Our Guide to Basic Knife Skills

By Carolyn Stine April 27, 2019 

We deconstruct and demystify all of the knife-related cooking terminology from your favorite recipes.

Whether you invested in a new knife set to fuel your “cook more in 2019” new year’s resolution or a fresh set of knives were part of your wedding registry (hello, Zola), the fact of the matter is that we are millennials wielding knives that we often don’t know how to properly use. After many an evening in the kitchen wondering if the recipe will really be ruined if we don’t reallyyyy finely dice the onion, we decided that it was time to educate ourselves on the fundamentals of proper knife skills. What that’s turned into is the Bashed glossary for all of the knife-related terminology that you see when you open up your favorite cookbook, food blog, or Pinterest. We put together the ultimate how-to guide, complete with definitions, visuals, and recipes so that you’re sure to know your way around a recipe and your knife block in 2019 and beyond.

Basic Terminology

Chop

This term is so widely used in the culinary world, they named a Food Network show after it. Chopping is all about cutting things up in a rough and rustic way. When you chop, whether it be an apple or a carrot, the pieces don’t need to be super small or even uniform.

How to:

Check out this step-by-step Food Network guide to how to properly chop.

Try it out:

These chile-garlic cucumbers are on of our favorite side dishes at dinner, and will get you practicing those chopping skills on crispy cukes.

Slice

Slicing is all about creating larger pieces of whatever goodie is on your cutting board. There is no one look or feel when slicing, it is completely contingent on the item. For example, you can slice tomatoes into thick rounds, lemons into wedges, or a pears into quarters. For best results when cooking, try to keep your slices of uniform thickness so they cook at the same time.

How to:

Check out this step-by-step guide from The Kitchen on how to properly slice.

Try it out:

This gorgeous ratatouille features uniform slices of eggplant, tomato, squash, and zucchini, layered in rounds in a shallow dish.

Dice

With dicing, you get a little bit more technical and a little bit more precise. It’s more exact than chopping - when dicing, you want to cut your item into small, neat pieces. People often think of an onion when they think of dicing. For example, when dicing an onion for a soup recipe, you want to keep the dice small so your onion pieces are all the same size and dissolve nicely into your soup base.

How to:

Check out this Bon Appetit guide to how to dice vegetables.

Try it out:

This plant-based beet tartare recipe calls for your freshly roasted beets to be diced to look similar to classic beef tartare, so you get excellent practice for your dicing skills.

Julienne

When you read the word “julienne” in a recipe, all you need to think about is matchsticks. The quintessential example is french fries. That long, thin shape is potatoes cut into matchsticks. Or the carrot sticks on the crudites dish? Those are julienned too.

How to:

Check out this Good Housekeeping guide to how to julienne.

Try it out:

This sweet potato fries recipe is on that you will go back to time and time again, and will make you into a julienne expert in no time at all.

Chiffonade

Yes, this term sounds incredibly French (you pronounce it shiff-on-ah-de, the -ade should not sound like lemonade) and fancy, but in reality it’s one of the easiest cooking terms to master. Chiffonade is a technique most often used for fine herbs, where you roll up the leaves and then thinly slice them. You’ll see this in recipes with basil and mint quite frequently, and chiffonade herbs make the perfect garnish.

How to:

Check out this guide to how to chiffonade basil from The Spruce Eats.

Try it out:

This caprese pasta is great any time of the year, and features plenty of fresh basil to chiffonade to your heart’s content.

Bashed Resources

So we’ve broken down the quintessential knife skills terms that we so often find when cooking, but sometimes just reading about or seeing images of these skills isn’t quite enough. That’s why we broke down some additional resources for all of our culinary-savvy Bashed readers to help them brush up on these knife skills. Check out some of our favorite reads, videos, and classes below!

IRL

Many cooking schools offer a knife skills class where you can practice slicing, dicing, and chopping under the dutiful eye of a kitchen pro. Haven’s Kitchen is just one example of a cooking school that offers a knife skills class. Their class format is full of lots of practice and technique instruction, but you also work towards cooking a multi-course meal that you get to enjoy with your fellow students at the completion of the class.

Read All About It

For those of you looking to go down a bit of a rabbit hole in regard to your knife skills, Mastering Knife Skills is an incredibly comprehensive guide that will help you do just that. It’s well-illustrated, and provides a series of lessons that you can work through on your own schedule to really master these skills.

Visual Appeal

Sometimes watching a proper video of someone doing the motion that you’re trying to picture in your head is just what the doctor ordered. Gordon Ramsay has a great instructional video of him teaching his fundamental rules of knife skills, which includes him showing the proper motion, and also explaining his “three finger rule.”

Have a funny story or #epicfail while trying to dice and chop in your own kitchen? Share the good, the bad, and the ugly with us in the comments below!

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Carolyn Stine

A party without cake is just a meeting.

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