Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Slice 'N Dice

Knife skills aren't just for professional chefs! They're helpful in home kitchens too. As different cuts are learned and mastered, our food gets better too. If you've ever went to make a batch of mashed potatoes and found that some potato chunks were cooked and others weren't, then this tip is for you. Knife cuts can truly mean the difference between food that looks appealing and is cooked evenly and, well... calling out for pizza.

First things first. Make sure you're holding your knife correctly, and you'll save yourself frustration and trips to the ER for stitches. Ideally, hospitals are not the place "where everybody knows your name." Yes, my inner 80s child is showing.

Onto a few of the basic cuts! You'll see a lot of references to chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing in my recipes. I've been known to julienne from time to time, but with a toddler exploring during meal prep I usually don't have the extra bandwidth if I'm not using my mandoline slicer.You can definitely find more varieties of knife cuts online, but I'll be sticking with the ones I typically use in my everyday household cooking.

Here are the basics:
Chop/Large Dice: 3/4-inch cube
Medium Dice: 1/2-inch cube
Small Dice: 1/4-inch cube
Julienne: 1/8-inch square by 2 inches long. This cut looks so pretty in a salad or stir fry!
Mince: Smaller than a dice, and more irregular in shape. Using a rocking motion, take the heel of your knife and move it along an ingredient that you've already cut into thin strips. Or, when in doubt, use a food processor.

If you're more of a visual learner, check out the videos on knife skills over at Epicurious.


  1. For me at least, the knife skills all came down to practice. Being a lefty, Chris had a lot of trouble directing me how to hold the knife, so I just had to adjust it until I was comfortable.

    In the name of safety, also be careful with that mandolin! Chris sliced his finger badly enough at work with the mandolin to need stitches about a month ago.

  2. I always use the guard when using the mandoline. It's not iron chef-chic, but I get to keep my fingers!