Professional chefs have no problem chopping veggies. But for home cooks, it can be another story. Does slicing have to be such a wrist-breaking chore? How finely should you mince basil? And what does "chiffonade" mean? The following tells you how to wield a knife with confidence—and precision.
What You'll Need
For happy chopping every time, keep these tools at the ready:
Sharp 8- or 10-inch chef's knife
The large blade allows smooth, regular movement, which results in clean cuts.
Large nonslip cutting board
Perfect cutting requires a comfortable amount of room.
Bowl to transfer food to
Clear the cutting board as you go to leave plenty of room for foods to be cut.
Essential Skill No. 1: The Nice Slice
All chopping starts with slicing. Here's how to do it right:
1. Grip the knife handle with four fingers. Rest your thumb on top of the knife's bolster or spine
2. Hold food with your other hand, knuckles bent and thumb tucked away. Use the knuckle nearest the nail of your middle finger as a guide—the blade of the knife will rest against it as you slice. This prevents nicks and cuts.
3. With the tip of the knife resting on the cutting board and the handle raised, move the knife down in a rocking motion to cleanly slice food. Repeat the motion, moving the knife (not the food) as you slice.
Essential Skill No. 2: The Perfect Dice
No vegetable is perfectly square in its natural state, which can make cutting it into even cubes seem next to impossible. The solution? Create flat slices first (so food can't slip or roll), then cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips, and dice. Here's how with a potato:
1. Cut potato lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
2. Stack 2 or 3 slices on cutting board, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch sticks.
3. Slice sticks crosswise into 1/4-inch dice. Transfer to bowl, and repeat as necessary.
Essential Skill No. 3: Rollin' Chiffonade
Chiffonade is a way of slicing that turns leafy herbs and greens into fine, light-as-chiffon ribbons.
1. Stack 3 to 4 leaves flat on cutting board.
2. Roll leaves lengthwise into a tight cylinder.
3. Slice cylinder crosswise (using slicing technique) into fine (1/16- to 1/8-inch) ribbons.
Essential Skill No. 4: The Superfine Mince
No matter how proficient you are with a knife, simple slicing just won't suffice when you want to transform herbs, ginger, or garlic into fine bits. Here's how to finely mince a bunch of fresh herbs:
1. Make sure herbs are dry before you start. (Moist herbs tend to bruise and stick to the knife.) Place leaves in mound, and use slicing technique to coarsely chop.
2. Place knife in front of chopped herbs, with blade in contact with board. Rest your free hand flat on top of tip-end of the knife.
3. Without lifting knife tip off cutting board, rapidly move knife handle up and down, going back and forth over herbs until minced to desired fineness.