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I am happy to have Doug add a guest post today on Essential Knife Skills. Doug blogs at Facebook Page., and while his degree is honorary (bestowed upon him by his wife), he has enjoyed cooking his whole life, and especially likes the science of cooking. He is partial to cast iron, barbecuing, and loves adding the small, special touch to a recipe that takes it from just “okay” to “wow.” Follow The Kitchen Professor
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Cooking takes practice, just like anything else. If you want to be a good knitter, you wouldn’t expect to just pick up a pair of knitting needles and knit an elaborate sweater, right?
Of course not.
You would practice for many hours, and have quite a few mismatched socks, a scarf or two, and maybe even a lopsided hat. You would also have to learn the language of knitting – knit, purl, slip…what?
The same is true with cooking – it has its own standard language, and learning that language will help increase your success when trying new recipes.
One aspect of cooking that is consistent across all recipes is that you will probably have to do some food prep that involves cutting, so let’s review 8 of the standard knife cuts with which you should become familiar.
Remember, practice makes perfect, so grab a couple of onions, tomatoes, or anything else that you like in your omelet and start practicing!
Note: It is key to have a very sharp knife for these techniques, so if you haven’t sharpened your knives in a while you should. Learn more about knife sharpening and sharpeners here.
These first 4 terms for knife skills result in roughly cubed shaped chunks of food, going from largest to smallest.
- Chop – cut into rough chunks (no standard shape) – think about the bite size pieces that you would want in a stew
- Dice – to cut into cubes – usually around 1/4 – 3/4 inch
- Brunoise – a specific and smaller dice, usually around 1/8 of an inch. You can julienne the food first, and then finish the food into a bruinoise cut
- Mince – rough chunks, like the chop cut, but much finer. You will often read to “mince garlic” in recipes
French Cooking Knife Skills
These next four terms you may not have seen before, but you probably have tried them in a recipe or two – if you are cooking with a french cookbook you are more likely than not to run across these terms!
- Lyonnaise – usually referring to onions, means to cut off the stem and onions and to slice vertically into slivers. The terms “lyonnaise” comes from the region of Lyons, France
- Julienne – also called the “matchstick” cut, involves cutting into thin strips 1 – 2 inches long and 1/8 inch square (think carrot sticks)
- Chiffonade – this type of cut is used for “leafy” types of food, like lettuce or herbs. Simply roll the food up and slice across
- Roll – the purpose of a roll cut is to have non-parallel surfaces on the cut ends. This adds a visually interesting appearance, but also exposes more of the vegetable’s surface area to heat by cutting at a 45-degree angle.