Kitchen Fundamentals: Basic Knife Skills

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1 Onion, diced 2 Tomatoes, roughly chopped 1 Jalapeno, finely diced 2 Cloves Garlic, minced

As someone who writes recipes for a living, it's my job to make cooking easy and enjoyable for others. I suppose my “job satisfaction” comes when people tell me that a recipe of mine turned out to be one of their favorite meals. However, I'm not always so lucky.

Things that may seem clear to me can look like hieroglyphs to others.

For example, check out the list of ingredients at the top of the page. Hopefully, the ingredients themselves are recognizable to everyone. What may not be so clear is the actual state of the ingredients. What do I mean by diced, chopped, minced?

Honestly, it's somewhat of a gray area.

You see, each writer, chef, cook, etc., has their own explanation of such terms. Some go as far as providing exact descriptions — “dice your tomatoes into inch cubes.” I suppose that's nice, but such rigid descriptions remind me of baking — not my forte.

I'd rather not pull out a Webster dictionary, so instead I've put together a simple picture to demonstrate the following state of ingredients in descending order based on size: Roughly Chopped, Julienned, Diced, Finely Diced, and Minced. Keep in mind that this is my definition. You or others may envision a fine dice to be finer, or a rough chop to be rougher . . . that's okay. I come from the school of thought where recipes are meant more to be guidelines than scientific formulas. Again, that's probably the reason why baking is not my strong suit.

When working with peppers as pictured, always cut from the inside out — the waxy outer surface can cause the knife to slip.

I've put together a few picture reels to assist you in learning some of the very basic knife skills. Specifically, I've included photos on the best way to go about dicing an onion, mincing/pasting garlic, and finely chopping herbs. I find that these are the skills that I use most in preparing meals.

How to Dice an Onion

By keeping the root end intact, this method ensures that you can quickly dice an entire onion without creating a mess. Keep in mind that the more narrow your incisions, the finer the dice.

Step 1: Slice off the top of the onion, about an inch into the surface.

Step 2: Rest the onion vertically, slice in half through the root end, and peel back the outer layer.

Step 3: Make vertical incisions down to the root end.

Step 4: Make horizontal incisions down to the root end.

Step 5: Dice the onion accordingly and repeat with the remaining half.

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