Streamlined Slicing: 5 Shortcuts for Cutting Difficult Vegetables

When it comes to the proper methods for how to cut vegetables, not all plants were created equal. Some veggies slice easy as pie, while others are very tough nuts to crack.

Various Cut Vegetables

Photo via Craftsy instructor Brendan McDermott

Even if you’ve stocked up on the proper kitchen knives and viewed the FREE Craftsy course Complete Knife Skills, some veggies require extra attention and special techniques. In order to streamline your slicing and improve your food and cooking skills, here are five shortcuts for cutting difficult vegetables.

Fresh Artichoke

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Paul.Carroll

Artichoke hearts

The thorny outer leaves can make it feel like you’re approaching a heart of darkness rather than a tender artichoke heart.

While it’s not difficult to cut an artichoke, it does require a bit of attention and vigilance to keep from cutting yourself. Take these easy steps:

Step 1:

Cut a lemon in half. Squeeze half into a bowl of water to place finished artichokes, and keep the other half on hand to squeeze on the ‘choke as you cut. Why? The artichoke will start to brown almost instantly once it is cut. While this doesn’t affect the flavor, the fact is that we eat with our eyes first — the lemon juice will keep it looking appetizingly green and fresh.

Step 2:

Using your hands, snap the tough outer leaves off of the artichoke. Take care while doing this, because they can be sharp along the spines.

Step 3:

Using a paring knife (one of the four most useful knives according to Complete Knife Skills), trim the skin around the bottom and sides of the artichoke, so that you can expose the fuzzy center. Gently extract this with a paring knife, but be careful — it can be prickly. Leave the stem for now, as it will make it easier to handle. Delicately slice off as little as possible so that the heart is released but you cut off as little as possible. Rub the lemon over the exposed heart.

Step 4:

Slice off most of the stem, leaving just about an inch. Peel off the hard green portion. Rub with lemon.

Step 5:

Your artichoke heart is ready. Place into the lemon water bowl and continue with the remaining artichokes. Need a suggestion for how to use them? Why not combine them with pepper and cheese for a tasty pizza?

Closeup Shot of Garlic Bulb

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Sunchild 57 Photography


It has been said jokingly that the easiest way to cut garlic is “with a garlic press.” While certainly that method keeps your hands clean, cutting garlic isn’t so hard once you break it down into steps.  Dealing with garlic breath, however, is up to you.

Step 1:

Peel the clove. One method is to cut the stem where the clove was attached to the bulb, and peeling the skin from there to squeeze out the clove.

Another method is to press the side of a knife blade down on the bulb until you feel the skin release. Don’t smash it though, as it will be hard to cut the garlic if it’s smooshed.

Step 2:

Place the clove on its flattest side (noting that yes, it is rounded). Slice thinly. Once you’ve gotten about halfway through, turn it around to the flat side for more stability so that you can continue slicing. Continue slicing per your recipe’s directions.

Closeup Shot of Yellow Pepper

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Denim Dave

Bell peppers

Peppers would be easy to cut, if not for those pesky seeds. Here’s a helpful tip to slice the pepper without errant seeds.

Step 1:

Slice the bottom of the pepper so that it stands upright.

Step 2:

Slice the outside off in long strips, aligning your cuts to the dents in the pepper. The seeds should remain in a contained cluster along the stem of the fruit, allowing for easy disposal.

Cutting Butternut SquashPhoto via Craftsy instructor Brendan McDermott

Pumpkin or squash

Whether it’s a spaghetti squash or pumpkin, cutting these clunky plants can make you feel off your gourd. To prevent from slipping a knife and cutting yourself, follow these tips.

Step 1:

Cut off both the top and bottom of the squash, about ¼ to ½ an inch, or as much as it takes so that the squash will sit flat when placed upright. If you want to peel the squash, now is the time.

Step 2:

Using a very sharp chef’s knife, make a long cut down the center of the squash. If you reach a point at which the knife seems stuck, use pressure by a mallet to get it through. If applicable, spoon out the sticky flesh and seeds (you can roast the seeds!).

See also our post on how to choose a chef’s knife.

Step 3:

Now, slice each piece in half, so that you have quarters. Slice each quarter lengthwise to the size specified in your recipe (many recipes call for ½” cubes). Rotate the long strips and cut again for cubes.

Cut Turnips

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member joyosity


Step 1:

Slice off both ends of the turnip with a knife. You can save the greens; they’ll add a nice, lightly spicy flavor to salads.

Step 2:

Cut the bottom, with its hairy little roots, off, so that the turnip can lie flat on your cutting board.

Step 3:

Peel the turnips with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Be very careful and don’t try to pull off long strips as you would with a smoother vegetable. Watch for tough spots as a knife or peeler can catch.

Step 4:

Cut the turnip in half, from top to bottom. Lay the turnip halves, flat side down, and continue to cut the turnip into smaller pieces. Continue cutting the cubes into smaller sizes until you reach the desired size.

What vegetable do you find most difficult to cut?

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