There are times when size is important and times when it is not.
Your onion is slightly larger than what a recipe requires. No sweat. You leave your onion in large pieces instead of a cube? No Go.
When a recipe indicates how big an ingredient should be cut, it's not just fussy. "It's all practical," says Susan Holt, co-founder of the Washington Culinary School CulinAerie and my guru on knives and slicing.
The type of cut you make ultimately affects how good the dish looks – texture, taste – and how long it takes to cook. (Smaller pieces cook faster.)
"Imagine the court in its entirety," advises Holt. Do you want to see different parts? Should they be soft or crispy? Are the ingredients pureed anyway? What will look great as a garnish?
Here's a guide to the most common cuts you can find in a recipe, and how to run and use them.
Minced meat. Or, "little shit," as Holt says. The pieces should not be larger than the size of a match or a flaky sea salt grain. If you chop an ingredient, it is most likely a flavoring such as garlic, ginger, or herbs. The size is the key to ensuring that the ingredient and the aroma are evenly distributed in the shell. With many very small pieces you get maximum attention to release the most flavor and aroma. These ingredients are also cooked very fast or not at all. Chopped ginger, which is placed in a pan to form, for example, the flavor base of a curry or stir fry, can be aromatically burned within seconds. To get a mince, Holt recommends keeping the knife tip in one place while moving the knife on a half moon path.
Cube. It can be in small, medium and large, usually from 1/4 to 1/2 inch, says Holt. The key, however, is the uniformity of size. This leads to even and efficient cooking. Do not assume that rolling a perfect die results in dice, as the product is obviously not sharp-edged. As long as the pieces have the same shape and size, it works. The dicing can be done on almost all ingredients, but especially on the big and in size different. Prime examples would be carrots, turnips, butternut squash and even tomatoes (blanch, remove the skins and use only the pulp without seeds and gel). You'll be cutting cubes for many types of dishes, but it's especially good for fried rice or stir-fries where you need ingredients to cook quickly and evenly. For dicing, Holt recommends cutting off the edges of the ingredient and then cutting into boards, then cutting them off and then cutting cubes.
Chop. The difference between cubes and chops, according to Holt, is that a chop does not have to be uniform. You will often see the term "roughly hacked", which essentially means that you should not go crazy because it does not matter anyway at the end. They will boil the vegetables and then remove them. Dishes where the ingredients are to be pureed are also obvious candidates for hacking, such as gazpacho or hot tomato soup. (However, Holt suggests being a bit more precise and dicing something for soups that rely on starchy vegetables like potatoes, because cooking at different speeds can affect the final consistency.) You could make the chocolate that is melted rough For chunks that go in cookies, you get a nice mix of broken pieces and huge deposits. Ditto for nuts for a cereal or garnish. When chopping products, create a flat surface so that the ingredient does not slip under the knife. Strive for larger pieces, such as 2 to 2 1/4-inch chunks.
Julienne / Match The main difference between these two sizes lies in the degree of refinement, with Julienne being slightly thinner and therefore lighter in the fork. Keep the length close to 2 inches (as with chopping, which is a useful length to work with, even if you break it more), with Julienne about 1/8 inch wide and tall and matches about 1/4 Inch. You can do this by starting with rectangular planks and then cutting them to the correct strip size. You can make julienne or matchstick vegetables for coleslaw or salads, as well as side dishes.
Chiffonade. The French term means tapes or rags, says Holt. You are essentially creating bands. Chiffonade is perfect for delicate ingredients that could cause bruising and browning if over-cut, including radicchio, cabbage, butter salad and basil. Start by stacking a few leaves of what you want to cut. Then roll it up like a burrito and cut the cylinder in the opposite direction as you formed the roll. Separate the parts by dropping them naturally from your fingers and gently pulling them apart as needed.
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How big is a big onion or a small tomato? Therefore, you should stop worrying about it.
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