In almost every recipe you'll read the words "chopped," "diced," or "julienned." Yet few cooks -- even good ones -- possess the basic knife skills necessary to get these tasks done in an effective and timely way. But with good knife skills, cooking becomes fun. Here are some simple tips to get you on your way.
Cutting an Onion: Fan Method (using a 10-inch chef's knife)
1. Make a series of cuts by rotating the angle of the knife blade from almost parallel to the cutting board on one side to almost parallel to the board on the other side. Alternate the depth of the cuts.
2. Push the tip of the chef's knife through onion near the root end -- do not cut through the root.
3. Rotate the onion 90 degrees, so the root is still to your left.
4. Make successive crosswise cuts to separate the cubes.
Slicing an Onion: Shreds (using a 10-inch chef's knife)
1. Begin with half an onion. Place cut side down on board.
2. Cut to remove root section.
3. Cut onion into 2 quarters -- from root to stem.
4. Working with each quarter separately, make successive slices until you have cut about half of it.
5. Lay remaining portion on the board and turn onion; continue to slice until entirely cut.
Slicing a Shallot (using a paring knife)
1. Cut in half lengthwise.
2. Place a shallot half on cutting board, cut side down.
3. Make successive slices of desired thickness.
Dicing a Shallot (using a paring knife)
1. Place a shallot half on cutting board.
2. Make successive horizontal slices of the desired thickness with the first cut on the bottom -- do not cut through the root end.
3. Rotate shallot 90 degrees.
4. Make successive vertical slices -- do not cut through the root end.
5. Make successive crosswise cuts to create tiny cubes.
Slicing a Zucchini (using a 10-inch chef's knife)
1. Trim end. Position knife diagonal to the zucchini so you will produce a slice about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long.
2. Start with the tip of the blade and slice it forward through the zucchini to produce the slice.
3. After each cut, move your forefinger to the left a distance equal to the desired thickness of the next slice.
Julienning a Zucchini (using a 10-inch chef's knife)
1. Stack 3 or 4 slices.
2. Using your forefinger as a guide, start each cut with the tip of the blade, and slide the blade forward to produce strips.
3. After each cut move your forefinger a distance equal to the desired width of the next cut.
Dicing a Zucchini (using a 10-inch chef's knife)
1. Gather julienned strips into a stack with the strips parallel.
2. Start each cut with the tip of the blade and slide the blade forward so it moves through the zucchini to produce cubes.
3. After each cut, move your forefinger a distance equal to the desired width of the next cut.
Special thanks to Peter Hertzmann for demonstrating these knife techniques. For more information on knives, check out Peter's book, "Knife Skills Illustrated." Special thanks to W.W. Norton and Wusthof for giving paring knives to our studio audience.