The F.N. Sharp Guide to Knife Cuts and Techniques
When you see a dish created by a world-renowned chef, you’ll notice that every single aspect of the plate is immaculately crafted. That's because professional chefs have the skills needed to perform any type of knife cut a recipe calls for – and they know which tool to use in any situation. But that doesn't mean you can't slice and dice like the pros – with this F.N. Sharp guide, and a little bit of practice, you'll be well on your way to leveling up those knife skills!
Here's what you'll learn in this guide:We’ve also included 43 F.N. Sharp Recipes for practicing those knife skills! Now let’s get to slicing, dicing and mincing like the pros!
How to Slice, Dice and Mince Like a Pro
Most cutting techniques can be broken down into two main categories: slicing and chopping. From there, you'll learn all of those different "fancy" cuts – the rondelle, the chiffonade and, of course, the julienne. But first, let’s look at the most important step to slicing, dicing and mincing like a pro: getting to know your knife and how to hold it.
The Parts of a Kitchen Knife
Getting to know the different parts of a knife and the materials used to create them is the first step to mastering your knife cuts. Kitchen knives consist of two main parts: the blade and the handle, and each is made up of a few different parts.
The blade is, of course, where all of the action happens and is broken down into five parts:
- The Cutting Edge: the sharpened edge of the blade, which runs the length of the blade
- The Heel: the section of the cutting edge that is closest to the blade
- The Spine: the thicker edge of the blade, opposite to the cutting edge
- The Tip: where the cutting edge and spine of the blade comes to a point
- The Flat: as the term suggests, this is the flat part of the blade on either side.
Each part of the blade can also be used in different ways, especially when using a western-style chef’s knife. Check out our guide on how to use a chef’s knife for a full rundown on its many uses in the kitchen, including using the different parts of the blade.
The handle is, of course, where you hold the knife and is made up of four parts:
- The Tang: the extended part of the blade encased within the handle as either a “full” or “partial” tang. Full tangs extend through the length of the handle, while partial or “half” tangs only extend through part of the handle. Some knives don’t include a tang at all, which usually indicates poor quality.
- The Rivets: metal pins used to secure the handle to the tang (not all knives have rivets).
- The Bolster: the part that meets the blade to its handle, which is designed to keep your fingers from slipping while you work (not all knives feature bolsters).
- The Butt: also known as the pommel, this part is usually made of metal and is located at the very end of the handle. Some cooks may use the butt for tenderizing meat, but it’s much safer and better for your knife to use tools that are intended for that purpose.
Check out this F.N. Sharp guide for a deeper dive into the different parts of a knife and the materials used to create them.
How to Hold A Knife – The Right Way
The next step to mastering your knife cuts is learning how to properly hold your knife. While there are generally two different methods for holding a knife, there is one that offers superior performance once mastered.
The “handle grip” is how most beginners learn to hold a knife as it appears to offer a more comfortable hold with all fingers wrapped around the handle and tucked behind the bolster. While this may appear to be the “safer” grip, it actually offers less control over the knife, making the chances of breezing through ingredients like a professional zero to none.
In order to maintain the most control over your knife and achieve the precise cuts performed by professional chefs, your best bet is to learn and practice the “pinch grip”.
Also referred to as the “blade grip”, the pinch grip involves pinching the blade between your thumb and the knuckle of your forefinger, with the rest of your fingers safely tucked under the handle.
This grip offers more centered balance and control over the knife, which in turn requires less effort when performing different knife cuts, such as the “rock chop” method. This method involves anchoring the tip of the knife against a cutting board and using an up-and-down rocking motion while cutting through ingredients.
Getting the right grip isn’t the only thing to focus on when learning how to slice, dice and mince like the pros – your off-hand, also referred to as the guide hand, plays a very important role, as well.
Known in the culinary world as the “claw grip”, this is the position your guide hand should be in while your knife-hand is doing its thing. This technique not only helps keep your ingredients in place (and your fingers safe), but also serves as a guide for your blade to help you achieve the most precise slices, dices and minches.
To perform the claw grip, you’ll simply keep your fingertips curled under and away from the blade as you hold your ingredient in place. To do this correctly, make sure the flat of the blade is parallel to the flat part of your curled fingers between the first and second knuckles. Then, you should be able to slide the blade against that flat part between your knuckles as you slice, dice and mince away. Just be sure not to lift the blade up too high, as you can nick a knuckle on the way back down.
Once you’ve mastered using the pinch grip and keeping your off-hand in the claw position, you’ll start breezing right through meal prep like you’re the next MasterChef contestant!
Check out the video below to see how to hold a knife in action:
The Ultimate Guide to Slicing
Slicing refers to cutting ingredients into uniform slices and is used for fruits, veggies, herbs, meats, cheeses and breads. The knives you use for slicing will vary depending on the ingredient you’re cutting.
For example, when it comes to the best knife for cutting veggies and other produce, a Western-style chef’s knife or Japanese-style Santoku are usually good choices, while the little paring knife comes in handy for peeling fruits and veggies, segmenting citrus and slicing small ingredients like garlic and shallots.
For mid-sized fruits and veggies, hard and soft cheeses, cured meats and cutting sandwiches in half, the utility knife may be the way to go. For meats and roasts, you may want to use a boning knife, or another good knife for slicing through those meats. And for breads and cakes, you’ll want to use the bread knife, of course.
Knife Knowledge 101: 6 Types of Knives Every Kitchen Needs
You’ll also want to make sure you have a good cutting board on hand, especially one that’s good to your knives. Avoid using cutting boards made from glass, ceramic, stone or other hard materials as they can not only dull your knives, but also have the potential to chip or break your blades.
Wooden or plastic cutting boards are the best all-purpose cutting surfaces that won’t damage your knives. Contrary to popular belief, quality wood cutting boards, like this Acacia wood cutting board from F.N. Sharp, don’t actually harbor any more bacteria than plastic — provided they are sufficiently cleaned and maintained.
Now, let’s get to slicing!
Common Slicing Techniques
There are 4 common slices that every chef should understand and practice to perfect their craft, as explained below.
The Rondelle Cut: Simply meaning round in shape, this cut is generally used for cutting round or oval shaped veggies, such as carrots, cucumbers, eggplant and zucchini. While there isn’t an exact size dimension for this cut, rondelle pieces are uniform and generally measure between ⅛ to ½ an inch in thickness. Try the rondelle cut for soups, stews, salads and stir-fry recipes!
Check out the video below to see how to create a rondelle cut using the chef’s knife:
The Diagonal Cut: This cut is similar to the rondelle, except you’ll want to tilt the ingredient at a 45-degree angle rather than hold it perpendicular to your knife. This method gives you oblong-shaped pieces and can also be expanded into a technique known as the oblique cut, or roll cut, which is used for items that are thin on one end and thick on the other (like parsnips or carrots).
Cutting veggies using the diagonal cut not only makes a dish look extra pretty, but can also help those veggies cook more quickly while also allowing them to absorb more of any sauces or seasonings you’re cooking them with!
Check out the video below to see how to create a diagonal cut using the chef’s knife:
The Lozenge Cut: Similar to the diagonal cut, the lozenge cut is often used for decorative purposes as it involves slicing fruits and veggies into diamond-shaped pieces measuring around ½ inch by ½ inch by ⅛ inch. To perform this cut, start with a baton or batonnet chop, then turn your sticks at a 45-degree angle and begin slicing. Try the lozenge cut on some bell peppers to create pretty patterns on your plate!
Check out the video below to see how to create a lozenge cut using the chef’s knife:
The Chiffonade Cut: This cut is a common technique used to create uniformly cut and thinly sliced ribbons of leafy herbs and greens. Coming from a French word meaning “in rags”, the chiffonade cut is done by stacking leaves on top of each other and rolling them into a tight bundle. Then, you’ll use the back-slice technique to cut thin slices from the bundle.
If you’re unfamiliar with the back-slice technique, you’ll need to place the tip of your knife against your cutting board and draw it toward you without pushing down – there’s no rocking motion at all. This is what produces the fine, narrow ribbons of herbs and greens that are perfect for adding as a last-minute garnish.
Check out the video below to see how to chiffonade in action:
Slicing Through the Meats and Other Proteins
When it comes to slicing through meat and fish, there are a few tips to keep in mind.
First, make sure you avoid using a sawing motion, since doing so will end up ripping and shredding the meat and give your pieces a jagged appearance rather than a clean cut. This is especially true if your knife isn’t quite sharp enough for the job.
Instead of sawing through your meat, try positioning your knife ahead of the ingredient to slice using the very heel off the blade. Then, begin slicing by applying gentle downward pressure as you pull the knife back towards your body, allowing the weight of the knife to do the work for you.
Pro Tip: If the meat starts sticking to the blade between slices, use your guide hand fingers to straddle the blade and hold the ingredient in place.
Check out the video below to see how the chef’s knife is used to break down a boneless pork loin:
Check out the video below to see how a chef’s knife is used to break down a chicken:
Check out the video below to see how a chef’s knife is used to break down chicken wings:
The Ultimate Guide to Chopping
When it comes to chopping ingredients into the different cuts explained below, you’ll really want to reach for either the chef’s knife or Santoku knife. Keeping at least one of these two knives in your kitchen is really a must when it comes to chopping through ingredients.
Also note that how you perform the following techniques will depend on the knife you choose, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the differences between the chef’s knife vs. the Santoku knife. In general, chopping with a Western-style chef’s knife involves keeping the tip of the knife on your cutting board as you cut, while chopping with a Santoku knife involves lifting the knife up and down between cuts.
Common Chopping Techniques
The Rough Chop: This is the first chopping skill to learn, which is exactly what it sounds like – it’s used for recipes that call for roughly chopped ingredients, rather than perfectly uniform pieces. To perform the rough chop, be sure to get a good grip on your knife and stabilize your ingredient to prevent it from moving during cutting. When it comes to round fruits and vegetables, it’s a good safety precaution to slice off one side or cut the ingredient in half so it rests flat on the cutting board without rocking.
Then, you'll want to make sure the fingers of your off-hand are curled under into the "claw" position while holding the ingredient steady. This technique allows you to use your knuckles as a guide for your knife strokes while also protecting those fingers. To begin cutting, simply slide your knife towards you and downward, then lift and repeat.
The following chopping techniques build off of the rough chop method:
The Baton Cut: This is the technique you’ll use for recipes that call for stick-shaped pieces. It’s often used for crudité platters consisting of carrots, celery and other finger foods, as well as for thick-cut french fries. The largest of the stick cuts, the baton cut generally measures around 2 inches in length and ½ an inch in width on each side.
Check out the video below to see how to make a baton cut using a chef’s knife:
The Batonnet Cut: Pronounced “bah-toe-NAY”, this cut is closely related to the baton cut as it also involves chopping ingredients into stick-shaped pieces. It’s also sometimes confused with the julienne, or allumette cut, which is half the size in width at ½ of an inch per side. The difference between the two is the batonnet cut is a bit more precise, with pieces measuring around a ¼ of an inch in width on each side and between 2 to 2½ inches in length.
While the batonnet cut is typically used to set up an ingredient for dicing, it’s also great for cutting carrot sticks and other veggies for a crudité or veggie platter, as well as for veggies for a stir fry, or to make your own potato, eggplant or zucchini fries! Speaking of eggplant, here's a delicious recipe for air-fried eggplant fries, plus a homemade marinara dipping sauce!
Pro Tip: You will want to use the same method as the rough chop for both the baton and batonnet cuts, except you’ll want to take a little more care to ensure your pieces are uniform in shape and size.
Check out the video below to see how to make a batonnet cut using a chef’s knife:
The Julienne Cut: This cut takes the batonnet one step further in creating thin, stick-shaped pieces resembling the size and thickness of a matchstick. Once you’ve mastered this cut, you can strive to perfect a fine julienne cut, which creates razor thin pieces.
Check out the videos below to see how to use a chef’s knife to julienne peppers and zucchini:
When it comes to leveling up your chef’s knife skills, it’s important to master the baton, batonnet and the julienne as they are the first steps to finer cutting techniques like dicing and mincing. If you wish to dice, brunoise, mince or paysanne, you will need to build off of these chopping methods first.
For each of the following knife cuts, you’ll first need to perform the appropriate chop. Then, you'll turn the sticks to slice in the opposite direction to create either thinly sliced, cubed or minced pieces. It may take practice and experience to master these knife cuts, but the results will be well worth the effort.
The Large Dice: One of the easiest knife cuts to master, the large dice involves cutting veggies into cubes measuring around ¾ inch on all 6 sides and is best for root vegetables, such as carrots, celery root, potatoes and rutabaga.
Check out the video below to see how to create a large dice using the chef’s knife:
The Brunoise Cut: Pronounced "broon-wahz”, this is the finest dice you can get in terms of size. Also referred to as fine brunoise or the “confetti” dice, this cut yields pieces measuring around a sixteenth of an inch on all sides. To achieve the brunoise, you’ll first cut your ingredient into julienne strips, then turn them in the opposite direction and dice away to create small, uniform cubes.
Check out the video below to see how to make a brunoise cut using the chef’s knife:
The Paysanne Cut: Meaning “country-style” in French, this cut involves cutting ingredients into thin pieces measuring 1 millimeter in thickness. This is a more informal and rougher cut than the other more precise knife cuts in French cooking, and the pieces should resemble the shape of the veggie you’re cutting. For example, cutting carrots paysanne style will result in thin circles, while cutting celery will result in crescent-shaped pieces.
Check out the video below to see how to make a paysanne cut using the chef’s knife:
The Mince: Also referred to as fine dicing, mincing begins with a fine julienne cut to create pieces that resemble the size of the head of a match. You'll also use the “rock chop” method for this one, which involves seesawing your knife from tip to bolster to create the smallest pieces possible.
Check out the video below to see how to mince garlic using a chef’s knife:
43 Recipes for Practicing Your Knife Skills
Just like learning any new skill, using a chef's knife like a pro takes practice, practice and more practice! So, go ahead and level up those produce and meat cutting skills with these F.N. Sharp recipes!