For my own part, I will do my best when I post recipes to describe how certain ingredients should be prepared and show you how they look. If you have questions about the best way to handle an ingredient when you are trying one of my recipes (or someone else's for that matter!), please post them to the comments sections, or just send me an email. I would love to hear from you! Don't see a technique you want to know more about? Just ask!
|Red Bell Pepper - Chopped|
There are a lot of different techniques that work well when cutting certain vegetables, and everyone seems to have a different trick they think is the "best". I say, do whatever makes you most comfortable and leaves your with all your fingers! The only way to get better at using that knife is to actually use it! So don't beat yourself up over imperfect cuts. The better you get at cutting, the more enjoyable cooking will become. What used to take me a lot of time, is now just second nature to me and I find I can focus more on the tweaking of the recipes and not worry so much about the chopping.
|Red Bell Pepper - Diced|
Dice: This term means exactly the same thing as cube, but the pieces should be smaller. When a recipe calls for something to be diced, you should cut it into smaller square pieces usually between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. This cut works well when you want the finished product to be somewhat "prettier" than just chopping everything up. The food will also cook more quickly when the pieces are smaller in size. Where you might have to cook larger pieces of chopped potato or veggies for a longer period of time, if you cube or dice them they will cook more quickly in a hash or sauté. This is a good time saver for week night meals or quick breakfast dishes when you are in a hurry.
|Slices of yellow onion|
One of the other key things to know about here is that what ingredient you are slicing will determine what tool you use to do it. For example if you need to slice certain types of cheese (yes, I know that was predictable wasn't it?!) you can use a wire cheese slicer or a knife that is made for slicing cheeses. If your recipes calls for slicing bread, you will want to use a serrated knife (the ones with the little teeth) to help make your cuts smooth and even. If what you need to slice is not as firm as an onion you can often place it in the freezer for just a few minutes or keep it in the fridge until you need to slice it which will also make the cutting easier. [This trick works great for when a recipe calls for grating softer cheeses as well, such as gouda or provolone.]
Julienne: This term is most often associated with carrots, or at least that is how I first became familiar with it. When a recipe calls for something to be julienned they are looking for match-like strips. Ideally all the pieces should be the same size - - as consistently as possible. Of course, if you aren't planning on photographing your food for a blog, it is really about the texture and cooking time so don't sweat it if your cuts aren't perfect! Of course there is a great sense of satisfaction when you add those pretty little carrots to your salad! So to master the art of julienne, you first slice the item and then cut the slices into the thin match stick strips. If you own a mandolin then creating this shape is quite easy. You can simply slice the item to the desired thickness and then cut it into the match stick pieces. If you want to practice your knife skills and learn to control the blade this is a perfect cut to practice with. (photo coming soon!)
Usually a recipe calls for something to be minced so it distributes evenly throughout the dish, or in some cases such as with anchovies it just melts into the sauce altogether. For recipes where you don't want a large bite of raw garlic or jalapeño using this technique will bring you great results.