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 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 a little bit of practice and this F.N. Sharp guide, you'll be well on your way to leveling up those knife skills.
How to Slice, Dice and Mince Like a Pro
Most cutting techniques can be broken down into two main categories: chopping and slicing. From there, you'll learn all of those different "fancy" cuts – the rondelle, the chiffonade and, of course, the julienne. Now let's get to chopping!
The Ultimate Guide to Chopping
The first chopping skill to learn is the rough chop. This cut is exactly what it sounds like – these are the types of knife cuts you would use for recipes that call for roughly chopped ingredients, rather perfectly uniform pieces.
To perform the rough chop, first make sure you know how to hold a knife properly 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 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.
It is important to master the baton, batonnet and the julienne because they are the first steps in the finer cutting techniques. 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 of your ingredients so you can chop off the end to create square shapes. It may take practice and experience to master these knife cuts, but the results will be well worth the effort.
- Dice: These are small, medium or large cubes used for sautéing, soups or items to be cooked and pureed.
- Brunoise or fine brunoise: This is the smallest dice, also referred to as the confetti dice. Start with the julienne chop and make small, uniform cubes.
- Paysanne: Unlike the dice or brunoise, the paysanne is a square chop, not a cube. You're looking for a thinly sliced square for this one.
- Mince: Also known as a fine dice, mincing starts with a fine julienne, then you'll use the “rock chop” technique where you seesaw your knife from tip to bolster to create the smallest pieces possible.
Get Your Chop on With This Recipe: Instant Pot Arroz con Pollo
The Ultimate Guide to Slicing
A slice produces different results than a chop does. You’ll want to use a slice when preparing items such as tomatoes for sandwiches, eggplants for Parmesan, or any other ingredient that calls for larger pieces in a recipe. The knives you use for slicing will vary depending on the ingredient you’re cutting. When it comes to the best knife for cutting veggies and other produce, a chef’s knife or Santoku is usually a good choice. For meats and roasts, you may wish to choose a boning knife, or another good knife for slicing through those meats.
Knife Knowledge 101: 6 Types of Knives Every Kitchen Needs
Common Slicing Techniques
There are 4 common slices that every chef should understand and practice to perfect their craft.
- The Rondelle: This is a disk shaped slice that occurs when you slice a vegetable, fruit or meat that is naturally round. These can include carrots, eggplants or tenderloins. The thickness of this slice will depend on your recipe, but in general, this slice will not be incredibly thick.
- The Chiffonade: This is a common slice that prepares herbs or greens to be used as a garnish. This is done by rolling the leaves into a tight spiral and slicing from end to end. This technique is commonly referred to as the back-slice to create thin, uniform strips. Since blunt force will bruise and brown herbs and greens, you’ll want to make sure you’re using a slicing motion rather than applying downward force.
- The Diagonal Slice: This cut is similar to the rondelle, except you will want to tilt the ingredient at a 45-degree angle rather than hold it perpendicular to your knife. The cut can 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. To perform this cut, begin with a diagonal cut, then rotate the ingredient another 45 degrees and slice again. Then rotate back until the entire ingredient has been sliced.
- The Lozenge Cut: This cut is often used when slicing fruits or vegetables for decorative purpose. It is similar to the diagonal slice, except you’ll need to start by performing a baton or batonnet chop first. Next, turn your sticks at a 45-degree angle and slice.
It is well worth the effort to learn how to slice and chop like a professional chef. It will give your meals a five-star look, and you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with each meal. Just be sure you’re working with sharp kitchen knives. Not only does a sharp knife cut down on prep time, but they also allow you to slice through your ingredients with ease so you can get the perfect knife cuts, every time.
Although all knives will need to be sharpened at some point, you can prolong the sharp edge by following the rules of kitchen knife safety, including choosing the best cutting board for your knives, like this Acacia wood one from F.N. Sharp.