How to Cut
February 2, 2005 2:51 PM   Subscribe

How to Cut illustrates proper knife techniques for a variety of vegetables. [Via Lifehacker]
posted by turbodog (64 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
incredible resource. i worked as a cook last year, and it's good to see i have good technique. but i can still learn from this. excellent.

[this is good]
posted by Igor XA at 2:57 PM on February 2, 2005

I've long suspected that my knife skills were lacking. Time to test my trusty santoku!
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 3:00 PM on February 2, 2005

That is excellent, now I finally have a reason to invest in a proper knive!
posted by swordfishtrombones at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2005

This is one of the best-designed sites I've seen. The illustrations are simple, clear and, in some cases, beautiful.
Also will doubtless improve my knifework.
posted by Hobgoblin at 3:08 PM on February 2, 2005

Any way you slice it, this fpp doesn't cut it.

[Sorry, had to - thanks for the link, turbodog!]
posted by Man O' Straw at 3:10 PM on February 2, 2005

Wow, those are amazing illustrations for each vegetable. I can't believe someone went through all the trouble and effort to make that site.
posted by mathowie at 3:14 PM on February 2, 2005

Indeed - incredible attention to detail.

Also worth checking out are the Food Network's Knife Skills videos.
posted by O9scar at 3:19 PM on February 2, 2005

Wonderfully wonderful.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2005

Okay, this is cool!

posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:30 PM on February 2, 2005

Lovely illustrations - great idea to simply outline the photo imagery. But they left out a great ginger-prepping trick. After peeling the ginger, slice it into thin rounds (like thin carrot slices). Then roll a heavy bottle (I use a wine bottle) across each slice while pressing down firmly. You get perfectly pulverized ginger, with none of the chunks that happen with dicing.
posted by stacyhall1 at 3:31 PM on February 2, 2005

Damn, three years ago I paid good money for a course on this. I should have just waited for the webpage. Thanks!
posted by ontic at 3:50 PM on February 2, 2005

posted by caddis at 3:51 PM on February 2, 2005

This is a wonderful resource. Great post!
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2005

This is very, very good. My wife is a chef (trained at the Restaurant School, Philadelphia) and she said two thumbs up. She's going to show this to some of her employees.
posted by fixedgear at 4:01 PM on February 2, 2005

I went to cooking school for a couple courses with an ex, and I have to say that this is even a better way. All I learned is to how to julienne an onion.
posted by chrisabraham at 4:04 PM on February 2, 2005

[this is supadupa]
posted by freebird at 4:11 PM on February 2, 2005

For years I've been watching various chefs on the Food Network trying to emulate their cutting styles. Alas, NO MORE!!! Yea!!!! Thank you. I now have food cutting freedom.
posted by snsranch at 4:14 PM on February 2, 2005

Anybody have a good video with instruction on the best way to cut nuts?
posted by spock at 4:21 PM on February 2, 2005

Tips in. All fine and good in words until you come home and the girl is missing the tip of her finger. Nonetheless, curl, and tip in.
posted by sled at 4:29 PM on February 2, 2005

Be sure to check out the main page and recipes.
posted by WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2005

Er, recipes.
posted by WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot at 4:38 PM on February 2, 2005

Only a person who doesn't like food would dislike this site. (Or perhaps someone who eats out all the freaking time.)

Now, would someone explain to me how to properly cut a coconut? I would much like to impress my monkey friends.

This is good, turbodog.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:41 PM on February 2, 2005

As a vegetarian who cooks at least one meal a day you'd better believe this is one of the most useful links I've seen in a long time.
posted by baphomet at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2005

Has anyone seen anything comparable for knife techniques for cutting meats? I did see that there was some video on the subject at the Food Network site O9scar linked to, but now I'm spoiled by turbodog's diagrams.
posted by Man O' Straw at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2005

While generally a pretty good guide, I've found that mincing and many fine-dice jobs can be accomplished dramatically faster and easier with a straight-bladed knife like a chinese cleaver than with a tapered chef's knife. Its a shame that the links to his knife selection page aren't more prominent, since having the right tool for the job is oftentimes more critical than having good form.

Also, of course, this is the easy stuff. Learning how to properly slice a filet mignon from a whole tenderloin or to butcher and prepare a blowfish (ow!) is much more difficult.
posted by ChasFile at 5:26 PM on February 2, 2005

chinese cleaver (the ultra-sharp $5 kind) aside, this was best link all day.
posted by jsavimbi at 5:28 PM on February 2, 2005

Now, would someone explain to me how to properly cut a coconut? I would much like to impress my monkey friends.

To open a coconut, score the shell in a longitundinal manner - that is, in a big circle around the outside starting at the top, going through the bottom, and ending at the top again. Next, flip the knife around so that the sharp side is pointed at you (kids, get your parent's permission, first) and while holding the coconut up like Hamlet holding Yorrick's skull, bash the crap out of it with the blunt side of your knife. It may take a few whacks. Probably many. Make sure when you are whacking to hold the nut sideways so that when it breaks along the longitudinal score you made the milk stays in one half and is available for cooking or pina coladas. Yes I made that last sentence easy to take out of context intentionally.

The final step is to get the meat out of the shell, which makes opening the shell itself look easy.
posted by ChasFile at 5:37 PM on February 2, 2005

I dunno, some of the techniques he espouses are unnecessarily labourious.

The quickest way to peel a clove of garlic is to place it flat on your chopping board, place the flat of your knife over it, and lightly pound once on the knife with the palm of your hand. The skin will come right off the clove.

The quickest (and least wasteful) to peel ginger isn't to literally peel it, but to scrape it with a small knife.

Finally, I guess this is more a matter of personal preference, but peeling potatoes is the biggest waste of time. The skin is tasty and nutritious -- just scrub it clean with a brush.

Double finally, never cut / grate / blend basil unless you're using a non-metallic knife. Acids in the juices of the herb react with with the metal and spoil its flavour. Mash it with a pestle and mortar.
posted by randomstriker at 5:53 PM on February 2, 2005

I guess, on the flip side, the last technique I promoted is MUCH more labourious.
posted by randomstriker at 5:54 PM on February 2, 2005

You're totally right about the garlic, randomstriker, but I didn't actually know that about basil and metals. Good to know (and it explains a lot of past problems with minced basil tasting bad). Thanks.
posted by LairBob at 6:02 PM on February 2, 2005

Thank you, turbodog, for this link, and associated others for your good advice!
posted by Songdog at 6:14 PM on February 2, 2005

For garlic, if you are in a big rush, about 10 seconds in the microwave will make the skin come right off.
posted by Espoo2 at 6:22 PM on February 2, 2005

Great link. Also, this AskMeFi thread and, in particular, this comment were great inspirations to get a sharpening set and steel, learn some knife-ology, and have that much more fun cutting things.
posted by fatllama at 6:24 PM on February 2, 2005

Can I evangelize about ceramic knives some more now that the whole basil thing came up? No? You're ALL sick of me and the ceramic knives? Wow. Okay.

Well, so I have a question. Every guide I've ever seen, and every trained chef I've seen both in reality and on TV always curl their fingers under. I can't seem to get the hang of this. I cook a lot and so far so good but am I guaranteed to lose the tips of my fingers at some point?
(Those ceramic knives are sharp!)
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:26 PM on February 2, 2005

Neat. I've been slicing and dicing more veggies (some of which I am not familiar with; I had my first parsnip the other night) since I started my diet. Knowing the right techniques will undoubtedly save time. Add this one to my bookmarks.
posted by Doohickie at 6:27 PM on February 2, 2005

Curling your fingers under presents your nails towards the blade so that any slip is less damaging. With a sharp knife I can tell you from experience that nails are not that tough. I cut right through one of my nails with a sharp knife. Ouch! At least it was only the nail and not the tip of my finger.
posted by caddis at 7:00 PM on February 2, 2005

I'm up for "damn this is cool!" as well.

Very, very cool site!
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:06 PM on February 2, 2005

Great site! Finally, my fingers can live in a pain free world.
posted by graventy at 7:28 PM on February 2, 2005

This will totally garotte some people's finer preparations of cooking

But any leafy herb like basil or coriander (cilantro) can be put into a glass jam jar and you can use a clean pair of kitchen scissors to chop them up, a very good technique if you don't have enough benchspace to cut up the herbs as well as the veggies. (I finally have a big enough kitchen in my apartment to negate having to do this.... although if I'm in a rush I do it anyway)
posted by JGreyNemo at 7:41 PM on February 2, 2005

Neat. Makes me hungry. And I have difficulty curling the fingers under as well.
posted by bdave at 8:11 PM on February 2, 2005

[this is good]
posted by kamylyon at 8:37 PM on February 2, 2005

crunchland can cut a mean onion
posted by ktrey at 9:54 PM on February 2, 2005

Good link!

For everyone concerned about cutting basil: I don't believe the thing about metal changing the taste is true. Mortar and Pestle is traditional for the purists and does have a slightly different flavor, but that's because the basil is crushed rather than chopped. Even professional chefs will often use a food processor when making pesto sauce.

Anyway, I'd need some sort of proof before accepting that metal "reacts" with the basil. I've never heard it before and google doesn't turn up anything.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 AM on February 3, 2005

I'll give you free lessons with my chinese cleaver if you make it to my part of the world. ;)

How to peel and mince garlic in 5 seconds... :)

Get yourself a nice Chinese cleaver. It's worth it.
(Or a Global if you like a nice sharp chef knife.)

And remember, the sharper the knife, the less chance you'll cut yourself.
posted by madman at 1:16 AM on February 3, 2005

Basil + metal = bad is an urban legend. In Italy basil is commonly chopped with a mezaluna, which is a fine tool made of metal. We use a Cuisinart to make pesto, then freeze it. Mortar and pestle is cool, though.

Also - I'm not sure I want to eat your DIY fugu, ChasFile. Japanese chefs train for something like three years to learn proper preparation.

Smashing garlic with the flat side of a knife is the way to go, and every recipe I know says "heat up olive oil in a pan, add minced garlic."
posted by fixedgear at 2:08 AM on February 3, 2005

posted by pracowity at 2:24 AM on February 3, 2005

I too have received a lovely new knife for Christmas and this resource makes me want to sharpen my skills.

Learning to cut an onion properly has saved me ages! But surely tear basil rather than cut it?

I'm also very impressed by the Lifehacker blog ... fun stuff.
posted by laukf at 3:29 AM on February 3, 2005

Fantastic site.

I have just started a year-long professional chef training program, and we did cover these same techniques in our (all-too-brief, IMHO) knife skills class. Having these illustrations as a reference would be a great guide, especially for people who aren't accustomed to the basics -- I'm going to bring this to the attention of the people at my cooking school to include in our course materials.
posted by briank at 5:11 AM on February 3, 2005

Excellent post. My knives are very very good (Wustoff classics) and I thought my knife skills were pretty good (they are ok, I find, but I have learned a lot, here).

Thanks for this!
posted by Yellowbeard at 6:47 AM on February 3, 2005

Thank you very much for showing us this. It will definitely help me out. I find the quickest way to get the skin off a clove of garlic is to rub it between my hands very quickly.
posted by sciurus at 7:14 AM on February 3, 2005

Actually (and I should probably be ashamed), I have found that the fastest way to get skin of garlic and to mince it is to buy it pre-minced in a big jar. I have been considering, lately, buying the peeled but unminced garlic instead.

Can any purests tell me just how much this may be affecting my taste? I know I should probably be using the fresh stuff, but it's so /easy/ to just add a little more than is called for.
posted by Yellowbeard at 7:32 AM on February 3, 2005

Can any purests tell me just how much this may be affecting my taste?

If you're buying pre-minced garlic by the big jar, I can only suppose it's making you taste, or at least smell, a bit garlicky.
posted by pracowity at 7:52 AM on February 3, 2005

It can affect the taste quite a bit. minced garlic is vile, containing chemicals and other off-flavors, and does not come in the right form for many applications (i.e. when you need sliced, or whole cloves, obviously). Think about it: fresh garlic has a relatively long shelf-life compared with other produce, but its peak freshness only lasts a few weeks, followed by a gradual decline. What do you think is keeping the zombified jarred garlic in a state of relative flavor stasis? Two things: the state it's in is less than prime (thus there's less room for decline), and there are all kinds of stabilizers and other flavor-killers involved.

Contrary to popular belief, fresh garlic comes in numerous varieties with a wide range of subtle flavors, often nutty. You won't find any of these in the jar, though. If there's one near you, I'd highly recommend that you seek out a nearby farmer's market. You'll find the largest variety of garlics in the fall -- the range of types and flavors is impressive.

Jarred garlic is easy to overuse, thereby ruining whatever you put it in. Those jars are huge, aren't they?

If you follow the instructions for peeling/cutting garlic given above, you'll find it takes very little time at all.
posted by casu marzu at 7:56 AM on February 3, 2005

Nice stuff and nice looking site, thanks turbodog!
posted by carter at 8:00 AM on February 3, 2005

I'm surprised by how many chefs on TV don't seem to know the "keep the root on" trick for cutting onions and garlic. I've even read cooking books with sections on knife skills that show inferior approaches. Odd. How does a simple, commonly needed best practice like this not propagate absolutely everywhere?
posted by stp123 at 8:43 AM on February 3, 2005

Well this is one of those instances I'm glad to be wrong about something. No more wasting my (girlfriend's) time with a mortar and pestle!
posted by randomstriker at 9:27 AM on February 3, 2005

Basil, lettuce, etc. do react and discolor, but only if cut with a non-stainless steel knife. That oh-so-sharp but cheap Chinese cleaver is out for greens, but most modern kitchen knives are fine.

The quickest and easiest way to peel ginger is with an ordinary spoon. Try it - it's amazing.

This site misses the best and most common way to prepare an avocado. Cut in half, and remove the pit as shown, but then slice or cut into cubes in the skin, and scoop out carefully with a spoon. Not only is this easier and less damaging than peeling by hand, but you can advance prep a few and have them ready to scoop without the pieces going brown in the meantime.

I'll also second the recommendation on Global knives, and point those looking for further instruction in the manner of this site to La Technique by Jacques Pepin. It is the classic text on kitchen techniques, fully photographed, step-by-step. Veggies are only the beginning - how to prepare meats, garnishes, flute mushrooms, work with meringue, etc. It's been around for a long time, so you should be able to pick up a copy for a few bucks at your local used book store.
posted by bradhill at 9:46 AM on February 3, 2005

I use a Microplane Grater for my garlic these days. Quick, easy.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 AM on February 3, 2005

Every so I often I come across something which stops me in my tracks, and makes me think 'aren't humans fantastic!' This detailed and beautifully presented analysis of such a basic activity as cutting up our food has been one of them.

I view with similar awe and wonder the work and effort, particularly on the net, which goes into describing, depicting and celebrating other basic human functions, such as procreation.

(Could put in a few links here but as this is only my second comment I don't want to stir up the ire of those who watch over us.)
posted by surfdad2 at 12:32 PM on February 3, 2005

As I browsed deeper into the site, I found another good one: how to cut a chicken.
posted by turbodog at 1:26 PM on February 3, 2005

Awesome - thanks for the update!
posted by Man O' Straw at 3:07 PM on February 3, 2005

Why the hell would you want to peel an onion like that? It looks laborious and slightly dangerous.

My top secret method:

1. Chop off both ends. (using a cutting board, not holding the thing in your hands and cutting towards you!)
2. Make a shallow cut along the length of the onion.
3. Rip off ALL the skin in one go.
4. Slice'n'dice as desired.

Too bloody easy.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:11 PM on February 3, 2005

I too am puzzled why he peels onions, shallots, etc. with a knife. Possibly his knife skills are so good that he can do it as quickly as other techniques.

Ever seen one of the Iron Chefs (I.C. French?) peel an apple with a chef's knife in no time or Martin Yan debone a chicken in under 30 seconds?
posted by turbodog at 4:32 PM on February 3, 2005

Possibly his knife skills are so good that he can do it as quickly as other techniques.

That's probably it. I'm too old to learn to do it properly, it would seem! I'll stick with my quaint method instead.

Plus it honestly looks dangerous. I wouldn't trust myself.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:56 PM on February 3, 2005

« Older OH! Mikey   |   Nostradamus vs. Nas Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments