9 Basic Knife Cuts Everyone Needs to Know
When you are preparing your dinner of an evening, you probably don’t worry about how you are cutting your ingredients. Many recipes specify how ingredients should be cut e.g. finely diced, but there are just as many that don’t. However, understanding the basic knife cuts would be a huge benefit to your cooking. Learning basic knife cuts is actually one of the first things that a culinary student will learn, and they will need to perfect them all before they can move on to more complicated skills.
You should consider the way you cut your ingredients as the foundation of the meal. Just like the foundations of a house are imperative to keeping it standing, your ingredients and the way they are prepared are imperative to making your meal, delicious and attractive. There are also a couple of other reasons that understanding basic knife cuts is so important.
✓ Cooking Time
This is less to do about the type of cut and more to do with the consistency. If you are cooking a large batch of a particular ingredient, e.g. sautéing onions, then you need to make sure that every piece is uniform in shape and size.
If they are not, you will find that the cooking process is different for each piece. You might end up with some being burnt and some being undercooked, which could definitely tarnish the end product. If your cutting technique is consistent, the pieces will be uniform and they will all cook the same way to exactly the stage you want.
✓ Aesthetically Pleasing
There will be many times that how your food looks is the last thing you’re worried about. When you’re rushing around after work trying to feed hungry kids, the most important thing is getting the food on the plate and making sure its at least edible.
However, when you have time to be a bit more flamboyant with your cooking, the way it looks is just as important as the way it tastes. That’s why good kitchen knife work is so important. If your cutting looks sloppy so will your food.
Basic Knife Cuts and Shapes
To get you started on the road to culinary stardom, here are some basic knife buts that every budding chef needs to know to show off their food to its best.
The large dice cut is one of the more straightforward knife cuts. The cut should result in a piece measuring 3/4 inch on each side. This is the ideal cut to use for big vegetable such as potatoes. You could significantly speed up your preparation process using this knife cut.
Like most things food, this kind of knife cut originated in the land of the croissant; France. When translated the word Batonnet literally means little stick, so this gives you a pretty good idea of what the cut looks like. A cut Batonnet should measure at approximately ¼ inch x ¼ inch x 2 inch. This should also be the starting point for the small dice cut.
The medium dice is probably one of the most common cuts and is used to cut literally any vegetable you can think of. From potatoes to cutting tomatoes this cut is king. A sharp chef knife should be used to first cut the vegetable into batons and then to cut the batons into medium sized cubes.
The Allumette is a cut that is primarily used to cut very firm vegetables such as potatoes and it is also commonly used to cut puff pastry. The look of the cut is very similar to small sticks such as matchsticks.
The small dice is commonly used for softer vegetable such as tomatoes and also for vegetables like zucchinis. The process will be exactly the same as when using the large or medium diced cut, apart from the resulting cubes will be considerably smaller. The cubes should be around half the size of when using a large diced cut.
The Julienne is the non-potato version of the Allumette. The end result is pieces cut into long and relatively thin strips. The look of this cut has also resulted in it being referred to as the matchstick cut. A perfect Julienne cut should measure 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 2 inch.
The Brunoise knife cut is an extension of the Julienne. The ingredient in question, is first Julienned and then it is turned a quarter and diced again. The resulting cubes should be measuring around 3mm or less than on each side. The typical vegetables that this type of cut is used for include; carrots, celery, leeks and turnips.
The fine Julienne is essentially exactly what you think it is. It is the standard Julienne cut made much smaller and thinner. In terms of the actual measurements, the fine Julienne should be half of a standard Julienne, making it 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch x 1 inch.
The Fine Brunoise can be considered one of the more difficult basic cuts just because the end result is so teeny tiny. The first step in this process will be to use a Julienne cut to create small matchsticks. These matchsticks will then need to be halved, turning them into a Fine Julienne cut. From this point the matchsticks will be cut into cubes that are considerably tiny in length, width and depth. You definitely need a steady hand for this one.
Now you know your basic knife cuts, you can get down to some serious cooking. Having a little bit of knowledge on your side is always a good thing. Knowing which knife cuts to use and when will ensure that all of your meals are cooked to perfection.
You won’t need to worry about uneven cooking and it’s always going to look like a masterpiece on the plate. However, remember that a chef is only as good as their tools, so make sure you have a nice sharp knife to put your new skills to good use.