When I first started cooking, and saw all these different terms; dice, mince, supreme etc… I was so confused. I found myself “Google-ing” and “Wikipedia-ing” the terms. As I have become much, much, much more comfortable in the kitchen these terms make sense. Some important things to remember before even starting to cut are:
- a sharp knife is a safe knife a dull knife is very likely to slip, and could end up cutting you instead of the food.
- always cut on a cutting board – like bamboo or wood. Glass, marble and metal surfaces can damage your knife, and make it dull.
- always cut away from yourself
- never put a knife in a sink full of water this could cause serious injury – especially if the water is murky, and you can’t see the knife. It can also damage the knife.
- NEVER wash a knife in the dishwasher the harsh detergents will damage both the handle and the blade.
The proper way to hold a chef’s knife is to grab the blade between your thumb and the knuckle of your index (pointer) finger, just in front of the bolster and curl your fingers around the bottom of the handle. Try to avoid putting your index finger along the spine of the blade – it will make the knife harder to control and puts a lot more strain on your arm and hand.
Using a rocking motion while cutting is the most efficient and effective way to use a knife. Keep the tip of the knife on the cutting board and rock the back of the knife up and down while slowly moving forward at the same time.
It is also extremely imperative to be mindful of your non-cutting hand. A chef I know told me to think of my “guide” hand as the hand from The Adams Family. Keeping the tips of your fingers on the cutting board, or food and tucking in the thumb and pinky fingers. This allows you to use your knuckles to guide the edge of your knife to its proper position for the next cut and avoids countless injuries.
In order to successfully use a kitchen knife, a few basic cuts are all that is necessary for most food preparation tasks. The size of the cut is usually determined by the cooking method being used in the recipe.
Understanding the different parts of your knife will help when making cuts.
Some of the most common cuts include:
This is one of the most common cuts used for vegetables and fruits, and it means to cut food into cubes. The goal of dicing food is to cut it into identical pieces, which allows the food to cook evenly. Dices are identified by specific sizes in recipes:
Large Dice – ¾ inch
Medium Dice – ½ inch
Small Dice – ¼ inch
Brunoise – 1/8 inch (usually for garnish)
A mince is a tiny cut with no definite dimensions, except that it should be smaller than a brunoise. It is often used to add a quick concentration of flavor to a dish. To compete a mince, cut food into small slices or segments, and then rock back and forth over the food while pressing down on the spine of the knife with your guide hand. Remember to keep your fingertips out of the way!
This is the common cut for things like French fries. It is a stick shaped cut that measures ¼ nu ¼ to 2 to 2 ½ inches. A julienne cut is very similar yet measures 1/8 by 1/8 by 2 to 2 ½ inches. This cut is generally used for salads and garnishes. To save time, you can purchase a julienne peeler from a kitchen store.
Make some soup, and practice your knife skills!