- Lots of foods lose flavor and vitamins the second they’re sliced open. As a general rule, the less meat and produce are handled, the better they’ll taste on the table, and the better they’ll act in recipes.
- Pre-cut fruit, veggies, and meat can run FIVE TIMES the cost of simply buying the food whole. Case in point: at FreshDirect.com, jumbo carrots go for $0.79/lb, while 16 ounces of baby carrots and celery sticks cost a whopping $4.99. That’s nuts.
Now that you’re convinced that hacking your own comestibles is the way to go (you are, right?), let’s get to chopping.
First, a smattering of rules:
- Chop safely. Knives are sharp bastards by definition (thus the expression “sharp as a cliché”), and it’s stunningly easy to slice through a major organ if you lose your grip. Chopping slowly, paying attention, and/or watching this video might save a finger.
- Chop with a sharp knife. A dull one forces you to put more oomph into the motion, increasing the chance of injury. Honing and sharpening tools can help maintain a knife’s razor-edged glow, as seen here.
- Chop with the right knife. Using a pairing knife on a pumpkin might take awhile, and a chef’s knife applied to an apple peel could do some serious damage. This video, from About.com, is a good guide for matching knives to their correct targets. Hormel has a nice text-n-picture rundown, too.
- Chop after you shop. You’ll save buckets of time and energy down the line if you hew your food as soon as you get home. Certain fruits and vegetables (apples, pears, etc.) won’t hold up, but others (cantaloupe, pineapples, etc.) will stay edible for ages in the fridge or freezer.
- Chop uniformly. This is only if you intend to cook with it, but cutting food into similar-sized pieces will help them roast, bake, or boil equally.
- Chop smart. Besides Big Green, the all-purpose emerald hoodie I bought senior year of high-school, a $90 knife skills class was the best investment I ever made. I buzz through food about three times faster now, and don’t fear losing a hand half as much. Check nearby cooking schools to see if they offer one-off lessons.
Next, we move on to a few chopping terms that always come in handy.
“Thin strips or shreds of vegetables (classically, sorrel and lettuce)” - The New Food Lover's Companion via Food.com
Video (click on "chiffonade")
“To chop means to cut foods into pieces. This is a larger cut than dice or mince and generally does not need to be uniform.” – Food.com
“To cut food into tiny (about 1/8- to 1/4-inch) cubes.” - The New Food Lover's Companion via Food.com
“Foods that have been cut into thin, matchstick strips.” - The New Food Lover's Companion via Food.com
Smaller than a dice, it’s just about the tiniest cut you can manage.
Instructions (garlic example)
Video (click on “mince”)
Finally, it’s on to specific foods. Whether you’re hacking at a pomegranate, potato, or pork roast, these videos and instructions should provide some guidance for your first time. Remember, though: be careful. I take no responsibility for injuries other than my own. (Which are numerous and ouchy.)
- Apples & Pears: Instructions (scroll way down), Video (click on “peeling and coring apples”)
- Citrus (lemons, limes, oranges, etc.): Instructions, Video (click on “segment citrus”)
- Coconuts: Instructions, Video, Video 2
- Kiwi: Instructions, Video
- Mangoes: Instructions, Video
- Melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.): Video
- Papaya: Instructions, Video
- Pineapples: Instructions, Video
- Pomegranates: Instructions, Video
- Stone Fruits (plums, peaches, nectarines): Instructions, Video (peach peeling)
- Watermelons: Instructions, Instructions 2, Video
- Artichokes: Instructions, Video (click on “clean artichokes”)
- Avocadoes: Instructions, Video
- Bell Peppers: Instructions, Video
- Broccoli and Cauliflower: Instructions, Video
- Butternut Squash: Instructions (other winter squash included), Video
- Carrots: Instructions
- Chile Peppers: Instructions, Instructions 2
DO NOT CHOP HOT PEPPERS BARE-HANDED. TRUST ME ON THIS.
- Corn: Instructions, Video (click on “cut kernels off corn”)
- Cucumbers: Instructions, Video (click on “seed”)
- Garlic: Instructions, Video (click on “peel, puree garlic”)
- Ginger: Instructions, Video
- Herbs: Instructions, Video
- Leeks: Instructions, Video (click on “cleaning leeks”)
- Lettuce & Leafy Greens: Instructions, Instructions 2
- Mushrooms: Instructions, Video (click on “cleaning mushrooms”)
- Olives: Instructions, Video
- Onions: Instructions, Instructions 2, Video
- Potatoes: Instructions
- Pumpkin: Video
- Tomatoes: Instructions, Video 1 (click on “peel tomatoes”), Video 2 (seeding and dicing)
- Beef: Instructions (Roast), Video (London BroilFlank Steak)
- Chicken (Whole): Instructions, Instructions 2, Video, Video 2, Video 3 (butterflying - click on “butterfly a chicken”)
- Fish (Whole): Instructions, Video
- Lamb: Instructions (all cuts), Video (Leg)
- Lobster: Instructions, Video (click on “shell lobster”)
- Pork: Instructions (Ham), Instructions 2 (Roasts), Video (Scroll down to “carving a ham”)
- Shellfish: Instructions (Mussels), Instructions 2 (Clams), Instructions 3 (Oysters), Video (click on “open shellfish”)
- Shrimp: Instructions, Video (click on “clean shrimp”)
- Turkey: Instructions, Video (click on “carve a turkey”)
That’s all, folks. Please let me know if a link is dead, or if you have any other suggestions. I welcome them with open arms, which are finally healing from that bout with a butternut squash.