I’ve been wanting to get back to this series for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting off this particular post. Why? I suppose it is because the topic is immense — there is just so much to know when it comes to food terminology. There are so many terms to learn and techniques to master, especially if you are new to the world of food. I thought I might never be able to stop writing.
Because the vast possibilities in the topic, it’s just too much to tackle all at once — it has to be broken up over several days to really do it justice. So I am offering a very small part today, and will revisit the topic of cooking terminology with more tips next time.
While there is so much techniques to learn, in my opinion, how to chop is the most fundamental piece. Even if you never turn on your stove or oven, you can still make hundreds of dishes just by combining various chopped items. The cutting techniques I use most often are the chiffonade, dicing, and mincing.
I’ve shown you a chiffonade before, but wanted to demonstrate it here because it is such a useful technique. Any leafy greens or herbs can be sliced in this way. You simply stack them leaves like so:
Then roll them up:
and slice into little ribbons.
Use wider slices for salad greens or side dishes, narrower ones for coleslaw or stir fries, and skinny ones for herbs or garnishes. If your leaves are especially large, cut them in half along the stem line after you’ve done your chiffonade.
Dicing is beautiful. It’s equally simple, too – just slice your produce vertically, and then horizontally:
Et voila — you are done. Dicing, obviously, has a multitude of uses: salsa, salads, garnishes, or anywhere you want your food to look good. Dice food into smaller or larger pieces, depending on the use — small pieces in something like bruschetta, or larger dice for use in soups. Diced food cooks faster, and also looks nicer than a rough chop. If the appearance of your dish is important, it is worth doing a good dice.
Mincing is like a much smaller, finer dice, but with a little less care taken. Usually, this is for ingredients that you want to use to flavor the dish overall, but that you don’t want to be the star of the dish or taste in quantity. Think of using slivers of garlic or onion in Chinese food, where they are primary ingredients, versus the subtlety of minced garlic or onion in a soup or casserole.
Minces are cut in the same way as dices, just smaller. As a reminder, here’s a photo of dice and mince together:
Mincing is also good for potent leafy herbs — if I’m making a salad with fresh parsley or oregano, but don’t want them to be the most evident flavors in it, mincing them works really well to make them more subtle accents rather than having them take over the dish.
So there you have it: my top three cutting techniques. Because they are fundamental, knowing these will get you pretty far in the kitchen. But as I said, this is such a huge topic that it will require several more posts to even scratch the surface. Drop a line in the comments if there is something in particular that you want me to tackle first.