily turn brown, so it’s best to use immediately.
Tip – If you do have leftover slices, you can brush it with lemon juice or olive oil and seal in an airtight container and store in the fridge for another day or so. For leftover halved avocado, wrap it as tightly as you can in plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic wrap into the well of the pit if it’s been removed.
How to Cut Cucumbers
Choose – Look for firm cucumbers that are dark green and heavy for their size. Avoid ones with soft spots or are oddly shaped.
Chop – Give the cucumber a good wash under the tap. You can leave the skin on or peel first. Non-organic cucumbers should always be peeled as they are usually coated in wax. You may then cut into slices, strips or cubes.
Store – Cucumbers can be stored in a plastic bag for up to a week in the fridge.
How to Cut Eggplant
Choose – Look for smooth, shiny skin that is uniform in color. It should also be heavy for its size with no soft spots. For ripe eggplants, give it a gentle sqeeze and if it bounces back, it’s ready to go.
Tip – Smaller, immature eggplants tend to be sweeter and have less seeds. If you need a larger eggplant, look for the “male” rather than the “female” as the female can be a bit bitter and contain more seeds. To tell the difference between male and female eggplants, inspect the indentation on the blossomed end – a shallow and round indentation indicates a male and a deep indentation shaped like a dash indicates a female.
Chop – The skin of an eggplant is edible, but some people don’t care for it so you can either leave it on or peel it off.. Then, slice the whole thing in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch slices for dishes like eggplant parmesan, or cut into smaller sticks or cubes, depending on what your recipe calls for.
Tip – To reduce bitterness, sprinkle cut eggplants liberally with salt and let it sit for an hour. This will pull out bitter juices. Then drain and prep.
Store – You can keep eggplant in your fridge for up to 4 days, but they really are better when you use them right away. Cooked eggplant can be refrigerated for 3 days.
How to Cut Okra
Choose – Look for dry, firm okra void of any blemishes. And it should feel a bit fuzzy like a peach.
Chop – Wash well, then remove the stem and cut as per your recipe’s directions.
Tip – It’s best to prepare okra with an acid food such as tomatoes to keep it from getting slimy.
Store – Okra pods can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 3 days. Cooked okra can be kept in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
How to Cut Peppers
Choose – Since there are several varieties of peppers, we’ll cover the two most popular peppers – bell peppers and jalapenos. When selecting bell peppers, look for ones that are bright with glossy skin and no shriveled or soft spots. Jalapeno peppers should be a dark green color, and also have a nice gloss.
Chop – Give bell peppers a nice wash under the faucet, then slice off about half an inch from the top and bottom. Use a sharp knife to carefully remove the core, ribs and seeds. For thin slices, slice one side of the pepper flatten it out on your cutting board with skin side down. Then start slicing into strips. For diced bell peppers, you’ll follow the same steps as slicing, then dice the slices into smaller pieces. For rings, slice off the bottom and top, remove core, ribs, and seeds, then lay the pepper on its side and begin slicing into rings.
Now onto the jalapeno – give it a nice wash and pat dry. Now, before we get into the cutting part, it’s important to mention that the seeds inside the jalapeno pepper are H.O.T. Like, make-a-grown-man-cry hot. So be very careful when handling them. Simply cut your jalapeno pepper in half, then use a spoon to scrape out the seed pod from each side and discard (or keep, depending on what the recipe calls for and how spicy you want it). Then slice, dice or mince your pepper, however you need it to be for the particular recipe you are making.
Tip – For the LOVE OF SIGHT, do not touch your eyes during this process.
Store – Both pepper varieties may be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for 5 days.
How To Cut a Pumpkin
Choose – We’re looking for a nice edible pumpkin, not the kind you carve for Halloween. So, look for a smallish one with few blemishes that feels heavy for its size. Avoid any with soft spots.
Chop – Give the pumpkin a nice wash or rub down with a wet paper towel. Then cut it lengthwise in half. Remove and discard the inner seeds and fiber. Next, trim off the skin with a paring knife or peeler. You can roast the pumpkin as is or cut into small cubes first.
Store – You may store pumpkins at room temperature for up to a month on the countertop or in the fridge for up to 3 months. If you cut the pumpkin first, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 5 days.
How to Cut a Tomato
Choose – Look for bright color and shiny skin. Stay away from any that are too soft or have obvious bruising.
Chop – Make sure your knife is sharp enough to cut through the tough skin without sliding off or squishing the juicy inside. Also give your tomato a good rinse under the tap and pat dry before cutting.
For slices, place the tomato on its side on your cutting board with the stem facing right if you’re right-handed and vice versa. Then start slice off the top to remove the stem and any leaves and continue cutting into slices.
For wedges, you’ll want to follow the stem. Place the tomato on your cutting board with stem-side up remove the stem and any green leaves. Then slice in half right down the center, then slice into quarters following the stem again. You should now have four equal pieces, which can also be sliced in half for smaller wedges.
For diced tomatoes, start with slices then arrange next to or stacked on top of each other and cute the slices into evenly spaced strips and slice across to create little cubes.
Tip – To skin your tomato before making fresh marinara sauce, score the bottom of each tomato with an X, then place in boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Then remove carefully and shock by placing it in ice water. The skin will slip right off. You can also use a paring knife to peel the skin for garnish and other decorative uses, like the tomato rose featured in this recipe for antipasto crostinis.
Store – Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator or they can become mealy and lose flavor. Ripe tomatoes should be stored at room temperature but away from direct sunlight. Try to eat them within 2-3 days.
How to Cut Zucchini
Choose – Look for zucchini on the shorter side. A good rule of thumb is to select ones less than 6 inches, and only 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Also, look for firm, shiny skin that is slightly prickly. Avoid any with cuts and bruising.
Chop – Wash the zucchini first. There is no need to peel the skin, just lay in down on your cutting board with your guide hand in the “claw” position to protect your fingers while holding the zucchini in place, the start slicing. For many recipes, you will need to make 1-inch round slices all the way down, or even cut all of the slices into half circles, depending on the recipe you’re making.
Store – Raw, whole zucchini should be stored unwashed in a perforated plastic bag in your crisper for up to 5 days. Cooked zucchini should be covered well and refrigerated for no more than 2 days.
And there you have it. You now know how to choose, chop and store TONS of vegetables. You no longer have any excuse to eat tater tots. I know, we’re sorry. But the good news is, you’re officially far more superior than any of your friends or family. And if you master those knife skills, they may just start calling you “Chef”!