I worked in a commercial kitchen where the size of your brunoise could cost you your job. Even now, years away from my days cooking in professional kitchens, if I’m not following the proper techniques for how to cut vegetables, I’m afraid someone is going to jump out and start yelling at me.
While that type of precision is not required in your kitchen (unless Wolfgang Puck is looking over your shoulder as he once did mine), it is important to understand the difference between dice and mince, as the size in which your food is cut will greatly affect the cooking time and outcome of the final dish.
Before we get started, be sure to follow these must-know tips for knife safety…
- Whenever you are cutting food be sure to use a very sharp knife on a sturdy surface.
- If you are cutting on a cutting board, place a damp cloth under it to prevent the board from slipping.
- Tuck your fingertips under your knuckles and rest the blade of the knife against your knuckles.
- Use your fingertips to guide the knife along whatever you are cutting.
The basic cuts
In many recipes you’ll see how they want the ingredients cut listed right next to that ingredient. For example, “1 large onion, small dice.” But how big is a small dice?
These basic cuts are based off of classic French cuts and carry with them a standard measurement that determines if the dice is small, medium or large. Of course there is no need to pull out a ruler every time you chop an onion, but it is good to be aware of as the cooking time for an onion diced small will vary from an onion that has been diced large.
Referred to as macédoine in French, a small dice is cube cut measuring about 1/4 inch.
Referred to as parmentier in French, a medium dice is a cube cut measuring about 1/2 inch.
Referred to as carré in French, a large dice is a cube cut measuring about 3/4 inch.
Julienne and brunoise
A julienne cut, also known as allumette, is sometimes referred to as the matchstick cut. You may see this cut for recipes like a coleslaw where the carrots are julienned or a fresh rolls where the vegetables need to be thinly cut and elongated in order for the rice paper wrapper to roll evenly around the filling.
A julienne cut, which is also the starting point for a brunoise, measures approximately 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch by 2 inches.
A fine julienne is 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch by 2 inches.
When you line up those lovely matchsticks and cut them into tiny 1/8 inch or 1/16 inch cubes you’ll have a brunoise and a fine brunoise.
This cut is used when slicing leafy greens and fresh herbs. It’s for when the dish wants lovely ribbons of green as a garnish or stirred into the recipe.
Leaves of roughly the same size are stacked neatly then rolled from stem to tip. A knife then runs through the length of the roll creating beautiful ribbons.
A rough chop really has no guidelines and everyone seems to have a little different interpretation. Basically a rough chop is about the same size as a large dice but here precision doesn’t matter.
Garlic is often asked to be minced, which basically means very small chop. There’s no need to precisely measure the mince as you are merely creating a paste while running through the clove with your knife for several passes.