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. This effect is possible because professional chefs have the skills needed to perform any type of knife cut, and they know which tool to use in any situation. Most cutting techniques can be broken down into two categories: chopping and slicing.
How to Slice, Dice and Mince Like a Pro
Here is a guide that explains some of the most common cuts and how you can learn to do them properly.
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 if you do not need perfectly uniform pieces of the item being prepped. In order to achieve this, make sure you know how to hold a knife properly and keep your ingredient laid out on a flat surface to prevent it from moving. In the case of 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, making sure that your off-hand is in a claw position to hold the ingredient steady and guide your knife strokes, simply slide your knife towards you and downward, then lift and repeat.
The Baton Cut
The baton cut is achieved by chopping your ingredient into stick-shaped pieces. This cut is often used for crudité platters that contain carrots, celery and other finger foods.
The Batonnet Cut
The batonnet cut is closely related to the baton cut, except it’s more precise. This cut is useful for dishes that require each cut of the ingredient to be exactly the same size and shape. This is useful for stacking vegetables to give your plate a higher, more three-dimensional look or if you desire immaculately shaped rectangles for presentation purposes. You will want to use the same method as the rough chop for both the baton and batonnet, except you’ll want to take a little more care to ensure that your pieces have a uniform size and shape.
The Julienne Cut
The julienne cut takes the batonnet one step further in creating thin, stick-shaped pieces. Think of the result of a julienne cut as resembling the size and thickness of a matchstick. Once you have mastered the julienne, you can strive to perfect a fine julienne cut, which creates razor thin pieces of your favorite vegetable.
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, turn the sticks of your ingredients so you can chop off the end to create square shapes. You’ll still be using your chef’s knife or Santoku to perform these cuts. It may take practice and experience to master these knife cuts, but the results will be well worth the effort.
- Dice – small, medium or large cubes used for sautéing, soups or items to be cooked and pureed.
- Brunoise or fine brunoise – 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 are looking for a thinly sliced square.
- Mince – also known as a fine dice. Start with a fine julienne and use a “rock chop” method where you seesaw your knife from tip to bolster to create the smallest pieces possible.
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. For meats and roasts, you may wish to choose a boning knife. For fruits and vegetables, a chef’s knife will be appropriate.
6 Common Slicing Techniques
There are 6 common slices that every chef should understand and practice to perfect their craft.
The rondelle 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 is a common slice that prepares herbs or greens to be used as a garnish. This can be achieved by rolling the leaves of lettuce, basil or other leafy green into a tight spiral and slicing from end to end. This rolling and slicing process is commonly referred to as the back-slice. 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. Once you have sliced and unrolled your ingredient, you should have thin, uniform strips.
The Diagonal Slice
A diagonal slice is similar to a rondelle, except you will want to tilt the ingredient at a 45-degree angle rather than hold it perpendicular to your knife. The diagonal slice can be expanded into a technique known as the oblique cut, or roll cut. This cut is used for items such as parsnips or carrots that are thin on one end and thick on the other. To perform this cut, begin with a diagonal cut, then rotate the ingredient another 45 degrees, slice again, then rotate back until the entire ingredient has been sliced. This makes uniform knife cuts out of oddly shaped vegetables and produces more surface area than a regular slice.
The Lozenge Cut
The lozenge 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. And 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.