Basic Knife Cuts & Shapes

Why Learn the Basic Culinary Knife Cuts?

chopping herbs with knife
Gabriel Bucataru/Stocksy United

One of the first things every beginning culinary student learns is how to execute various basic knife cuts and shapes, like the julienne, dice, brunoise and others. But even if you're not a culinary student (or a professional chef), mastering these knife cuts can still improve the quality of the food you cook, for two reasons:

  1. Uniform cooking times.

    Large pieces of vegetables take longer to cook than smaller ones. So if you're sautéeing carrots that are cut to different sizes and shapes, you'll either overcook the smaller pieces by the time the bigger ones are done, or you'll cook the smaller pieces properly but leave the bigger ones undercooked. Consistent cutting technique ensures your food is cooked to a uniform degree of doneness.
  2. Enhanced visual appeal.

    Again, it's the art part of the culinary arts. Of course, no one's going to take out a ruler and measure your knife cuts — unless you're in culinary school. But sloppy knife work makes for a sloppy-looking dish.
    Skilled knife work indicates a cook who takes pride in their work and doesn't take shortcuts. It's a way of paying a compliment to whoever you're serving the dish to — saying to them, in effect, "You're worth the trouble."

See the individual summaries below for more information on each of the different knife cuts:


Fine Brunoise

Or to browse an image gallery showing all the basic knife cuts, see this Knife Cuts Photo Gallery.