The best way to cut up vegetables depends on their
size and shape and how you're going to use them. Usually, they are
chopped, diced, minced, or sliced. Occasionally, they are shredded or
julienne. How do you decide whether to chop, slice or julienne?
Chopping usually means to cut foods into smaller
pieces of no particular shape and no particular size. Chop vegetables and
herbs when appearance isn't important, or when the vegetables will be
strained out of a sauce or broth and not served. Generally, vegetables are
chopped larger for longer-cooking dishes and smaller for shorter-cooking
dishes. Mincing simply means to finely chop, and it is used for dishes
that cook very quickly, or when you want to leave the minced food in the
dish, as in a pan sauce.
Dicing means exactly what it sounds like, cutting
the food into cubes, like dice. Dice when appearance is important. The
French give different names, such as brunoise and macedoine,
to refer to different-sized dice.
Shred, julienne and chiffonade all mean to cut
into thin strips. Leafy vegetables such as cabbage are shredded; leafy
herbs and greens such as basil and spinach are cut into chiffonade. And
other vegetables, such as root vegetables, are cut into julienne.
Julienning is the first step in cutting a vegetable into the tiny dice
Vegetables may also be cut into larger shapes to
be used as garniture for braises, roasts and stews or for serving on their
own. Vegetables such as turnips and fennel are often cut into wedges.
Vegetables can also be "turned", which means to trim the vegetable into an
attractive oval shape with rounded sides.