Knives date back about 2.6 million years if you consider any sharp-edged tool to be a knife. That makes knives even older than homo sapiens.
We’ve found ways to make them useful for all those centuries, though. We’ve developed cutting techniques, and we’ve honed our knife skills to make knives a crucial part of putting together a delicious and beautiful meal.
If you’re looking to brush up on some cooking tips you might come across in culinary school, check out this list of knife cuts you can put into practice in your own kitchen.
Chef Tips For Knife Care
Before you get around to practicing any cutting techniques, you must know how to take care of your knives. The precision of your knife cuts depends on whether your knives are sharp and in good shape.
First and foremost, it’s important to keep your knives clean and dry. The best way to make sure they stay sanitary without causing too much distress is to gently wash the blade with soap and hot water. Avoid putting knives in the dishwasher as much as possible, and don’t stack them on top of each other when you leave them to dry.
The sharpness of your knife is probably the most important part of having good knife skills. Even the most talented chef would have difficulty cutting certain ingredients with a dull knife. If possible, buy an at-home knife sharpener so you can touch up your blade whenever you need to.
You can also protect the blade by storing it in a knife block or on a magnetic wall strip. This way it won’t be bounced around in a drawer with your other utensils, dulling the blade.
Finally, a high-quality blade will take you a long way. Look into buying your knives from companies that specialize in making these tools. Experts like those at messermeister.com can help you find the perfect knife, from bread knives to steak knives.
1. Cross Chop
This is a sort of quick and fine chop that’s used most frequently for herbs and small vegetables. To execute these knife cuts, hold the handle of the knife in your dominant hand. Rest the palm of your other hand on the spine of the blade.
While keeping the tip of the knife on the cutting board, raise the handle of the knife to pick it up and drop it back down onto your ingredients. By keeping the tip of the blade on the cutting board, you give yourself more control. Your non-dominant hand on the spine of the blade can help guide the knife.
2. Rock Chop
Similar to the cross chop, the rock chop is generally used for larger items. With this cutting technique, you still hold your knife in your dominant hand, but your non-dominant hand does not rest on the spine of the knife. Instead, you use it to guide your ingredients toward the blade.
This is often used for larger items, like onions, that need to be held while you’re cutting them to keep them in place. In these cases, it’s important to hold your ingredients with your fingers in a claw-like position to protect them from cuts.
As with the cross chop, keep the tip of the blade on the cutting board and only life the handle. Move the knife in a rocking, almost circular motion. You can picture the way wheels on a steam locomotive move to get a better idea of what this should look like.
3. Julienne Cut
Many terms referring to different types of knife cuts are French terms, and this is no exception. Julienne refers to cutting your particular ingredient into thin strips or slices.
You can use this technique on anything like meat, vegetables, or fruit, but it’s used most often on vegetables. The resulting strips are usually 3 inches in length and an eighth of an inch wide. This is considered one of the basic cutting techniques.
4. Brunoise, or Small Dice
Another French term, “brunoise” refers to the small dice, or when vegetables are cut into small cubes. The cubes should be precise and uniform in size, about an eighth of an inch. This technique is usually used for making sauces or other recipes where vegetables are cooked as the base of flavor, such as a soup.
Chiffonade is a cutting technique that’s popular for cutting herbs, such as basil, or other leafy greens. The result is thin strips or ribbons. To master this knife cut, stack the leaves on top of each other, and then roll them up into a cylinder or tube-like shape. Cut across the short end to create thin strips.
The delicate ribbons that you get from this type of cut are great for garnishes.
This is one of the most basic knife skills and probably one of the first techniques they teach you in culinary school. This type of cut is related to the brunoise, but the brunoise is small by definition. The dice can be larger, depending on the size you need for your particular recipe.
Nearly any ingredient can be diced. An easy way to go about it is to first julienne your vegetables (or whatever you’re cutting) and then cut the strips into cubes.
The name for this technique translates to “country style,” and it’s considered more rustic and simple. Used most often for vegetables, paysanne refers to cutting an ingredient thinly while maintaining its original shape. It’s often used for soups, or sometimes in cases where cooking time in the recipe is on the shorter side.
Practice Your Cutting Techniques
The best way to get a handle on cutting techniques is just to give them a try. It can seem scary to simply start wielding a knife, but with the right, sharp blade, you’re setting yourself up for success. You’ll be cutting like a professional chef in no time.
Check out some of our other home and lifestyle posts for more tips you can implement in your daily life.