Monday, January 2, 2012

Knife Skills: Chopping, Fanning, & Mincing

It is said in kitchens, your #1 tool is your hands followed by your #2 tool, your chef's knife. I feel that this rating system is extremely unfair to my long-suffering Kitchen-Aid mixer, but I still believe it is important for every cook to have a basic knowledge of knife skills. This way, when you run into a recipe with an ingredient that says 2 tsp. minced, or 1/4 cup chopped, you'll know just what to do!

Chopping is a rough cut that simply means to break into smaller pieces. To chop things for baking, chocolate chips, dried fruit, candies, etc, I resort to the fanning method.

To begin, gather the item to be chopped on a cutting board. Keeping one hand on the knife handle and the other on the top of the knife point, raise up and cut down repeatedly. This is before position (A)....

and this is the after position (B). Repeat positions (A) and (B) sweeping knife in a fan shape from left to right across the chips, fruit, candies, etc.  Fanning. No problem right? Now onto mincing.

Mincing is a very small cut made by slicing the item into julienne strips then further slicing the julienne strips into small minced squares. The minced item is this demo is crystallized ginger. Here we go!

Slice the ginger into small strips keeping your fingers OUT OF THE WAY. This cut is called a julienne. It creates spears or strips out of whatever you're slicing. Gather the julienne strips together, and turn the bunch 1/4 turn clockwise. 

Using your knuckles as a guide, slice repeatedly, creating tiny squares of ginger, until you have reached the edge of the julienne strips.

Now you have a bunch of tiny squares. If you need to make something smaller yet, simply fan your knife a few times through the minced squares.


It's always important to remember that your julienne cuts, minced cuts, etc do not need to be perfect. You're going to be mixing these into a batter and blasting that in the oven, so if your cuts are not identical, don't worry about it. If the recipe is delicious, your eaters will forgive you.

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