prep tips and tricks

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There are sooo many threads already about what knife to buy and how to sharpen.  But we never talk about the important stuff like actually using your knives!  If I talk to culinary students starting to work for real and needing to work faster or home cooks, one thing they always wish they were better at is using their knife.

In this thread I want to discuss any tips and tricks you have as far as actual cutting techniques to practice or to master

I'll kick it off with this: chinese style julienne 


It's not what they teach you in culinary school - to make the neat little planks and then stack them in neat little piles and spend a lot of effort keeping it together with your left hand as you cut.

SImply cut as many planks as you want and lay them all out just overlapping each other.  this is very easy with a cleaver because you just stand them up and tip them over with your cleaver and even fan them out with your cleaver. So what's the benefit?

1) It's never higher than two deep so it's very easy to keep it together.

2) You can do this basically the length of your cutting board.  You never stop and stack the next 3 planks together.  You can get all of it at once!

3) It's particularly good for wet ingredients that slide around ex tofu

4) It's easier to do thin strips


From there if you want to mince it, just rotate it and cut again

This works for bell pepper, tofu, etc.  in any size of dice.

If you have any tips or tricks whether it is basic like this or the fastest way to cut some specific fruits or vegetables the please post here! 
 

phatch

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I usually have the planks laying  the other way  as they come off my knife and cut right to left. I'm right handed of course. 

If I need a higher regularity in the cut, I get that better with the french technique. But it's slower and more hassle. The length of the julienne varies a bit with this technique. I get a little sliding some too so my width isn't as precise. MK has a little width variation too, but not as much as I get. 
 
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If you are going to mince or dice pr if it is for soup, then it doesnt matter so much. If you are in fine dining and want exactly uniform pieces, do it the slower french way
 

phatch

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This picture is 2 years old. I'd like to think I've improved some over that time.

The carrots at the top of this image were cut French style. The carrots in the lower part were cut in the asian technique under discussion.


I like to use this technique rather than grating carrots as well. It's a bit slower than grating, but I like the imporoved texture and appearance it offers for things like slaws and so on. 

I went on to create a rice length julienne in this case to use in a long grain fried rice (basmati). Again the upper collection is in French technique. The lower is Asian technique. 

 
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How about this one:

Afer you wash and dry your scallions, put the rubber band back on.  It keeps them all facing the same way instead of rotating around.  Just slide it down an inch or two at a time as you go


Anyone else do this or just me
 

phatch

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I've seen that one before. I'don't find this one that useful for me. Maybe I grip the scallion tighter or something?  It's kind of like clipping chives with scissors. More hassle for my ability than it's worth. Yet Jacques Pepin did it frequently for garnishing  a dish. Maybe it 's better for garnishing which I've not really tried. 
 
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If this is OT my apologies, but how do you all keep the veg from sticking to your knife and messying up your stacks/piles? I've tried a moistened knife from a wet towel on my board which helps a little but still seems like it could be improved.

Thanks,
Mr. G
 
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A lot of it is the geometry of your knife.  If it is very thin, stuff will stick.  If it is fatter at the spine, thin at the edge and convexed, food is more likely to fall off.

One trick you can do is try a pull cut, instead of a push cut or chop.  Pull the knife towards you as it is cutting down.  The product is more likely to stay in place.  With wet things like potato, pretty much it will stick somewhat always. 

You should have a plan for board management.  Where uncut product goes, where cut product goes, if/when you need to clear the board.  
 
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Thanks, millionsknives millionsknives . My knife is a Ghessin Uraku gyuto, and it isn't incredibly thin and is fatter at the spine. Probably just my technique. I will try pull cuts - thanks for that tip! And yes, my board is just a bit small but I try to keep it organized. Having never worked in this industry and not having many peers interested in cooking, I am learning a lot from this forum and everywhere else I can research so thanks for your generosity.

Mr. G
 

phatch

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Sticking isn't a major issue. Cutting is mostly about each cut setting up the next cut you will make. Only items you have already cut will be sticking to the blade. So after you have made your pass through the line of shingled items, you clean off the blade, arranging the clinging bits on the line or stack for the next pass of cut. 
 
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Good to know - thanks phatch phatch ! I have wondered but wasn't sure if it was proper technique to need to manually assemble your product after a pass of cutting.
 
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I feel like my eyes almost started crying just from seeing that picture with all the onions... O.O

This is a great thread. Thanks for sharing some of your techniques and tips!
 
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You can also make it easier to keep your stacks in place with a rocking motion to your slice.  Start with the tip up, pull cut, and as the blade progresses thru you bring the tip down so that the tip finishes the cut.  You will see sashimi cut sort of like this, but their purpose is to keep the body of the edge from hitting the board and loosing its super-keeness prematurely.

Rick
 

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