Six Basic Vegetable Cuts

cut vegetablesThe right cut can make a world of difference. Certainly, a carrot is a carrot, and it will always be a carrot. It looks like a carrot and tastes like a carrot. Right? Sort of. The way the carrot is cut can give it a different look and texture.  It will even change how the carrot’s flavors interact with the other flavors. So a carrot -  or any vegetable – might be more or less itself based on now it is prepared and then used.

The following six cuts are the basics, though they do have French names. Don’t be intimidated by the names. These cuts are actually quite simple. Though it will be helpful to know some of the basic knife skills as I will be referring to them by name below. Click here for a refresher on the basic knife techniques mentioned below.

Chiffonade

It’s is a cut specifically for leafy vegetables and herbs. It involves chopping the leaf into extremely thin slices. Each slice should be only about 1mm wide. This cut is used to prepare herbs for seasoning, to chop veggies for a salad, or to make a light garnish.

To make a chiffonade cut, place the leaves to be chopped in either a stack or rolled tightly. Then use a smooth rock chop to slice very thin strips. If this motion is new to you, it’s best to start off slowly to get a consistent size, and then speed up as you master the technique.

Julienne

This cut is typically used for firm vegetable like carrots, cucumbers, or celery. It means to cut thin strips or sticks to be used as both ingredients and garnish. The exact measurements of julienne should be 5cm to 10cm long, 4mm wide, and 4mm thick.

To cut julienne, follow the following steps:
1) First cut your vegetable into the desired length (either 5cm or 10cm).
2) Then cut the vegetable into flat, lengthwise slices 4mm thick. This is usually easiest by standing the vegetable up on one of the cut ends and cutting down its length.
3) Lay the slices flat on on cutting surface either individual or in a stack for faster cutting.
4) Then use a rock chop or draw slice to cut them into 4mm wide strips. Go slowly at first to be sure you’re cutting each the same width.

Brunoise

A brunoise is a very fine diced cut. It results in tiny cubes 5mm on each side.  Brunoise cut are often used in sauces because the tiny pieces cook down well and release a lot of flavor quickly. Alternatively, a brunoise can also be sprinkled on a dish as a nice colorful garnish.

To prepare a brunoise, follow these steps:
1) First julienne your vegetable.
2) Then take the julienne and cut it into tiny cubes, taking care to make them into very small cubes.

Jardiniere

These are sticks or batons cut from the vegetable of choice. Jardiniere are typically shorter than julienne, but much thicker. There is some debate on exactly how big a jardiniere should be, but they typically range from 2cm to 4cm in length. They are anywhere from 4mm by 4mm thick to 10mm by 10mm thick. At their smallest, jardiniere look like short julienne.  At their largest they look like the vegetables used in a veggies and dip platter. Vegetables cut this way may be used to add texture to a soup or stir fry.  They may also be prepared together as a vegetable side dish.

To make these cuts, follow the instructions for julienne, with the following adjustments:

1) Cut the vegetable into whatever length you need.
2) Then cut the vegetable into lengthwise slices of the desired thickness. It’s easiest if you cut down the length while standing the vegetable on one end.
3) Set the slices long-side down on your cutting surface.
4) Chop or slice the vegetable into widths equal to the thickness.

Macedoine

This is larger, thicker cubes. Like brunoise is based on julienne, Macedoine is based on jardiniere. Macedoine cuts are usually 1cm cubes used in soups, sauces, and anywhere you’re looking for a chunkier texture to the vegetable component.

To cut macedoine, first prepare your vegetables Jardiniere. Then lay the stick or sticks out flat and chop them into cubes (a tap chop or a rock chop works well). Work carefully to make nice cubes of equal size on each side.

Paysanne

Another cut based on Jardiniere, Paysanne is a wide, thin cut. It differs from Macedoine in that it isn’t a cube, but a thin slice. It’s used when a chunkier texture is desired from small vegetable chunks that cook down quickly and release a lot of flavor. A Paysanne often used in Mirepoix, sautéed vegetables used as a base for sauces, soups, stocks, and anywhere else the veggies are needed for texture and flavor.

Like Macedoine, Paysanne needs vegetables first cut Jardiniere. Then using a rock chop or a tap chop, cut the batons into thin slices, anywhere from 1mm to 5mm thick.

These are a few of the basic cut used in cooking, but it isn’t a complete list. There are a variety of more complex cuts, many of them similar to those preparation listed here with slight variations.  There will be posts on more advanced techniques coming up soon.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net.

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