One of my main goals on this blog is take all of the classic techniques and methods I was taught in culinary school and translate them in a way that makes practical sense for the home cook. I thought it would be helpful to give you some context by showing you what classic French knife cuts look like.
The types of knife cuts featured in this post have practical applications, like a dice and a julienne. But the way I got to these specific shapes took a lot of time and effort, and produced a lot of scraps. So think of this post as the always-looks-put-together, perfectly-curated-content, instagrammer, and then the other practical knife cuts I will show you as the honest, down to earth, you-want-to-be-their-best-friend, instagrammer. In other words, yes, these knife cuts are pretty, but I will show you a more practical way to achieve them later.
First, a little background on French techniques. The reason why most knife cuts, sauces, and techniques are in French is because the French were the ones who standardized cooking. In particular a man named Auguste Escoffier simplified and standardized a lot of cooking techniques that were popular in his time. His ideas and techniques are still highly influential in today’s culinary world.
Standardizing culinary terms and techniques meant that you could cook in any restaurant around the world and have the same term and definition of a technique, knife cut or method. The French essentially created a universal language that is still used today.
(Funny enough, in culinary school we weren’t required to take a French language class, but we were required to take a culinary Spanish class. It was one of the most fun classes I took.)
French Knife Cuts
French knife cuts are very uniform and precise. It was an objective way to get graded in culinary school. The chef instructor would go so far as to actually measure our knife cuts. It stresses me out just thinking about it haha… 😳
The knife cuts shown below were done with a carrot that I squared off to get perfect shapes. Because I squared everything off there was a lot of waste. Just because there is a lot of waste doesn’t mean you can’t use the scraps. You can use scraps in soups, purees, or stocks.
I wanted to show you this so you can have a good visual reference of the size pieces for the type of knife cut it is. But in a practical application a dice is going to look very different from food to food. A diced carrot will look different from diced celery which will look very different from a diced onion etc… just based on their natural shapes.
(these pictures are not to scale)
Large Dice: A large dice would be used for something that takes longer to cook like a stew, roast, or stock.
Medium Dice: A medium dice would work well in a soup or a faster roast like a roast chicken.
Batonnet: A batonnet is the perfect size for a french fry. Other than that a batonnet would work well roasted.
Small Dice: A small dice is great for quicker cooking like sautéing, stir frying, or sweating. It would also work well in a soup. This is the size that most recipes refer to as a dice.
Julienne: A julienne is great for veggies that won’t be cooked. Julienned vegetables work great in a salad, lettuce wraps, spring rolls or sushi. They look great as a garnish and stack well.
Brunoise: A brunoise could work as a garnish in a consummé (a really clear, broth based soup) or again on top of a salad. To cook a brunoise would mean to cook it for as little as possible because it is so small. But could work well cooked and garnished on top of risotto or something similar.
Fine Julienne and Fine Brunoise: The smallest of all the cuts. We were shown this once in culinary school and never did it again. Both of these cuts are so small they aren’t worth it. But they still could be used in a raw form in a salad or in sushi. At this size it would be more worth it to buy shredded carrots.
Paysanne and Lozenge: These cuts remind me of old school food styling and plating. They really aren’t used anymore. However, both shapes would work well cooked in a soup or raw on a salad.
Rondelle and Bias Rondelle: These are more common especially because they utilize the natural shape of a carrot. A bias cut, or a cut made on a severe angle, is a great way to dress up a knife cut. It makes the cut look just a little bit fancier.
Both would work the same in a dish and would work well in a salad or soup.
Can you do these exact knife cuts at home? Absolutely! They are beautiful. I personally just don’t find them practical. While the exact shape of these cuts isn’t practical, this should give you a good idea of what each size cut should be.