Friday, October 28, 2011

How-To: Dice an Onion

So I asked if you guys wanted some knife skills posts and there was a resounding yes!  I'm glad you guys are excited - because I love having an excuse to bust out my knife set!

Anyway, this may seem like a roll-your-eyes kind of post because I'm sure many of you know how to cut up an onion.  But if maybe you're like me (before culinary school), you may just roughly chop and not try to get it too precise.  I've noticed that since I've been in school (5 weeks already and I feel like I've learned such a vast array of tasks!), I find myself wanting perfect and symmetric everything.  It's getting to be a little OCD almost.

So I chose to show how to dice up an onion because I practically use an onion for almost every dish I cook.  It's crazy when you think about it, you know?  So we'll ease into something easy, and then I'm open to taking suggestions for future knife-cut how to's (anything in particular you guys want to learn how to do?  If I don't already know how to do it, we'll learn together!).

You won't need anything fancy.  Just an onion, a (really sharp) chef's knife, and a cutting board.


Honestly, you want to have a really sharp knife.  You're more apt to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one.  So invest in a whetstone if you don't already have one (they average about $10 and last a really long time, so there's no reason to not have one).

And another thing, don't "saw" at anything.  You want to strive for one fluid motion through whatever you're cutting.  No back and forth action. 

So you'll want to take your whole onion and before you peel it, cut it in half, from the root to the top.  Then peel your onion.  Set the onion flat and make a diagonal cut to trim off the top. 


So now you're left with the top (which you can just pitch) and the rest of the onion. 


You'll want to put the heel of your palm on the top of the onion (or make a fist and put the tops of your knuckles on the top of the onion) to hold it in place.  Starting with the bottom edge of your knife, you want to make one fluid horizontal slice (about 1/4 inch from the bottom of the onion), pulling the knife closer to you as you cut and ending just before the root - no sawing motions, so this is why it's very important you have a really sharp knife! You want to keep your onion in tact, so make sure not to cut through the root! 

You'll just want to slide your knife through, and if you don't make it close enough to the root, it's okay - no biggie
Then you'll go up about 1/4 inch from your first cut and make another horizontal cut the same way.


Depending on how big your onion half is, you might be able to get one or two more 1/4 inch-spaced horizontal slices.  I think I did one more with this one.

Next you'll want to turn the onion 90 degrees (so that the root end is at the north end).  Then you'll make a vertical cut (about 1/4 inch from the left or right, it doesn't matter which end you start).  Remember, you don't want to go all the way through, cut before the root so your onion still stays in tact.


If you want, you can hold the sides of the onion together so it's easier to cut, just watch your fingers and be careful!  Space the vertical cuts about 1/4 inch apart (we're going for consistency here, right?)  I think I got about 5 or 6 vertical cuts.


After you make your vertical cuts, you'll want to turn the onion back 90 degrees (whether you're left or right handed, it doesn't matter, my root end was to the right because I'm left handed).

The key to an even chop is to have a stable, sharp knife.  Make one fluid cut.  No sawing.  I know I've said that a million times, but seriously.  Having my chef say it over and over made a difference with me and a lot of the other of the students.  I used to be a "sawer".  I'll admit it.  But I can't go cutting anything like that any more, regardless of what it is!

Anyway, make sure the tip of your knife is on the cutting board (in front of the onion, and just bring your knife down to make a vertical cut - 1/4 inch spacing!).

Stragglers are okay - no biggie
Continue to make 1/4 inch-spaced vertical cuts until you get to the root.

Don't hold the onion or knife like I did (I have no idea why I'm doing that lol) - you're apt to cut yourself
And voila - you've small diced (1/4 x 1/4 x 1/4) an onion.  Of course, an onion is round and layered and you can't really get a perfect 1/4 inch perfect cube, but it's close enough! 


I'll hopefully pop in during the weekend (can't make promises!), but if not, we've got Espagnole sauce next sometime next week!  And if you have any knife cuts you want to learn - let me know and I'll try to feature them next!

Have a great weekend guys =)

46 comments:

  1. Great post!! Bottom line is whatever you do, make sure you’ve got a sharp knife. I love mine like razor sharp and I try to keep them that way also. I would love to see what else they are teaching you.

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  2. Great tutorial, Peggy! Wonderful post :)

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  3. This is great! Knife skills are so important. I've been dying to take a knife skills class. I have taken two recreational cooking classes and this was the way they taught us to cut an onion - it totally rocked my world! The one I took most recently taught me that you can also cut garlic like that with a paring knife.

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  4. Great tutorial. I'm glad to hear you are enjoying culinary school!

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  5. Very clear photos! I teach a cooking class to fifth and sixth graders, and the first vegetable we teach them to cut is an onion. The first time we ran the course, we had no idea that they had no idea, and they were chopping it up without taking the skin off first.

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  6. thats a great tutorial with the pics and explanation at the same time. Though I have been dicing onions for as long as I know, some insights I did pick up from your sharing, nice one for a change.

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  7. Thank you thank you thank you :)
    I saw this demo once in person, but it was too fast, and every time I go to dice an onion I can't remember how to do it. I think I finally get it!
    Hope you have a fab weekend!

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  8. i'm emailing this to my John... he doesn't listen to me when I try to show him how to cut an onion - he doesn't believe that it affects the cooking and the taste/experience. Thank you for this. haha...

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  9. Thanks for nice post about dicing onion, even though simple steps are needed for great recipe we won't pay attention.

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  10. I'm glad you're liking school so much.

    I had a knives demo class when i was going to my culinary program and we were in class for almost a whole day just slicing cabbages and seeing who was gonna chop their finger first. I didn't need any band aids that day but lots of them in my on going career after being tired and knives is a crazy combo. That was a Good day so many people crying over onions. :) But I think chopping 22 qts of carrots celery and onion on daily basis pretty much roots it in your head.

    I'm glad your using your skills to teach others its the best way to learn. cheers peggy happy weekend to you and Halloween

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  11. Great post for newbies. Great photos. Well done.

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  12. Great post. I have never been to culinary school, and it isn't in my future. Wish I was exceedingly rich so I could go though (just for fun)!

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  13. Excellent!....it is always good to know how to properly chopped!...thanks......Abrazotes, Marcela

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  14. My dad saw me chopping an onion like this and he was truly intrigued! Great tutorial, Peggy...really useful info.

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  15. A helpful post, indeed! Would love to see more knife skill posts (or really, any cool techniques you learn!)!

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  16. Love this tutorial! I hate cutting up onions and usually just hack them into acceptably-sized pieces and go...yeah, time to try it the right way. I just need one of those sharp knives--I have no other option but to hack or saw right now. Do you have any recommended brands/sources for a good (but still affordable) knife?

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  17. Sometimes, when I have plenty of time, I get a little obsessed with trying to get perfect sized cuts. Great info here. And, I'm reminded I need to sharpen my knife!

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  18. Great tips for cutting up onions! Thanks for sharing.

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  19. Wonderful tutorial! thanks for sharing.

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  20. Ohh Peggy! I'm so happy seeing this post. This is actually my very first time seeing how people dice onion the way we do in Japan! I've seen TV cooking shows and my friends cutting onions here in the US, but none of them dice like this! This is one of the first lesson we learn in our mandatory home & economic class in Japanese middle school. I'm just happy school is teaching the right method and I still use it. =)

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  21. Love your tips. Thanks for sharing!

    ----------------------------
    Regards
    Spoon and Chopsticks
    http://spoon-and-chopsticks.blogspot.com

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  22. Great tips on dicing an onion. I can proudly say, that I do not dice them this way, and will try to do it, with your tutorial! I hope you are having a wonderful time in culinary school! =] xoxo

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  23. Love your tutorial. Knife skills are so important. I can always stand to improve a little.

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  24. It's nice to see something like this in actual steps with actual pictures. I've tried this many times and I always seem to slip through and end up trying to hold the onion together but I shall persevere.

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  25. I did not realize I was sawing my onion! I have hard time cutting into dices, they go all over the place, slices, half moon shapes , etc..etc.. Great how to post. keep it coming :)

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  26. Hello Peggy,
    That was an interesting lesson - thanks for sharing!Well,this is my first time here and I must say you have an amazing blog!I really like the way you write and love your recipes.Following you - do drop in at my place sometime!
    Cheers,
    Wit,wok&wisdom

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  27. i keep telling myself I need to take some cooking classes. I'm so scared to work with big knives :(
    Great tutorial Peggy!

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  28. Great tutorial, Peggy! thanks for tips:).

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  29. Hi Peggy, lovely photos and thanks for the tutorial. Have a nice day.

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  30. Love that you are including your techniques in your blog!!! Great tutorial.
    Rita

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  31. Thanks, Peggy, for this practical tutorial.

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  32. What a great tutorial. I need to send this to my husband :-) Even when I'm standing over his shoulders, he doesn't seem to get the technique. I must not be as good of a teacher as you!

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  33. What, no sawing, lol. Good luck in school.
    -Gina-

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  34. Love this tutorial!! Looks so easy, yet I forget how to do it all the time.

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  35. I cant ever seem to slice an onion properly no matter how hard I try. Most of the time I wind up sniffling and crying and having to walk away for a breather ;)

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  36. Good tutorial Peggy , I would love to know how they cut those chunky potato fries , I have tried them but it is never consistent .

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  37. great step by step peggy, I use to do the horizontal one and then the "vertical" one... hehe he
    tq fr sharing and photos! ;)

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  38. Another very interesting post, even if we have all chopped...er sawed onions before...hehe

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  39. Love this post! I can't wait to read more of your mad knife skill tips. I definitely don't cut an onion like this and am looking forward to giving it a go!
    I am so excited for you that you're in culinary school. That is my dream someday after my husband finishes his Masters.

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  40. One suggestion: instead of cutting the onion in half as the first step (I like to peel first), why not make the partial horizontal cuts toward the stem on each side of the centerline first, before making the center cut to cut the onion in half? Then proceed from there. That's a lot easier than trying to make the horizontal cuts while holding the onion down with your palm, which actually squeezes the knife blade between the slices, causing the blade to drag and making it harder to do the cut and also making it easier to slip or cut too far.

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    Replies
    1. Actually, the point of cutting the onion in half is so it lays flat and doesn't wobble, like a rounded bottom would if you did not cut it in half.

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