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A weekly video spot highlighting an essential knife technique.

Knife Skills: How to Cut Carrots

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Knife Skills: How to Cut Carrots

Along with the past two installments, this week's knife skills column wraps up the traditional mirepoix combination of onions, celery, and carrots. After this, you are fully armed to at least begin cooking any number of traditional French and Italian dishes.

The Cuts

  • Rough chunks are exactly what they sound like. All you need to do is peel the carrots and roughly chop them into 1 to 2-inch pieces. This is the cut you'll use for things like stocks and sauces where the carrots are intended for flavoring, not for consumption. You'll also use rough chunks if you plan on pureeing them into soup, or mashing them. It's so straightforward I skipped it entirely in the slideshow.
  • Dice of various sizes are the most common way to cut carrots. Large dice can be nice in hearty stews, while medium or small dice are more suited for soups, hearty sauces like Bolognese, or chunky chopped salads.
  • Faux tourné is what I do when I'm too lazy to make a true tourné, which means all the time. The fancy seven-sided football that you get with a true tourné wastes carrot, looks pretentious, and is entirely unnecessary. This method is super simple, and produces evenly shaped, attractive pieces perfect for glazing or adding to more refined stews.
  • Julienne is what you use when you want to start getting really fancy. They look great when cooked with fish en papillote, for example, and work well in stir-fries and sautees as well.
  • Brunoise are only for the most refined of presentations. I usually don't break it out until around Christmas time when I use carrot brunoise to garnish tortellini soup or quickly sauteed and added to a pot of rillettes. Yes, they're fancy-pants, but they're also a heck of a lot of fun to cut.

Shopping and Storage

Look for carrots that are a relatively even thickness throughout, which makes it much easier to cut them into even sized pieces. They should be completely firm to the touch, and should not give when you try to bend them. Bendy carrots are a good indication that they've lost too much of their moisture and their cell structure is beginning to collapse.

Size is generally not an indicator of how flavorful or sweet a carrot will be, though sometimes the behemoths start to get a hollow center, and can even start to rot from the inside out. I'd avoid anything larger than an inch or so in diameter.

You can store carrots at room temperature unwrapped for at least a few days, but they'll keep in the vegetable crisper for up to a few weeks if they are super fresh.

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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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