Did you know there are plenty of shapes you can cut your vegetables in? And once you decide on the shape you want, it is also important to keep it uniformed. Want to know why? Read on to know why vegetables are cut into different shapes and how they affect your cooking.
Those fancy vegetable cuts you see served alongside your main dishes in nice restaurants? There a reasoning why they are served up that way besides just looking impressive. Quite frankly, knowing how and why you cut your vegetables in a certain way really tells a story in your dish. Hopefully, after you read through this article, it will open up some new ideas for you on how you can better serve your vegetables. Let’s explain to you why vegetables are cut into different shapes without any further ado.
Making and breaking a dish
If you have been prepping vegetables for a while now, you will know that the shape and size of your vegetables can make or break a dish. And why is that? See, when the vegetables are cut into the uniform pieces at an appropriate size that matches the recipe portion, not only does it ease the cooking process, but it also makes your vegetables, and overall dish taste greater.
Before you prep your vegetables
So, here’s the deal. We tell you how to cut your vegetables and you use the right methods for your cooking, sounds good? That’s all the more reason for you to start incorporating these 8 culinary terms into your culinary terminology and muscle memory. Your time to master the art of slicing and dicing has arrived, so let us settle the score once and for all.
This is a popular method of cutting vegetables finely and thinly. Using a Chef’s or paring knife, this method of cutting your vegetables is often employed for stir-fries where you do not want too big of a vegetable chunk to get in the way of your meat. We often use the French cut technique for salad ingredients and green vegetables such as cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers.
This is a common method of cutting up vegetables. Like the method name, your vegetables are cut into cubes. Using a more precise method than chopping, cubed ingredients are always cut to a uniform size. As you can guess too, because it is such a familiar cutting method, this cut is used with many ingredients, not just limited to vegetables only! We recommend a good Chef’s knife when you are cubing your vegetables.
Before you employ this method of cutting your vegetables, the vegetables must first be julienned, then only turned a quarter and diced again to approximately 1/8-inch cubes. Using a Chef’s knife in hand, we often use this cutting technique for leeks, carrots, celery, and onions. But it also works well with bell peppers and root vegetables such as turnips and pumpkin. If you are prepping soft vegetables like green beans and cauliflower, do avoid this method of cutting.
Dicing is almost like cutting your vegetables into cubes. Though technically smaller than a standard cube, the dice cut also creates uniform squares for even cooking and a polished look. You can have small dice, medium dice, or even large dice which is completely up to you. You might want to check your recipe and then decide on your dice size. Use a Chef’s knife to dice some cucumbers and chilies to make a nice cool and spicy dip for some Vietnamese spring rolls, yum! And if you are making salsa, feel free to dice your ingredients.
Chiffonade is a slicing technique in which leafy green vegetables or flat-leaved herbs are cut into long, thin strips. You can always learn to chiffonade delicate herbs, like basil and mint, that bruise easily if chopped. It may sound sophisticated, but it is simple to accomplish. This can be done easy by stacking your leaves and rolling them tightly first. Then, using a Chef’s or paring knife, slice the leaves perpendicular to the roll.
This one is straightforward cutting. There is no way to hide around it, you just need to use a Chef’s knife to chop your vegetables. Generally, the term ‘chopping’ itself, is a casual, imprecise term that simply means to roughly cut food into bite-sized pieces. As long as your vegetable fits that criterion, then yes, you have chopped vegetables.
To slice something is cut across the vegetables into uniform, thin, flat pieces. Almost every vegetable that exists can be sliced. We do think that to slice vegetables, it would be great for you to invest in a Chef’s, paring, or serrated knife for this method of cutting.
Think of minced meat, and you get the idea. Anything ingredient that is cut very, very finely is referred as a minced ingredient. This can be achieved by using a Chef’s knife or a food processor. And it is also another popular method of breaking down ingredients too. Mincing is the ideal cutting technique for aromatics, like onion, garlic, and ginger, where a paste-like consistency is a desirable end result. That ginger paste sauce that is served with your Hainanese Chicken Rice? Yes, that ginger was minced.
Go small or go big?
Now that you have learned those 8 techniques of cutting, therein lies the question of which method you should go for. When do you chop your vegetables, and when do you dice them? Yes, the way you cut your vegetables does affect how they taste. Here are some things to consider:
The size of the cut vegetable
- Size actually matters. The smaller the vegetable, the faster it cooks. This will affect the texture of the vegetable itself—those chopped carrots will get mushy fast if they’re tiny—as well as how quickly it will infuse flavor into the dish.
The surface area of the cut vegetable
- If your recipe asks you to cut your vegetables in a certain way, these is a reason for it and it is suitable for the recipe, so follow along.
The general understanding is that smaller cuts will cook quicker than big ones, so using a mix of both can vary the texture of a dish. Vegetables cut on a diagonal will be al dente on the thicker end and soft on the thinner end, which can make them more satisfying to eat. Potatoes cut into bite-sized cubes goes perfectly well in a comforting stew. Think about the textures you want in your dish, then decide which cutting method to use.
From eggplants to tomatoes and carrots, vegetables have always represented a natural and healthy diet due to their high vitamin and fibre content. You have learned that cutting your vegetables into various shapes can provide different textures on a plate. Aside from the different textures and it affecting the cooking time, there are other things you can do with vegetables (especially the leftovers and scraps of it), like making brilliant vegetable stock.
At Rich Products Malaysia, we strive to teach and nurture everyone to get creative in cooking because shared food knowledge and passion bring about change. We are always eager to produce innovative solutions whether they are through our recipes, products, and articles, this is just the beginning. There’s more awaiting for us.