How To Cut Vegetables Like A Pro
Sometimes a rustic chop is perfectly fine for your veg — it can even add a bit of character to your homemade stew. But other times, you might be seeking a more elegant and refined aesthetic for your dishes. Whether you’re preparing delicate julienne sticks for a summer mezze or want to achieve the smoothest texture possible with your finely diced onion, it all starts with the right kitchen knives.
Once your tools are ready and raring to go, you can go on to cut vegetables like a pro...
Setting up your chopping station
No matter what kind of veggies you decide to cook with, setting up a chopping station is an essential part of the process. Preparation is key, and it can keep you organised and safe.
To start, you’ll need enough space for your ingredients and a sturdy chopping board. Try to look for a board with non-slip feet. Plastic is an ideal material as it’s easy to clean and won’t retain odours from ingredients such as onions and garlic.
Different kitchen knives are suited to different ingredients and tasks. The best ones for preparing vegetables are generally paring knives and chef’s knives, as they allow for precision. However, a Santoku knife is also helpful for slicing through harder vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potato.
It’s essential to make sure your knives are sharp. Not only will it help you glide through the ingredients and speed up your chopping, but it will also reduce the risk of slippage and injury.
Another tool to have at hand is a vegetable peeler to help you remove the outer skins of carrots, potatoes, parsnips, and other ingredients.
Different ways to chop vegetables
There are several popular vegetable chopping styles that you can use for a range of ingredients. Though they may seem a bit fiddly at first, with practice, you’ll soon get the hang of them!
Julienne cuts are long, thin pieces — usually the size and shape of a matchstick. It’s ideal for carrots, peppers, courgettes and potatoes. It’s best to use a sharp chef’s knife, which will give you precise, clean cuts.
Brunoise is a French term simply referring to dicing into very small cubes. To brunoise, you can start preparing fine julienne sticks. Then, holding the julienne pieces together, cut along the length to achieve tiny, even cubes.
A batonnet is essentially a larger version of the julienne cut. Ideal for crudites, batonnet vegetables are the perfect size and shape for holding and dipping.
The concasse technique is a way of peeling, deseeding, and chopping soft vegetables. It’s a good technique for tomatoes (and, yes, we know tomatoes are a fruit!). Before chopping with a knife, this method includes blanching the tomato in boiling water to smoothly remove the skin.
After peeling, you quarter the tomato to scoop out the seeds, then dice the flesh into small cubes. A serrated paring knife is ideal for slicing through soft tomato flesh.
‘Chiffonade’ is French for ribbon, and this cut is great for preparing leafy greens and herbs - you get fine ribbon-shaped strips and can adapt to any size you need.
How to cut an onion
Onions are an essential part of many recipes. Fragrant and flavoursome, they add depth to soups, stocks, stir-fries and stews. But they can be tricky to cut, especially if you want small, even pieces.
For dishes that require the taste of onion but need a smooth texture, brunoise is the most effective method. Because each piece is so small, the onion will cook quickly, releasing its flavours and aromas.
Firstly, peel the onion and cut it in half. Take one of the top onion layers, cut it in half and flatten it against the chopping board.
Trim the edges of the layer until you have a rectangular shape, then cut the rectangle into julienne strips.
Gather a few of the julienne strips together and dice them into small, uniform cubes. Aim for cubes that are 3mm in height, width and depth.
Repeat for the rest of the onion layers.
If you’d like to try a super-quick and easy method, the Zyliss Easy Pull Manual Food Processor can help you dice ingredients like onions with ease and consistency. All you need to do is pull the handle to chop the onion. The more you pull, the finer the dice.
How to cut carrots
If you’d like fine carrot pieces for a salad or stir fry, then a julienne cut is your best bet. To achieve this, first clean and peel your carrot. A Swivel Julienne Peeler will get the job done quickly and easily.
Trim it into a rectangular shape — a paring knife is the perfect tool for this.
Next, lay the rectangular carrot flat on your chopping board and cut along the edge to create long, thin pieces. Cut each piece into even thinner strips, until they’re just a few millimetres wide and resemble matchsticks.
Alternatively, you can cut your carrots into batonnets, which are larger than julienne strips. As before, wash and peel the carrots before trimming them into rectangles. Slice the rectangles into strips, keeping their height, width and depth around 6mm.
If you fancy something a bit different, you could also use a Spiralizer to create long ribbons or spirals — an excellent way to change up your salads.
How to cut butternut squash
The outer layer of a butternut squash can be tough to cut through, and once you do get through, there’s the question of the squash seeds. But once you have the technique, chopping these dense vegetables will be a doddle.
First, use a sharp Santoku knife or chef's knife to top and tail the squash.
Hold the trimmed squash in one hand and peel with a Y-shaped peeler, then stand the peeled squash upright on the chopping board. Slice it down the middle.
Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds in the centre of each butternut squash half.
Then turn the halves over so the cut side is against the chopping board. Slice lengthwise into strips, then gather the strips into a pile and cut crosswise so you have even cubes — ½ inch butternut squash cubes are ideal for roasting.
Food prep pro
Now you’ve mastered cutting vegetables like a pro, you might be interested in perfectly preparing fruit for a fruit salad.