If you’re like most people, you probably chop your vegetables and herbs as fast as possible, perhaps without even knowing or understanding why it’s important to cut them a certain way. Knife cuts are one of the first things taught in Culinary School because a thorough understanding of dimensions and shapes helps cooks prepare a wide variety of dishes.
It takes a little time to hone your knife cutting skills, but the first step is learning to identify which cut is which. Then practice, practice, practice. The photo above shows just some of the common knife cuts used in kitchens around the world. Although you may not use all of them, it’s good to know and understand them. Having the knife skills and know-how to brunoise, julienne, or bâtonnet—French terms referring to specific cuts of any food—will not only help you improve your knife skills, but also up your cooking game, i.e, improve the visual appeal and professionalism of the foods you prepare.
Three important reasons why knife cuts are important include uniformity, visual appeal, and feel in the mouth. Uniformity in cutting ensures your carrots, for example, will all be cooked at the same time. Having some smaller carrots cooked in a dish while larger pieces remain hard is never a good thing. In terms of aesthetics, nicely cut foods are visually appealing. Presentation is key as many people first eat with their eyes. Also, it’s important to think about the culinary experience of you diner, whomever will eat your food. If you’re making, a soup or pilaf, or something with a variety of vegetables, consider the size of the spoon or fork you’ll be serving. Decide, in advance, what size you want to dice your vegetables in order for one mouthful to be filled with a variety of texture and flavor, enhancing the pleasure of eating your food.
While there are various sizes and shapes, what’s important to keep in mind is that all knife cuts are the result of slicing. Dicing is simply slicing an ingredient two or three times in different directions to create a dice or uniform cubes. Again, it might take a bit or practice to get your food items cut uniformly, but it will be well worth the time when you see your food looking like the food of pros!
Do you have any favorite knife cuts that you use often in your kitchen?
Basic Knife Cuts
Brunoise (1/8 x 1/8 x 1/8)
Small Dice (1/4 x 1/4 x 1/4)
Medium Dice (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2)
Large Dice (3/4 x 3/4 x 3/4)
Fine Julienne (1/16 x 1/16 x 2 1/2). Use this for fine Brunoise
Julienne (1/8 x 1/8 x 2 1/2). Use this for Brunoise
Bâtonnet (1/4 x 1/4 x 2 1/2). Use this for small dice.