What’s the difference between mince, chop, and dice? How do you effortlessly julienne carrots? Do you know how to cut your ingredients so they cook evenly?
To become a seasoned cook or chef, it’s not enough to simply follow instructions on a recipe card and use the slew of impressive knives in your kit.
That’s why knife skill classes are a foundational part of a culinary school curriculum. Let’s break down the top eight knife cuts every professional cook and chef should know.
For specific garnishes and sautés, mincing is the ultimate knife cut because it’s as microscopic as you can get. Usually, it’s best to mince garlic or any sort of aromatic root vegetable. These ingredients are so tiny that they usually dissipate quickly into what you’re cooking, yielding an abundance of flavor and enticing aroma. Ask any cook, and they’ll say the key to mincing is cutting the food into very small pieces—around 1/8 inch to be exact.
If you’ve ever seen vegetables that resemble minuscule matchsticks, chances are, it’s the result of a julienne cut, which falls in the “delicate french cuts” category. In quick culinary terminology, these are thin planks that are cut evenly and very meticulously. The exact size for the julienne cut lands between 2 to 3 inches long and 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick.
Since the julienne cut calls for a certain type of precision, it’s recommended to use a quality utility knife equipped with an ultra-sharp blade, and execute this method on firmer produce such as root crops, apples, and carrots.
Instead of cutting your veggies into thin planks (aka julienne cut) the batonnet cut generates a much thicker, squared-rectangular shape. The exact batonnet measurements are ¼-inch by ¼-inch by 2-2 ½ inches.
In the culinary world, batonnet is the most optimal cut for lavish veggie platters, stir-fries, and even french fries. To no surprise, this is one of the most popular cuts when it comes to presentation, as it’s slightly more durable and easier to handle than the classic julienne cut.
In French, brunoise translates to “tiny cubes,” and stems from the classic julienne cut. You can think of it as the smallest type of “cube cut.” Professional cooks first start by delicately bundling the julienned strips together, then delicately dice them into 3mm cubes. It’s imperative to stay precise with these measurements, as a smaller cut could quickly transition into a “mince.”
Traditionally, a brunoise cut is used for intensely aromatic dishes like hearty soups, stews, and stocks. Needless to say, it also makes a wonderful garnish when par-boiled, which greatly reduces the raw taste.
As a professional chef, mastering the perfect dice is critical because it’s one of the most widely used knife techniques. “Small dice” is usually food cut into ¼-inch square pieces. “Medium dice” is around ½ inch and “large dice” land in the 3/4- to 1-inch range.
To accomplish the most desirable dice, it’s easiest to start with batonnet cut first, lining your ingredients up crosswise, and carefully cutting into cubes that match the preferred small, medium, or large measurements.
“The skills I received at Escoffier have helped a lot in my current role. Because now I know all the basic knife cuts and how to make all types of sauces. When I first started, I was a little bit slow but then I started to become faster as a line cook. I always try to push myself further than what I used to be.”*
Damian Palacios, Escoffier Online Culinary Arts Student
Anytime you come across produce shaped like a coin, chances are the rondelle cut has been used. Noted as one of the “easiest” cuts in the repertoire of knife cuts, these cylindrical veggies are best consumed when sauteed or roasted. You’ll often find produce like carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, and bananas cut using this method.
To yield the most optimal rondelle cut, it’s best to hold your kitchen knife perpendicular to the vegetable and aim for 1/8- to ½-inch thickness. Maintaining this thickness throughout the knife cut is pivotal so it classifies as a rondelle cut.
If you’ve ever feasted on a savory meal topped with elegant ribbons of basil, chances are, the cook employed the chiffonade cut. This knife technique is used to cut aromatic herbs and certain types of leafy greens into dainty little ribbons—although the textbook definition of “chiffonade” translates to rags. In the culinary world, ribbons sound a bit more appealing.
The most effective way to try the chiffonade cut is by tightly rolling up your desired herbs or greens into a bundle and softly slicing them into thin strips.
The best, “no fuss” way to ensure even cooking of vegetables is via the paysanne knife cut. Many chefs and cooks view this as a more rustic, “country-style” technique. Essentially, it calls for slicing the vegetable thinly, while preserving the natural shape. In other words, you don’t want to square off the sides–instead, each piece is a slightly different shape.
Usually, the cut size is around 1/2 by 1/2 by 1/8 inches and is also used for thicker soups and stews since this specific knife cut ensures consistency.
Start With Credible Knife Skill Classes
When you’re a professional chef or cook, fully comprehending the litany of knife cuts in a professional knife skills class is essential! And when you’re newer in the industry, vying to build credibility in the kitchen, a full grasp of each type of knife cut and its correlating technique can ensure your dishes are cooked evenly throughout, plus increase your efficiency and safety as a culinary professional.
Through the Escoffier culinary arts program, students can discover fundamental knife skills, the concept behind mise en place, cutting techniques, and knife safety.
“One of my main takeaways from Escoffier was discipline. The mise en place is no joke. I understood it’s a mindset and coming to the table prepared starts with something as simple as getting your knife sharpened and getting your coat pressed.”*
Chef Freida Nicole Davenport, Escoffier Graduate, Farm to Table Food Truck Owner
If you’re ready to discover all of these foundational knife principles (and more!) in Escoffier’s culinary arts program, contact us today to get the ball rolling!
Like this article? You may also like:
- What is Mise en Place and Why is it so Important for Chefs?
- The Complete Glossary of Cooking Terms for the Culinary Arts
- 10 Tools You Need In Your Chef Utility Belt
*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.