The first key to a successful dish is of course having the best ingredients. Having the right knives and cutting boards can also be very helpful as we shared earlier.
But occasionally you come across instructions in a recipe about how to cut your fruits and veg that might confuse you. What’s the difference between a dice and a chop? What on earth is a Julienne? Why does it matter?
The key thing to remember is that different cuts can actually have a significant affect on the success of a dish. If your veggies are meant to be diced evenly and aren’t, some may end up under cooked and some overcooked and well frankly nobody has time for that. Some chefs insist that the flavors of fruits, veg, and herbs can vary greatly depending upon how you slice and dice them. So here is a little handy guide for the next time you hit a road block in your knife skills.
Most cutting terminology is derived from French and refers to the type or size of the cut to be made. When your recipe calls for you to julienne your veggies, it’s asking you to cut your produce in the manner of a 19th century chef named Julien (yes literally), or in other words to chop it into evenly sized matchsticks. It’s easiest to achieve this type of cut by “squaring off” your veggies first to create a uniform shape. A julienne is the smallest of this type of cut, larger cuts of a similar style are known as the alumette and the batonnet.
Dice / Chop
So what is the difference between a dice and a chop? Both refer to the act of cutting something into chunks, but a dice typically refers to a uniform size while a chop is typically assumed to be a more casual cut (our favorite of the two!). You can throw “mince” into this mix as well, as a it is a smaller version of a dice, typically reserved for garlic and ginger and other aromatics.
Again size might matter here depending upon what type of dish you are preparing. Chopped veggies are perfectly fine for a raw salad but a uniform dice will make a difference in how fast veggies cook in a stir-fry, so be sure to keep this in mind.
Occasionally a recipe will call for something to be sliced. If it’s a piece of pie, that’s easy, slice it as big as your stomach will allow (right?). But when it comes to fruit and veg this can vary. Rule of thumb is that a slice refers to a thin, broad cut made uniformly. If the recipe calls for something to be cut lengthwise vs. crosswise you might be left scratching your head. Here is a helpful guide to clear up this confusion.
Perhaps a less commonly needed cutting technique, but a good one to have in the repertoire regardless. The chiffonade is useful when cutting up large broadleaf greens like Collards or Chard, and it is especially good if those items are going to be used as a garnish – such as basil you plan to put on top of a margherita pizza. The cut is easy, simply roll up the leaf into a cigar shape and slice thin uniform slices, then sprinkle generously on your dish!