There are many ways to cut veggies but most of the time you never hear about how specialized cuts can be created. If you want to upgrade your kitchen skills, this is where you can learn some awesome slicing and dicing tricks that will impress your family and friends.
Knives for Chopping Vegetables
So you spent all that money on a great knife block set and perhaps you might use half of these knives when you prepare meals in the kitchen. It might sound disappointing to say that there are only two knives you’ll need for slicing and chopping veggies. This includes the chef knife and the paring knife. Yet for most of the cuts, you’ll get to try for yourself, a chef knife is a go-to knife that will give you the best results. For more on knife basics, see this article.
Any chef knife or Santoku knife is perfectly designed for making cuts for veggies of all sorts. Its blade is developed to be slightly rounded along the knife’s edge to give smooth slicing using your wrist to slice up and down without much effort. And though you’ll go through the motion of using it for chopping or slicing, how you hold it will make a big difference in the cut you’re making.
You’re not quite ready for hand-to-hand combat with your veggies anytime soon but the paring knife is a rather important tool for shaping and creating cuts you never thought were possible. As if most people reach for a potato peeler, the paring knife is still the perfect knife that can be used for peeling and executing controlled slices on select veggies. We’ll also inform you how to hold this knife when making these distinctive cuts likewise.
Making Diced Cubes
The most basic cut you’ll probably know but this is an exact science when it comes to French culinary training. They all start with a carrot that or veggie that is round, so you’ll need to take off these rounded edges before you start. The carrot itself also needs to be sectioned into 2 to 3 inch sectioned strips. This makes it easier for your chef knifes to make these cuts easier to handle.
The sections of the carrot also determine which can be turned into the size cube you want to make. Larger and fatter ends of carrots will obviously be better for larger cubes. Don’t worry it all makes sense as you make your slices, so we’ll give you plenty of info ahead.
Fine Brunoise – 1/16th inch cubes
After squaring off your item, you then make 1/16 inch slices off each section until you have little thin planks that resemble wooden shakes. Take a stack of these and slice lengthwise using an identical cut that’s also 1/16th so you’ll now have fine Julienne strips. These are then turned sideways so you can continue slicing these even further so you now have perfectly shaped 1/16th inch cubes. Hold your knife by the handle right behind the tang of your knife.
Brunoise – 1/8th inch cubes
This cube is larger in size so begin by holding the knife with your first knuckle and thumb pinching against the tang of the blade. Make little planks that are no thicker than 1/8th inch and repeat this so you now have regular Julienne strips. Once again you repeat this so you create little cubes that all measure 1/8th inch.
Small dice (Macedoine) – 1/4 inch cubes
For this, you’ll be making what are called Batonnet which is French for little stick. Your slices need to be 1/4 inch planks that are then reduced to batonnet sticks and then get further cut down into the Macedoine sized cubes which measure 1/4 inch all around.
Medium dice (Paramentier) – inch cubes
You’ll want to use the bigger end of your carrot of veggies for this since these thicker sections will need inch planks that are separated into what is simply called large sticks. These get reduced further until you finally have medium-sized dice measuring inch square that is called Paramentier.
Large dice (Caré) – inch cubes
Finally, you’ll have the largest of the bunch that becomes inch slabs that now transform into extra-large sticks. Once you slice them into Caré cubes or essentially large dice, you’ve completed this section of making cubes and dice.
These are more decorative than most veggie cuts you’ll make but are always fun for kids. You’ll need a lemon zester grater that has a built-in half-circle scoring tool on it. This will score a continuous groove down the side of your vegetable. These are scored around your veggie all the way along the sides so these lines are uniform and now have raised edges. Then you simply slice these lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices or more.
These can be boiled, fried, and baked after that and look a bit like the gears of a clock. Kids will be intrigued by these so they’ll seem more interesting to eat if they don’t like veggies so much.
Roll cuts are also decorative and can apply to many types of veggies on your plate. After removing the skin of your vegetable, you want to have lengths that will ideally make this cutwork. Carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, and long and round veggies work best. You need to hold your knife the same as slicing your cubes but angle the knife so you have a 45-degree angle as you cut. When you make your first cut, rotate the vegetable one-half turn.
This makes the slices appear just like wedges that can then be boiled, fried, baked, and sautéed. If you have large potatoes you can slice your potato in half and create long stick sections with edges that are rounded of with a peeler. These will make excellent wedge fries that look awesome.
The last of your basic cuts is in fact the easiest to create. Taking any veggie that’s been sliced into logs or is rounded already. The angle of your knife for this is also bent to a 45-degree angle. Now you slice decorative strips that can be 1/4-inch thick if you like. These are then cooked as usual in the oven, in stir fry dishes, and even pan-fried. You can further reduce these slices down to create shortened Julienne strips for salads or stir fry dishes.
The Tourner Cut
This is where you finally get to use your paring knife but beware that this requires patience if you want to make something very special. You want to hold your veggie item between your thumb and forefinger. Paring knives are held with three fingers gripping the handle but your index finger resting against the upper back of the blade. This gives you more control over slow slicing as if you were carving wood.
Since veggies can be slippery at times, you need to have dry hands and hold your item steady and you make 7 curved slices along the front and back of your veggie. If you begin with a square-shaped veggie stick, you may need to adjust how many cuts it takes. The final Tourner cut will resemble a little football when it’s finished. Don’t make fast cuts while doing this as you can accidentally cut your finger.
These little shapes are very appealing but will take you time to make many of these for all the servings you prepare. Some give yourself time to prepare this beforehand.
Cutting Veggies You Don’t Like to Peel
Hard To Cut Veggies
Let’s get down to brass tacks about the hardships related to cutting veggies. Some veggies are simply hard to cut through, while others are more sensitive and even time constraining. If you’ve ever had a question about how to manage to cut these in your kitchen, here are some simple tips to get the job done easier.
Many of the worst slice and dice accidents that occur in the kitchen are from these tricky vegetables. Not only do you need to be careful, but these are also especially deceptive and can earn a scar if you’re not careful how to cut them properly.
The best trick to cutting winter squash is to cut off the top and bottom to stabilize this oddly shaped squash. Once you get the bottom sliced off this makes it easier to take a sturdy knife to slice down the center. You’ll need a larger knife so you can have a good hold on the handle. The other side of the blade doesn’t need additional pushing since you can steady your hand on the top of the squash.
The leading edge of the knife slices downward and then pushed down on the backside to complete each downward cut. After this, you can scoop out the seeds and then use a veggie peeler to remove the skin. Once the skin is removed, this squash can be sliced into sections a lot easier.
Cutting large pumpkins for cooking and baking will depend on what you intend to do with your pumpkin. For baking, the best start is to use a large chef knife and begin a single slice at the leading edge along the top of your pumpkin. You only need to slice one side at a time, so to cut your pumpkin in half, you repeat the same cut on the opposite side. The resulting cuts you make will help the entire pumpkin split along that line.
After this, it will be easier to divide into two and the center can have the seeds scooped out. Each slice after that will divide all the sections into one-quarter by turning the pumpkin upside down so it’s flat. Stick the knife into the center along the dividing line and bring the back end of the blade downward. Repeat this on the opposite side. To get smaller wedges you can now flip the pumpkin to the rounded side and slice this down the middle.
After this is complete, it will be a cinch to slice off the outer skin with a smaller knife to slice out the portions you want to cook or bake.
This is especially tough because of the outer skin so it’s best to use a breadknife that has a serrated blade to cut through this type of skin. Lay this squash onto a bunched-up towel so it doesn’t slip so easily while you make the initial cut. After this smaller cuts can be made down the sides to separate this into smaller pieces that are easier to slice out the meat with a paring knife.
Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin)
These tricky squash have very tough skin which is a nightmare to cut with strong knives. Make this job easier by putting your squash into a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-20 minutes. After this, let the squash cool off a little bit. Then you can slice through the skin without much trouble and reduce it into smaller pieces to remove the outer skin.
The top and bottom of this squash need to be removed first so you can slice it down the middle using a large kitchen knife. Scoop out the seeds and proceed to slice them laying flat on a large cutting board. Each of these wedges can be sliced further by turning them over on their rounded sides to get smaller wedges. Then the skin can be removed with a paring knife.
While you can use a regular peeler to remove the outer skin, the flesh of this root is pretty dense. Use a chef knife to slice this right down the center and proceed to slice the rest into thin tomato-like slices. To get a good grip on this, you can use a kitchen towel to hold one side while you slice up the rest of each Lotus root.
Since sweet potato is very dense, it’s best to peel it using a standard potato peeler. Find the flattest side and make your first cut down the middle. The rest will be simple to divide further after that since flat sides won’t slip anywhere on your cutting board.
Carrots make this list for being hard to cut because they are so dense and crispy. A sharp knife is always best but having a good grip on your carrot is essential. Before making any cut, dry off any carrot that’s been peeled first to reduce the chance of slipping. Cuts are always better when you cut the entire length of the carrot into three equal parts. After this, it will be easier to slice any way you like.
Tricky to cut- Veggies
Tricky veggies aren’t especially hard to cut through, but their overall shape can be hard to overcome. For all of these veggies, a freshly sharpened knife is best.
The top and bottom of any onion are always better to remove if you’re going to be chopping an onion. Most people like to slice the onion starting in the middle that divides the top from the bottom with the skin still attached. After this, the stem and roots are removed along with the outer skin. The flat side is placed onto a cutting board and then sliced as you like. Be sure to remove any slippery skin that’s on the outside to have a better grip on your onion.
Tomatoes are tough to cut if they’re ripe and require a freshly sharpened knife. This is the only way to slice into a skin that’s already tender and needs to be sliced with care otherwise it will collapse under the weight of the blade. Any other tomato that’s not as soft also does great when your knife is equally sharp. Make sure your tomato is completely dry before slicing it up.
All of these are within the same family of rooty veggies and have thick skins that can be hard to use a peeler on. The top stem and root need to be cut off and then sliced down the middle. You can then place the flat side down and use a paring knife to remove the outer skin. These can all be sliced into smaller chunks as you like after that.
The tips of asparagus are the most tender portion of this veggie but the lower section is always tougher to chew. While some people might like to blanch the lower skin, you can separate asparagus into one half and peel away the outer skin to reveal a softer layer underneath. The same applies to Leek since this is just like a green onion with layers that can be stripped away.
Bell pepper has a funny shape that isn’t hard to cut but works better with a nice sharp knife. Slice it from top to bottom using a chef knife. Remove the stem so you aren’t trying to but around this. This way you can remove the seeds inside a lot faster.
These veggies aren’t as dense as others but the root section is always the tougher piece to cut off. Use a chef knife to slice this away before starting to separate individual sprigs where they grow along the rootstalk. This is best if you use a paring knife to slice away each offshoot and carefully remove them one at a time. After you’re done the rest of this stalk can be trimmed down further and the outer skin removed so it can be cooked as well.
Tedious to cut- Veggies
Jerusalem artichoke (Sunchokes)
The best is to use a potato peeler to remove the outer skin. The rest is washed and dried so you can slice it how you like.
Ginger is very tough to slice since the outer skin is like bark. Use a potato peeler to take off any of this outer skin and wash and dry it so you can chop it using a chef or paring knife. It is just as hard as carrot, so find the flattest part to steady the ginger while slicing it up.
If you want to boil or steam artichokes you’ll need to cut the base stem of your artichoke using a sharp chef knife. The top of your artichoke is very tough so use kitchen scissors to trim away the top section of leaves that poke out. You can also use a bread knife to saw through the top end to remove these faster.
The base of all Brussels sprouts will need to be chopped off and then any outer leaves are peeled off. You can then slice these into half or quarters to steam them as you like. Since the center of your sprout is pretty dense, cut it from the top down using a sharp knife. The flattened root base will keep it from rolling away.
The only problem with kale is the stem section that needs to be trimmed away from the leafy sections. Use a sharp paring knife to slice along the stem separating the leafy part only. The stem can then be discarded and you can now cut up your kale as you like.