Knife Skills: How to Cut Celery
I had a friend in college who believed that celery was the worst vegetable, and I admit it—as sticks, they aren't all that exciting. Add some blue cheese or Green Goddess and I'd happily eat them, but it's really only when you start adding them to other dishes that they reveal their true purpose: Best Supporting Role.
My celery-hating friend certainly enjoyed eating out at restaurants, and most of them were undoubtedly flavoring any number of sauces, stews, salads, soups, and braises with the vegetable. Along with pungent onions and sweet, earthy carrots, celery's slight bitter edge forms the backbone of at least half the dishes in the Western repertoire. A potato salad or lobster roll wouldn't be the same without its distinctive crunch and fresh flavor, and the Chinese learned long ago that it's particularly flavorful in a spicy stir-fry. Even the leaves can be used as a flavorful garnish.
This slideshow will help teach you to cut celery into all of the major shapes and sizes. Learn these cuts well, and you'll be using them all your life.
Shopping and Storage
When buying celery, look for whole heads still attached at the root with tightly bundled stalks and a bright green to yellowish-green color. Skip any heads that have bruised brown spots or that look overly fibrous. Avoid those kept in sealed packs, which can often hide blemishes. A good grocery store will keep their celery stalks lightly misted with water to keep them fresh and crisp.
Once home, celery can wilt in a matter of days. It's best to keep it in a slightly opened plastic bag, or a perforated plastic bag to help retain moisture, but still give it room to breathe. Use your vegetable crisper drawer if you've got one. Properly stored, celery should last up to a week and a half in the fridge. Stalks that have started to go limp can be revived by cutting them off and standing them cut-end-down in a cup of water in the fridge.
If you want to use leaves as garnish, pick the pale yellow leaves closest to the center of the stalk (darker green leaves can be tough or fibrous) and store them in a container of water with a few ice cubes in the fridge until ready to use. They make a great addition to mixed green salads.
More Knife Skills
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- How to Sharpen a Knife »
- How to Chop and Chiffonade Herbs »
- How to Cut an Onion »
- How to Clean and French a Lamb Rack »
- How to Break Down a Chicken »
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.