Everyone knows how to cut up vegetables.. but do you know the name of each technique? It is certainly useful to know if the recipes does not explain further. For example, if the recipe just states “cut the carrots into julienne”. It pays to know that this means you should slice the carrots into very thin strips.
Let’s start with the more common cutting methods:
I am sure all of you know what chopping is. But do you know that the chopping technique is context-bound? In Asian cooking, “chopping” means a cutting action in no particular direction normally to mince vegetables or meat. And, if a certain consistency is required, one would normally specify whether to chop “coarsely” or “finely”. However, in Western dishes, when we say chopping an onion, we would refer to a particular way of mincing the vegetable. You don’t cut it up in no particular direction like in Asian cooking.
How to chop onions for Western cooking:
– Peel the onion completely.
– Halve the onion.
– Make vertical cuts on the onion along its natural lines, keeping the base intact.
– Make several horizontal cuts on the onion, working from the bottom to the top.
– Finally, make cross cuts on the onion.
Sometimes, we need to remove the outer skin of the vegetable before cooking. Peeling is normally done with a peeler or paring knife.
*Hints and Tips on Peeling:
– Peeling carrots/vegetables with thin skin: Hold it end down and peel from the bottom up with a peeler.
– Peeling radish/vegetables with thicker skin: Hold it end down, but peel from the top down with a knife to remove a thicker layer of skin.
For fibrous vegetables such as celery, we need to remove the indigestible strings near the surface before cooking. This method would be called stringing.
How to remove indigestible strings:
– Get a firm grip on one end of the string using a small peeling knife.
– Pull it off in a stripping action.
And now, let’s go onwards to some fancy terms:
This term makes me think of chiffon cakes. Haha… but believe me, it has nothing to do with chiffon cakes at all! Chiffonade is a method of cutting the leaves of vegetables finely.
Stack up the leaves so that the bigger ones are at the bottom.
Hold the leaves together, roll tightly and slice finely.
Brunoise (2mm cubes)
Ain’t the name fancy? This is just another name for dicing vegetables to cubes od 2mm thickness. You normally use this metod for vegetables that needs to be cooked quickly. So, how to we cut vegetables into brunoise? First, slice the vegetables into 2mm thickness. Stack the slices and cut them into strips of 2mm thickness. Lastly, cut crosswise into 2mm cubes.
Macedoine (4-5mm cubes)
This is the medium sized cube, about 4-5mm thickness, which is about the size of green peas. Like brunoise, slice the vegetables into 4mm thickness, stack the slices and cut them into 4mm thickness. Lastly, cut crosswise into 4mm cubes.
Mirepoix (1-1.5cm cubes)
This is the biggest dice. Each cube is about 1.5cm thickness. Mirepoix is used when the vegetables need to be cooked a long time. For example, when making vegetable stock. So, how to we cut into mirepoix? Slice the vegetables into 1.5cm thickness. Stack the slices and cut them into strips of 1.5cm thickness. Then cut crosswise into 1.5cm cubes.
Please see the picture above for illustration/comparison on how brunoise, macedoine and mirepoix look side by side.
Jardiniere (3-4cm x 3-4mm sticks or batons)
These are commonly known as vegetable sticks. Basically they are short and fat. And it is just the right size for kids to dip in dips!
To cut vegetables into jardiniere, cut the vegetables into length of 3-4cm. Trim off the sides so that it makes a square cube. Slice the cube into slices of about 3-4mm thick. And lastly, cut the slices into 3-4mm thick sticks.
Paysanne (triangular or square slices)
This is the rough cut, usually following the natural shape of the vegetable. To cut into paysanne, vegetables like carrots and radish are quartered lengthwise and sliced into an even thickness. It is important that the thickness of each slice is approximately the same so that the vegetables will finish cooking at the same time
Julienne (8-10cm x 1mm sticks)
Julienne is matchstick kind of cut, long and slender. Vegetables cut into julienne are usually used as garnishing. To cut into julienne, first cut the vegetable to a length of 8-10cm. Slice as thinly as possible (about 1mm). To achieve this, you could also try slicing using a mandolin. Then, cut again to 1mm thick strips.
** Article inspired and pictures from Flavours Magazine, July-Aug 2009 issue