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The Complete Guide To Basic Knife Cuts

Everything you need to know to slice, dice, and chiffonade like a pro.

When it comes to cooking, the first thing all beginners should learn is basic knife cuts. Not only will learning how to properly cut something prevent you from hurting yourself, but it'll actually make your food taste better, too.

Having consistent knife cuts not only make your food look pretty, but they are also functional: Keeping the size consistent ensures that everything cooks evenly. Learning new knife cuts can be overwhelming: There's an endless variety of shapes and sizes you can cut your veggies into, and a million terms to describe them. To make things easier, we rounded up 12 of the most popular knife cuts to help familiarize yourself.

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Here are 12 of the most popular knife cuts you may come across in recipes:

1. Chopped

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What it is: A quick, easy technique that cuts vegetables into imperfect, but evenly sized pieces.

How it's done: Simply cut your vegetables into small, even shapes without worrying about uniformity. As long as the cuts are around the same size, you're good.

What it's good for: Recipes that cook the vegetables for a very long time (like stews or braises), mirepoix, or dishes where even knife cuts would simply be a waste of time.

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2. Dice (Small, Medium, and Large)

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What it is: A uniform cube that's even on all sides. A large dice measures 3/4-inch on all sides, a medium dice 1/2-inch, and a small dice 1/4-inch.

How it's done: Start by squaring off the sides of whatever vegetable you're cutting. Then, slice it into even planks, cut the planks into long matchsticks, and cut the matchsticks into cubes.

What it's good for: Dicing can be thought of as an all-purpose knife cut. Depending on the dish you're making, it can be great for soups (small dice), chunky stews (medium dice), or for large, roasted vegetable pieces (large dice). The list of uses for diced vegetables is endless, so this is a great knife skill to keep in your back pocket.

See how to do it here.

3. Paste

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What it is: Garlic that has been crushed to the point of turning into a smooth paste.

How it's done: Start by chopping garlic as finely as you can. Then, sprinkle a pinch of salt over the chopped garlic and scrape it with your knife. The abrasion from the salt will help break down the garlic and turn it into a smooth paste.

What it's good for: Dishes where you want to give a garlic flavor without adding texture such as dressings or uncooked sauces.

See how to do it here.

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4. Rondelle

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What it is: Uniform slices of round vegetables.

How it's done: Simply glide your knife through your vegetable trying to keep every slice consistent. You can use a mandoline to easily create thin, uniform slices.

What it's good for: This knife cut is mostly about versatility. Slicing is fast, efficient, and easy. They also have two sides with a large surface area, so you can easily brown both sides in a pan (i.e., potato rounds). Using a mandoline to create thin slices can be useful when cutting vegetables with a strong flavor where using a knife would result in pieces that are too thick and overpowering (i.e., radishes).

See how to do it here.

5. Bias Cut

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What it is: Uniform slices of a vegetable that are cut on a diagonal in order to create oval-shape slices.

How it's done: Similar to slicing, take whatever vegetable you're cooking and simply cut it into consistent slices, but slanting your knife on a bias so the slices are biased instead of perfect round. For an extreme bias, slant your knife on a severe bias, or for a less dramatic one, slant your knife just enough to create a subtle bias.

What it's good for: Just like round, this knife cut is all about efficiency — however, the benefit of cutting a vegetable on a bias is increasing the surface area and decreasing the cooking time. For something like a stir-fry, using bias-cut carrots instead of rounds helps them brown quicker.

See how to do it here.

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6. Julienne (AKA Matchstick)

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What it is: Thin matchsticks that are about three inches long and between 1/8 and 1/16-inch thick.

How it's done: Thinly slice the vegetable lengthwise into thin planks (between 1/8 and 1/16-inch thick). Stack a few of the planks on top of each other and cut them into thin strips that are the same thickness as your slabs.

What it's good for: Raw applications like slaws or salads, or quick-cooking recipes like stir-frys. Adding julienned vegetables at the end of cooking will soften them up just enough to maintain the toothsome bite, but soften their hard edge.

See how to do it here.

7. Batonnet

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What it is: A thick stick that's three-inches long and 1/4-inch thick.

How it's done: Similar to the julienne cut, slice your vegetable lenghtwise into 1/4-inch slabs, then cut the slabs into thick 1/4-inch sticks. Unlike julienne, these are not as easy to stack while cutting them, so it'll take you a bit longer to cut.

What it's good for: Batonnet cuts are most commonly used for French fries and veggie sticks.

See how to do it here.

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8. Shredding

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What it is: Vegetables that are roughly shredded into an inconsistent julienne shape.

How it's done: Grate your vegetables on a box grater or use a special peeler (sometimes called a julienne or shredding peeler) with combed teeth that cuts strips.

What it's good for: Hash browns, slaws, or recipes that mix vegetables into sauces or ground meats. When the veggies are this small, they overcook easily and become textureless which can be beneficial for veggie meatloaf and other recipes trying to hide veggies.

See how to do it here.

9. Paysanne

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What it is: Thin slices of a vegetable that are cut into an even width while maintaining the natural shape of the vegetables.

How it's done: Simply slice your vegetables into thin, even slices — no need to square it off or shape it before slicing.

What it's good for: Dishes where shaved vegetables are beneficial (like slaws or stir-frys) but the shape doesn't matter.

See how to do it here.

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10. Chiffonade

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What it is: Thin ribbons of leafy greens.

How it's done: Stack leaves (with the stems removed) into a small pile. Roll the pile into a tight cigar shape and thinly slice against the roll to create delicate ribbons.

What it's good for: Chiffonade knife cuts are almost exclusively used on leafy greens — especially basil. It's great for garnishing bruschetta, pastas, and any other dish where you want the flavor of basil without large pieces.

See how to do it here.

11. Brunoise

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What it is: A very, very tiny dice (similar to a mince — which is essentially just chopping a vegetable into tiny, irregular shapes) measuring between three millimeters and 1/8-inch on all sides.

How it's done: Cut your vegetable into a julienne shape. Then, make a pile of the julienned pieces and cut them into very tiny cubes.

What it's good for: Brunoise vegetables are too small to practically cook with, so they are typically reserved for garnishes and last-minute additions to dishes.

See how to do it here.

12. Tourné

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What it is: A seven-sided football shape.

How it's done: Start with uniform two-inch pieces of your vegetable. Then, use a tourné knife (aka bird's beak knife — which is a pairing knife with a curved blade) to peel toward yourself forming seven uniform sides.

What it's good for: Many sides means many opportunities to brown so the technique is most useful in something like a sauté. Realistically, this is not a very common knife cut, but it's fun to practice if you're looking for a challenge.

See how to do it here.

Want to learn more about kitchen knives? Check out these posts:

How To Take Care Of Your Knives Like A Real Chef

The Best Chef's Knife For Every Budget

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