Dicing an Onion

Knife Skills for Beginners: Chopping your Veggies

When it comes to making cooking quick and easy, it’s all about knowing how to use and care for your knives. Once you know how the basics of how to hold, clean and sharpen these kitchen essentials, it’s time to practice on different foods that you use regularly. A great place to start is with vegetables. I’m walking you through how to slice basic foods that you likely have in your fridge and pantry right now. With these tips, and a bit of practice, you will be slicing like a chef in no time!

Onions

Onions are the most rewarding vegetable to learn how to chop correctly because if you cut them the right way, there will be much less of that strong “oniony” vapor, which makes you tear up. To get started, cut the onion through its north and south poles, through the tip and the root. Trim the pointy tip, leaving the root end intact. Peel the paper skin away.

Place the flat cut side of the onion on the cutting board with the root end away from you. Make slices into the onion, following the lines on the onion from the stem end to root but don’t cut all the way through the root end. It will hold the onion together while you dice it. If you want large dice space the slices accordingly. If you want tiny dice make more slices closer together.

Chopping an Onion

Next, make horizontal slices into the onion from stem to root. Two or three cuts usually work unless the onion is quite large.

Slicing Onion

Hold the onion with your left hand like a claw and slice thinly across the onion from tip to root. Et voila. Dice.

To slice an onion, trim both tip and root ends and cut following the lines from root to tip as you did for the dice. That’s it. You can make them thin by making many cuts or thicker by making fewer.

Carrot

To dice a carrot, cut it first into 4-inch sections and carefully cut in half lengthwise by inserting the knife into the round carrot and then pushing the knife through with your other hand on top of the knife. Lay the flat side down and cut lengthwise into slices and then lengthwise again into sticks, either thick or thin depending on the desired dice. Turn the carrot sticks sideways and cut into the desired dice.

Garlic

To mince garlic, smash it with the side of your knife to release the clove from the paper. Discard the paper and smash it again with the side of the knife. This makes it flat and easier to chop.

Smashing Garlic

Thinly slice the flattened garlic, give it a turn sideways and slice again.

Mincing Garlic with Knife

Herbs

To chop herbs such as basil, stack the leaves and roll them into a cigar shape, slice thinly then cut the pile crosswise a few times. This technique keeps the basil from crushing and becoming bruised and mushy.

To chop other herbs such as thyme, oregano, parsley and cilantro, remove the tough stems, bunch them up in a pile and slice them down thinly then cut again crosswise in the other direction with your other hand on top of the knife.

So, there you have it. Go buy some vegetables, practice cutting them up and roast them in the oven or make some soup. It doesn’t take long for these knife exercises to significantly improve speed and dexterity. Even if you are not inclined to take my advice and become a caterer for a week, with a little practice anyone can learn to chop like one. Chop, chop!

Carla Snyder
Posted by: Carla Snyder
Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sink full of dishes. Look for Carla on Facebook, Twitter (carlacooks), Pinterest and at ravenouskitchen.com where she blogs about everything from cooking for two to easy weekend entertaining for a crowd.

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