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Chop, Dice, and Slice Like a Pro

Chop, Dice, and Slice Like a Pro


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Learning proper chopping techniques is essential for every cook, whether you’re a home cook or heading into a professional kitchen. These knife skills will aid your cooking across the board, whether you're grilling steak kebabs, roasting vegetables, or making chicken noodle soup.

Click here to see how to Chop, Dice, and Slice Like a Pro (Slideshow)

There’s some truth to the saying that people “eat with their eyes” first, and pretty food tastes better. But more importantly, these knife cuts help you achieve even cooking times for all of your food. Even if you’re just cooking for yourself and don’t want to spend time perfecting each cut, the important thing to remember is to keep everything the same size for even cooking.

The best vegetables to practice on are whatever is cheapest, like carrots, potatoes, and celery. Wash and peel your vegetable (if necessary) and then slice off a bit of the sides to turn the round vegetables into rectangles. Once you have flat surfaces to work with, you can start practicing knife cuts.

Half the battle of achieving good knife skills is having a sharp knife. Use a chef knife that you’re comfortable with (click here for more information on chef knives). Knife injuries in the kitchen happen when you put too much pressure on a dull knife, at which point it can slip and cut you. Most knife blocks come with a steel; while running your knife against the steel is a good way to keep it sharp while you’re cooking, it won’t actually sharpen a dull knife. To maintain the sharpness of your knife for the long run, use a whetstone or an automatic knife sharpener.

Whatever knife you’re using, you’ll want to be careful while practicing these methods. Tuck in the fingers of the hand you hold the vegetables with(make a claw) while you cut, so they don’t get in the way!

There are a few knife cuts you won’t ever have to learn, like the cocotte, which is a small torpedo shape that was very popular in classic French cuisine. It’s a neat trick to learn, but this is actually a very wasteful knife cut. While this round shape is a bit outdated, there are a few knife cuts that every cook should know.


(Credit: Flickr/Stacy Spensley)
Slicing herbs is tricky business; going over herbs a few times with your knife will bruise them. Use the chiffonade to finely slice herbs in one go. Stack up the herbs and roll them into a small, tight bundle before slicing.


(Credit: iStock/Thinkstock)
One of the most used cuts in the home kitchen. This medium cube cut is used for stocks, soups, stews, and braising. As long as they’re all about the same size, chopped vegetables don’t have to be perfect.

Click here to see more ways to Chop, Dice, and Slice Like a Pro

Julie Ruggirello is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @TDMRecipeEditor.


Learn How to Cut Fennel Like a Culinary Pro with These Tips

Fennel adds a complex anise (licorice-like) flavor and crunch to many dishes. See how to chop a fennel bulb to use in soups, salads, stir-fries, pot roasts, and other recipes to bring the unique fennel flavor to your table.

People who&aposve never cooked with fennel bulbs may think this vegetable looks like it came from another planet. The round bulb with feathery stalks growing out of it is unique for sure. Don&apost worry, it&aposs easier to deal with than it looks, as long as you&aposve got a sharp chef&aposs knife handy. We&aposll go through how to cut fennel (including removing the stems, chopping the fennel bulb, and coring a fennel bulb) so you can tackle prepping this veggie with confidence the next time you make a fennel salad or a side dish starring the veggie.


Start Here: Knife Basics

What Knives Do I Need?

The main knife you need for cooking in the kitchen is a standard chef’s knife. This is the large knife pictured above. The blade is usually six to 10 inches long (eight inches is standard). There is no one right chef’s knife for everyone you should have something that is sharp and feels good in your hand. (Here are a few that we have tried and like!)

A chef’s knife will do the bulk of your cutting, and you don’t need much more. But there are two others that are pretty essential.

  1. Paring knife. This is extremely useful for doing close-up work like cutting eyes out of potatoes, peeling vegetables, segmenting citrus fruit, or deveining shrimp, among other things.
  2. Serrated knife. This is useful not only for cutting bread, but is also often better than a chef’s knife on delicate vegetable skin, like tomatoes.

Neither the paring knife nor the serrated knife need to be particularly expensive. We’ll have recommendations below, in our gear list.

Great Knife Skills Start Before You Cut Anything!

Before we get to fancy flashy knife skills, there is one extremely important thing you need to learn in order to cut with confidence.

Stabilize your cutting board! Your cutting board should be on the countertop, at a comfortable height, and it should be stable. This means that if you place your hand on the board you shouldn’t be able to slide it around. If your cutting board doesn’t already have non-slip feet or a rubberized bottom, there are several easy ways to do this. The easiest little trick is to place a damp cloth or paper towel under your board, to keep it from sliding around. For a reusable option, you can also get a roll of non-slip shelf liner and cut it to fit your board. Never start cutting something without making sure your board won’t move around under your knife.

Use a sharp knife: Once you have a stable working surface, you need to make sure your knife is sharp. If you’ve recently bought your knife, it’s probably sharp enough. If, like most people, you’ve owned it for years, and it’s never been sharpened, it’s time to change that. A dull knife is a dangerous knife. Dull knives require more force to cut through food, and are more likely to slip, meaning that you’re more likely to cut yourself. And on top of that, they’re just not going to do as good of a job.

Think of knife sharpening like teeth cleaning: Take your knives to a professional once or twice a year to get them sharpened, and then get a honing steel and hone it once a day before you start to cook. The honing steel doesn’t sharpen the blade, but it does straighten the edge, so it’ll feel sharper when you use it. Serious Eats has a good guide on honing a blade if you’re unsure how to do it, but it’s not difficult, and it’s hard to do too wrong.

If you don’t have a good local knife sharpener, you can send knives out to a service like Knife Aid or the Seattle Knife Sharpening company.


Best chef knife & cutting boards

Alex and I are often asked about the best kitchen tools. And every time we answer, “A good sharp chef’s knife!” A good knife can drastically improve your time in the kitchen, and lasts for years (we’ve had our chef knives for 10 plus years). Here are some of the knives we recommend, as well as cutting boards and the best knife sharpener. These recommendations are perfect for outfitting your own kitchen, or great gifts for a wedding registry or someone who loves to cook!

    — our best knife recommendation the one used in the video! — our favorite large knife — our favorite affordable knife (used in the video!) or Non-Slip Bamboo Cutting Board — this is how we store our knives, and it’s even slicker than a knife block

How to Cook Pork Belly

Slow Roast

"You want to slowly cook the pork belly [just like਌hef John&aposs Caramel Pork Belly] so it gets very tender and the fat has time to render to baste the meat as it cooks," Herrera says. "This is a tough muscle so it needs a longer cooking time at low heat to breakdown the tough tissue." To slow roast pork belly:

To prepare pork belly for roasting, use a sharp knife to make several parallel cuts across the skin to score the skin and fat, but not the meat.

Rub the pork with kosher salt and your favorite spice blend.

Roast at 300° F for three to four hours, depending on size, until meat reaches an internal temperature of 165° F and skin begins to crisp.

Braise

Again, low and slow for the win. Here&aposs how to braise pork belly:

To prepare pork belly for braising, use a sharp knife to make several parallel cuts across the skin to score the skin and fat, but not the meat.

Sear skin in a hot skillet.

Transfer to a Dutch oven filled with soy broth, pork stock, and Asian flavorings such as lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and chili or pork stock, a splash of white wine, and mirepoix (diced onion, carrots, and celery). Or follow this਌hinese Braised Pork Belly recipe from cookbook author Andrea Nguyen.

Simmer until tender, about 1 hour and 45 minutes for a 3-pound piece.

"When finished, the belly can be enjoyed over rice or in your favorite ramen recipe," Wentworth says.

Confit

Wentworth claims that this is likely his favorite way to cook this cut since the results are so succulent. "Once you finish and cool the confit pork belly, the meat is very succulent and you can do almost anything with it. Sauté small diced pieces, grill strips … the sky&aposs the limit," he says.

Brine the pork belly in water, salt, sugar, and spices in a zip-top bag placed in a baking dish for six hours.

Remove the pork belly from the bag, rinse off any big pieces of spice, and pat dry with a clean towel.

Place pork belly skin-side down in a large baking dish.

Fill baking dish with enough melted pork fat or lard to cover the pork belly by ½ inch. Cover dish with foil.

Bake at 300° F until tender, about 4 hours for a 3-pound piece.

Allow the pork to cool slightly, then remove the fat.

Place the cooled pork belly between two sheet pans (with cans or some weight on top) to compress the meat. Store in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Remove the pork from between the sheet pans and prepare as desired.


The Easiest Way to Cut a Watermelon Like a Pro

To me cold juicy watermelon is summers&rsquo ultimate thirst quencher (well it is over 90 percent water!). And now that most of the melons in the market are seedless, it&rsquos easier than ever to dive in and eat/drink without spitting (or swallowing) seeds. They&rsquore smaller than traditional long melons, and perfect in delicious watermelon recipes from salads to salsas to slushies &mdash even watermelon pizza.

If you have room in your fridge, the best value deal is to buy a whole watermelon. And if you do have room, that's exactly what you should do: don't get intimidated by the prospect of slicing and dicing the heavy melon. With a few easy tips, it's actually quite easy.

How to prepare your watermelon

No matter if you want to slice your watermelon into triangles, batons, cubes, or just peel it, you'll have to start with these three steps.

1. Rinse it thoroughly

. since bacteria lurks on melon skin, and you don&rsquot want to drag it into your melon.

2. Slice off both ends

. on a clean cutting board, using a large serrated knife (or sharp chef&rsquos knife).

3. Halve the melon

. by standing it on one cut end and slicing all the way through. To make triangles or batons, slice it lengthwise. To peel and/or cube the watermelon, slice it crosswise. Note: the melon will keep better uncut so unless you&rsquore prepping for a party, wrap one half in plastic and refrigerate.

How to make watermelon triangles

1. Place one half cut-side down on a cutting board

. and slice vertically down the middle from end to end to make quarters.

2. Cut 1 to 1½ inch slices across the quartered melon

How to make watermelon batons

This is the best way to serve watermelon at a party. No more messy cheeks and extra drippy chins. You have just enough rind to hold onto and the rest gets eaten.

1. Make vertical slices down the length of the melon

. with the rind on, at 1 to 1½ inch intervals.

2. Cut crosswise down the width of the melon

. at 1 to 1½ inch intervals to form a grid.

3. Separate into batons and serve

How to peel a watermelon

1. Slice off both ends and halve melon crosswise

. then stand up on one cut end.

2. Cut downward in following the shape of the melon to remove strips of rind.

3. Rotate the melon and continue until all skin has been removed.

Go back and trim away any remaining white.

How to cube watermelon

Just because it says cubed, remember these don't have to be perfect!

1. Slice the peeled melon at 1 to 1½ inch intervals to make slabs

. then, stack a few up and slice vertically then horizontally to create cube-like pieces.

2. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining slabs

. and then the other half of melon if using.

Or if you're you're feeling lazy try this handy watermelon-cutting tool, available on Amazon.


Has a term you didn't know ever stopped you from trying out a new recipe? When it comes to cooking, there are plenty of methods the average home chef may be unfamiliar with, but that doesn't mean you should shy away from more complicated dishes and desserts. We consulted some of the top experts at cooking schools across the country to help define some of the more elusive culinary terms so you can mince, dice and fold it in like a pro.

Chef Lance Nitahara, assistant professor of Culinary Arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York told TODAY Food that since many people now get their cooking instruction from outside sources such as YouTube videos, it can be really helpful to have a basic knowledge of some culinary terms. "Understanding the terminology for techniques used can lead to a better understanding of the technical aspect of cooking through communication," he said.

Here are some of the cooking terms that may trip you up when you see them in a recipe:

Scant

​"This one is rarely used in the industry," said Nitahara. "It describes a measurement that just barely fills the volume measure that it describes. For instance, a 'scant cup' would be just under the top of the cup measure, rather than level or heaping over." Scant can also sometimes be used to describe a measurement of dry items that could be packed down, but are not, for example, a cup of unpacked brown sugar.

Sweat

​"Sweating means to cook something without giving it any color," Frank Proto, director of culinary operations at the Institute of Culinary Education told TODAY. "This is mostly done with vegetables and aromatics, when you want to bring out some of the moisture by cooking it over low to medium heat with a little fat." For example, when making risotto, you sweat out the onions to cook them but you don’t want them to get any color.


Food Network Shows How to Crush, Slice and Mince Garlic

Food Network teaches how to crush, slice and mince garlic. Peel off some of the papery skin from the garlic and then smash the head of garlic with the heel of your hand to loosen the cloves if you only need a few cloves, leave the head intact and pull some off. Separate the cloves. To peel a clove, cut away the root end with your knife. Lay the flat side of the knife over the clove while holding the knife handle, then with the heel of your free hand carefully whack the knife against the garlic to separate the skin from the clove. To crush the peeled garlic, lay the flat side of the knife over the clove and smash it again. To slice peeled garlic, lay the clove flat on the cutting board and hold it with the fingertips of one hand, keeping them curled under. Using a rocking motion with the knife, make thin slices by moving the knife slowly across the clove. To mince peeled garlic, lay the flat side of a knife over the clove and smash it. Roughly chop the clove then move your free hand flat across the tip of the knife and use a rocking motion to chop the garlic until it’s finely minced.


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How to Dice Potatoes

Step #1

Peel the sweet potato with a vegetable peeler.

Step #2

Cut off the ends with a classic chef’s knife.

Step #3

Slice off the sides of the potato to square it.

Try to get it as square as possible without wasting your potato. It’s okay if it is not a perfect square.

Step #4

Make 1/2 inch slices through your potato. You can either eye-ball it or use a ruler.

Continue to cut all the potato. These are called batonnets.

Step #5

Turn the batonnets and cut into 1/2 inch slices, these are your medium diced sweet potatoes.