There is more to a top-class restaurant than tasty food, you know. The devil is in the finest details of how the dish is prepared and presented. One of the simplest differences between a talented home cook and a professional chef is how they handle a knife.
Mastering cutting techniques is the key to elevating your food and impressing all the right people. People eat first with their eyes- as any food critic can tell you. If you want to drive forward the success in your restaurant, this is a good place to start.
Cutlery skills and culinary talents go hand in hand from the first preparation until you serve the final dish. Here are some of the best cutting techniques to try out in your restaurant.
A Few Tips Before You Start
- Never cut with a blunt knife- it is dangerous and ineffective. A dull blade leaves messy lines and is more likely to slip off the surface of the food and cut you. Invest in a high-quality knife sharpener and use it religiously.
- All knives are not the same. You need a variety of blade lengths, shapes, and angles if you want to execute these cutlery techniques to the fullest. It is best to look for a professional chef’s knife kit.
- Always angle the knife slightly away from your hand and keep part of the blade touching the chopping board. That way, you minimize the chances of adding an unwanted ingredient into the mix!
- Don’t rush into things- even the more basic techniques take time to master. Start slow and build up precision and confidence before you up the ante and speed. Going too fast before you are ready leads to accidents and is not the best way to ensure beautiful cuts and exquisite presentation.
Basic Cutting Techniques
The julienne cut is iconic in many national cuisines. It is mainly used for chopping vegetables into matchstick-thin slices (1).
Step One: Cut off the edges of your food item to create a rectangular shape.
Step Two: Chop the rectangle into sections roughly two inches long.
Step Three: Slice each section lengthwise into strips of 1/8th of an inch wide. Hold them together in a stack as you go, rather than letting them fall to the side.
Step Four: Take the stack and turn them over so the uncut edge is showing. Repeat step three.
Batonnete is French for a small baton. Batons are another simply cut vegetable, but this is a little fancier.
Step One: Start by cutting the item into a rectangular shape- be sure to remove either end to leave a perfectly straight edge.
Step Two: Cut the rectangle to roughly ¼ of an inch deep.
Step Three: Next, cut it horizontally into strips of roughly ¼ of an inch wide.
Step Four: Cut the strips into batons of around three inches long. The length can vary depending on how you wish to present the dish.
There is cubing, then dicing, then the brunoise technique. It is the smallest form of chopping other than mincing, although far more precise.
Step One: Again, start by cutting the edges and ends off to leave perfectly straight lines. They must be as clean-cut as possible.
Step Two: Cut lengthwise to create sheets of roughly 1/8th of an inch, then cut those sheets into strips of the same width. It is the exact process you use to create the julienne cut, but precision is far more important.
Step Four: Carefully cut each strip into cubes of roughly 1/8th of an inch. You want the cubes to be perfectly uniform- no sloppy edges!
Advanced Cutting Techniques
If you want to glorify the humble potato, this is a great way to do it. You need patience, precision, and a curved knife. Tourne means to turn, which is exactly how you are going to cut.
Step One: Take a peeled and washed potato and hold it loosely in your non-dominant hand. Use the dominant hand to control the blade.
Step Two: Start at the base and carve towards yourself, shaping in at either end.
Step Three: Turn the potato and repeat step two. Keep going until you create a rough football shape.
Step Four: Inspect the edges to ensure they are even. You can choose to have the traditional seven faces or blend them out for a smooth finish.
This technique is predominantly used for herbs and garnishes, although you can branch out if you are feeling creative. The idea is to create ribbon-like swirls to use decoratively on a plate.
Step One: Stack the leaves or herbs as uniformly as you can on top of each other.
Step Two: Roll the stack to create a loose cigar shape.
Step Three: Take your knife and carefully slice the roll, pulling the blade through the leaves rather than pushing down.
Taking the time to master these cuts, amongst others, is essential if you want to take your cooking to the next level. Patience and precision are must-have traits for a professional chef. The only thing more important is a high-quality set of knives!