You’re not alone if you’re learning to cook for the first time. When you first start cooking and try to follow a recipe, it can feel like you’re speaking a foreign language. Because cutting vegetables the appropriate size and shape make a difference in recipes, it’s crucial to understand how to slice, dice, and mince various veggies. With a little education and practice, you should be able to master these skills and tackle any dish!
Knife Skills: Slice, Dice, and Mince
How to Chop the “Right” Way
There are various ways to cut an onion, and I’ll show you one that works for me. This is not the only method or the “right” way because I believe the right approach is unique to each individual. The more you use your knife, the more comfortable you’ll become and the more you’ll develop a technique that works for you.
I’ve included photographs and videos of three different varieties of veggies to demonstrate how the fundamental approach may be applied to varied forms. This way, you’ll be prepared to cook everything from an eggplant to a rutabaga!
Tips Before You Begin:
- Make use of a sharp knife. Dull blades are more likely to slip, which can lead to a knife mishap (which is never fun). So, to keep dull blades at bay, invest in a simple knife sharpener.
- If your cutting board slides about on your work surface, place a thin wet towel on the surface beneath your cutting board. This will help to secure your cutting board.
- Use the appropriate knife. A chef’s knife is ideal for slicing, dicing, mincing, and chopping. This knife is large enough to comfortably slice through veggies while remaining small enough to keep good control in your palm. You’ll need an eight or ten chef’s knife, depending on the size of your hands.
How to Cut an Onion
- Step 1: Cut off the onion’s end(s). Some people prefer to leave one end intact to keep the onion pieces together as they slice (this might be helpful, especially if you’re a newbie), but I normally cut both ends off.
- Step 2: Turn the onion so that it sits securely on one of the flat cut edges, then cut it in half. The papery layers of the onion should be easy to peel off now that there are multiple sliced edges.
- Step 3: Place the onion on one of the more significant flat-cut edges and cut it into strips. To safeguard your fingers, keep your fingertips tucked while you slice. Some people prefer to slice the onion longitudinally, while others prefer to slice it along its latitude. Cutting in this direction produces straighter slices, whereas cutting in the opposite direction produces half-round slices. You can choose the direction based on the recipe or the appearance of the onion slices.
How to Use Sliced Onions: Sliced onions are ideal for recipes that call attention to the onion bits. They are excellent for roasting, sautéing, pickling, and caramelization.
- Step 3: To dice the onion, align the slices, spin 90 degrees, and cut across the slices. Leaving one end of the onion intact can assist in keeping the slices in place, but I just hold them in place with my hand.
How to Use Diced Onions: Diced onions are useful in dishes where you want some texture but not huge chunks of onion. Sauté them, add them to soups and, chilis and salads.
- Step 5: To mince the onion, hold one hand on the tip end of the knife to create a fulcrum, and rock the knife back and forth with the other hand to further cut the diced onion into smaller pieces (to see this in action, check the video above).
How to Use Minced Onion: Minced onions are ideal for recipes that call for onion taste but not much if any, texture. Minced onions tend to melt into any recipe they’re cooked in, and their texture is often imperceptible. Minced onions can be used in meatballs, burgers, meatloaf, and salsas.
How to Cut a Bell Pepper
- Step 1: Cut the bell pepper in half lengthwise (top to bottom).
- Step 2: Remove the seed pods from the bell pepper, leaving any surplus white flesh behind.
- Step 3: Slice the bell pepper longitudinally (top to bottom) with the skin facing down. Slicing the pepper from this side is considerably easier than slicing from the tough skin side, which can cause the knife to slip.
- Step 4: To dice the bell pepper, line up a few slices, turn them 90 degrees, and cut them into squares across the slices.
How to Cut a Sweet Potato
- Step 1: Peel the sweet potato.
- Step 2: cut the sweet potato into rounds. Remember to keep your fingers tucked!
- Step 3: Stack a few sweet potato rounds and slice them into strips to make sweet potato strips.
- Step 4: To dice the sweet potato, line up a few strips, spin 90 degrees, and cut into cubes across the slices.
Learn more: Recipe for Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast