From the recipes across our site and across the internet, you’ll see all kinds of requests for chopping, dicing, mincing, slicing, and more. That’s why we decided there are 11 Knife Cuts Everyone Should Know and we’re here to teach them. We’re going to demo the 11 Knife Cuts Everyone Should Know and talk through the specifics of each cut so you know exactly what you’re doing when you’re navigating the wide and wild world of recipes!
We’ve explored a couple of these techniques recently, from oblique or jewel cuts in our Avocado Basics: How to Cut, Peel, and Prep an Avocado and requests for either sliced or diced cuts in our guide to How to Quickly Caramelize Onions. For the next time you caramelize some onions (or need onions for anything…which we think is pretty often), we also developed a guide on How to Slice and Dice an Onion in the best and safest way.
Now let’s go over some general cutting guidelines before we get down to the nitty gritty of the 11 Knife Cuts Everyone Should Know.
- Keep that knife sharp! We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: a sharp knife is a safe knife. Make sure your knife is sharp, whether that means keeping a sharpener in your kitchen or finding a service that’ll do it for you. Check your local farmer’s market! Some have stands that offer knife sharpening services.
- Cut your ends. You’ll see us do this in the demos below—cut the ends off first and either discard them or save them for stock.
- Flip your fruit (or veggie!). Cut the ends off first like we mentioned and then flip whatever you’re cutting onto the new flat surface you’ve just created. Flipping onto the broader side gives you more stability as you go and keeps your produce from rolling around on the cutting board.
- Use the whole blade. It might look like the knife is just moving straight up and down when you watch a chef chop, but it’ll help you out a lot to use the whole length of the knife. That means your cutting motion isn’t just up and down but also forward and back to get those slices made efficiently and all the way through.
- Keep your precious fingers safe! Keep fingertips back and away from the blade. You can accomplish this by keeping the knuckles of your non-cutting hand over your fingertips. As you use this hand to stabilize what you’re cutting, your knuckles serve as a guide for the knife—the blade rests against your knuckles with your fingertips safely out of the way. It might feel funny and it takes a lot of practice before it feels natural, but it’s absolutely a cutting stance worth developing.
Now let’s get into some specifics!
You’ve probably heard both “diced” and “finely diced” in different recipes, but which is which? A diced cut is basically a square that is bite-sized. If you wanna get real technical about it, it’ll probably measure about 1/4 of an inch on each side. Cut 1/4 inch spaced lines in one direction, then turn what you’re cutting and cut 1/4 inch spaced lines perpendicular to the initial cuts in order to make your squares.
Common things you’ll see diced are carrots, celery, and onions (we’ve got extra pro tips for you on How to Slice and Dice an Onion) as well as tomatoes. Plus, dicing is one of your cut options if you’re learning How to Quickly Caramelize Onions .
A fine dice is just a smaller version of a dice! It’ll be about half the size of a regular dice, coming in at 1/8th of an inch squared. Follow the same process as a dice with less space between your cuts.
Fine dicing is often used for the same types of foods as a dice is—it just makes them a little less toothsome. With a fine dice, you can get a lot of something onto a spoon, making room for lots of flavors and smaller pieces in one bite rather than a few larger, more chomp-friendly pieces. Because fine dicing is smaller than regular dicing, it’ll also cook a little bit quicker.
Let’s get into some chop talk. Whereas a dice is square, chopped cuts don’t require much by way of specific shape. In addition to “chopped”, you’ll also come across the phrases roughly chopped and finely chopped in some of your recipes so it’s good to know what means what.
A chop is a smaller version of the rough chop below. You don’t need to worry too much about a specific shape when chopping—the goal is to make pieces that are close to a bite-size that would fit on a fork or spoon.
Rough chops are typically used for things that aren’t going to end up on your final plate, like something you’re putting in a stock or under a tray that you’re roasting a chicken on. There’s no need to think too much about it—the goal is simply to break up the large piece of whatever you’re cutting into a bunch of less large pieces. Easy peasy.
A fine chop is an even smaller version of these other chops. You’ll use this almost exclusively for herbs and greens. These are real small and still rustic/not super refined in shape. Fine chopping makes for great garnish and is perfect for incorporating the flavor of herbs evenly throughout a dish.
A slice is just what you think it is: a slice of something! Cut into your produce with parallel lines. You’re probably pretty accustomed to this cut, but keep in mind the difference between sliced and thinly sliced below—a regular slice is thicker.
If you’re slicing an onion specifically, you can check out How to Slice and Dice an Onion.
Thinly sliced is just how it sounds: a thinner version of a slice. These cuts are made at about 1/8th of an inch apart and have a delicate look to them. Keep in mind thin slices will cook faster than regular slices.
Julienned or Matchsticks
A julienne cut is a more technical and refined version of a slice. When regular slicing, you can kinda get away with whatever length and thickness as long as they’re in straight cuts. A julienne requires a little more uniformity and you might see the term used for things you wouldn’t normally cut into slices. For example, a recipe may require that you slice an onion and that you julienne a carrot (because you’d more typically see a carrot diced or chopped). We also like to call julienne cuts matchsticks because, well, that’s what they look like.
A julienne cut is technically an 1/8th inch by 1/8th inch square that’s cut to 2 inches in length.
Cubed means…cubed! You’ll cut your item into cube shapes. A recipe usually specifies the size of the cube (from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch to 1 inch cubes for example), so follow that guidance when it comes to determining how large or small to cut.
Cubing is often used for root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, squash, or carrots as cubing lends itself well to uniform roasting of these harder types of produce.
Oblique or Jewel Cut
Next let’s look at oblique cuts or jewel cuts. We talked about these a bit in our Avocado Basics: How to Cut, Peel, and Prep an Avocado if you wanna take a look at how to do an avocado specifically! You’ll see us cycle through a few different veggies in the demo here.
This is one of our favorite ways to cut things because the shapes are versatile and you can move through it pretty quick once you get the hang of it. With oblique/jewel cuts, you don’t need to worry about a uniform shape. You’ll simply cut and rotate, cut and rotate until you’ve finished, leaving you with quirky, bite-sized pieces. Oblique or jewel cuts work best with longer produce like cucumbers or avocados that are quartered length-wise.
Lastly, we have mincing: the smallest of the small. Mincing is really the final frontier of cutting before you enter straight-up puree status or mashing. You’ll see this a lot for garlic and ginger—or anything with a flavor that you want incorporated uniformly through every bite of your dish. Make these cuts as tiny as you can in both directions and you’re good to go.
That’s it for the 11 Knife Cuts Everyone Should Know! Be sure to get your practice in by checking out How to Quickly Caramelize Onions and take another look at the jewel/oblique cut in Avocado Basics: How to Cut, Peel, and Prep an Avocado. Next up on the chopping block? A quick and easy guide on How to Slice and Dice an Onion.
If you’ve got questions about these cuts or any others you’ve encountered, let us know in the comments below and we’d be happy to help you make healthy happen!