When we watch TV these days there are cooking shows of one kind or other everywhere. This is really great, because so much more information is readily available than ever before. Not everyone who cooks on TV is a true professional chef, but many are. They are trained professionally, and certain terms are taught to them. These words become second nature to hear and use, though not all of the general public watching at home always understands what these terms mean. Here are five of the most common terms for ways of cutting foods that should demystify these terms for everyone.
Slicing is the simplest of all methods. Most people understand the word, so maybe this is less necessary to explain. Slicing can be done thick or thin and any gradient between. Not everyone is able to slice neatly and evenly, but slicing is a downward motion with a knife. How this downward motion is accomplished can vary. One may slice bread, which requires a sawing downward motion to slice without smashing the bread. If slicing an onion, a simple downward motion is perfect. Slicing a green pepper can vary. Usually one cuts the pepper open and cleans out seeds and membranes, but then do we slice across the pepper, or lengthwise? Sometimes this is purely preference, and sometimes it depends on how the final dish is to look.
Chopping can be done roughly or finely. The gradations are sometimes individually termed, such as coarse chop, or fine chop. Chopping is the method for making smaller pieces of a vegetable or fruit, for such things as a saute, salad, or soup. Making a salsa can be done coarsely chopped or more finely chopped. Chopping an onion is relatively simple, since with all the layers, quite a lot of small pieces are accomplished with few strokes. Some people chop slowly and some develop skill and chop more quickly. The most important thing is a sharp knife, which makes any chopping task much easier.
To mince means to chop into extremely tiny bits. Most often one minces garlic, as an example. This allows the strongly flavored bulb to be distributed evenly throughout a dish. Mincing any vegetable will take a longer time, as the chopping motions must continue until all the pieces are uniformly small. Fresh herbs are often minced before adding to food. Mincing is used when the desire is to distribute flavors without marring the visual effect, or as with the garlic, to distribute flavors most evenly. A garlic press will approximate the fineness of mincing garlic, though most professional chefs do not use a press.
To julienne means to slice into long strips of very uniform matchstick shape and size. There are tools out there these days that can help to make quick work of julienning vegetables such as carrot or zucchini, among others. If julienning by hand, take the vegetable, such as a carrot, cut 3 to 4 inch lengths and slice each piece lengthwise into thin, even slices. Stack 3 or more of these thin slices together and again slice lengthwise through the stack, creating very thin sticks of the vegetable. These little sticks are often about 3 or more inches long, and can be added to a salad or a stir fry or wherever desired.
This term is most often applied to leafy foods, such as herbs or spinach or other leafy vegetables. It involves taking the leaves and stacking a lot of them together and then rolling the stack into a cigar like shape. While holding that roll steady with one hand, take your knife and slice across the cigar shape in very narrow slices. What you will have at the end are literally threadlike pieces of the food. A chiffonade of basil leaves is most wonderful on a Caprese Salad of tomato and mozzarella slices. A chiffonade of spinach or kale would be excellent tossed into a stir fry at the last minute.
Try out your skills with these methods to see how they work. When you hear a chef on TV speaking these words you will have a much better grasp of the meanings of the words and how to accomplish these tasks.
About The Author
My name is Chris Rawstern and I have been on a cooking and baking journey for 42 years. Many people have asked what A Harmony of Flavors means. Have you ever had a meal where the visual presentation was stunning, the smells were incredible, the taste was so remarkable that you ate slowly savoring every bite, wishing the
experience would never end? Then you have experienced what a truly harmonious meal can be like.
My passion is to teach people how to create a Harmony of Flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse
culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own.
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