Yeah, sure, you can slice, dice, and maybe even chiffonade. But do you know what it means to brunoise your vegetables? Here we’ll show you how to cut your vegetables as small as humanly possible, so sharpen your favourite knife and read on.
(And don’t forget to click here to master 7 other professional cutting techniques when you’re done.)
What does brunoise mean?
Brunoise is a technique for cutting vegetables. It is the method of cutting vegetables into the smallest pieces before they’re considered to be a mince (at which point, you might be better off skipping the knife and simply blitzing them in a good food processor).
You’re probably already familiar with dicing. That basically means cutting an ingredient into cubes. Well, different dishes call for different sizes of cube – you probably wouldn’t want tiny cubes of pumpkin in a rustic stew, for instance. But also, some ingredients simply taste better when cut at one size over another. For example, pineapple is generally cut into large cubes known as a large dice, because try to cut it much smaller and you might as well be making it into a smoothie.
There’s also a medium dice and a small dice. But even smaller than the small dice is the brunoise. To brunoise, you start by julienning the vegetables (slicing them into thin strips), then lining the julienned strips together, and dicing them into tiny cubes. It’s generally used for more robust and aromatic vegetables, such as onions, carrots, celery, and peppers, sometimes to use as the base of a sauce or soup, but also to sprinkle on top of some dishes as an aromatic garnish prior to serving.
How to prepare vegetables for brunoise
Before you can brunoise your vegetables, you need to prepare them properly. This generally means:
- Wash and dry the vegetables. Even if you are planning to peel them, washing your vegetables first will minimise the chance of dirt, germs and/or pesticides contaminating the food as you peel it.
- Peel off the skin if necessary or desired. This step is optional for most vegetables. Some, like potatoes and celery, will benefit texturally from being peeled, while peeling is unavoidable for others – onions being the most obvious example.
- Square off the edges. This means cutting off the roundest parts of the vegetable. The squarer the edges of a vegetable are, the easier it will be to brunoise. Slice off the rounds and save them for using elsewhere. (With many of the vegetables you’re likely to brunoise, the scraps can be frozen for future use in stocks and broths.)
- Cut down larger, longer vegetables. Some vegetables are simply too large or long to cut lengthways (a crucial early step in the brunoise technique). You’ll find things much easier if you cut them down to a more manageable size. With a leek, for example, it helps to cut it into even quarters or fifths.
By the way, you should always make sure you’re using the sharpest knife possible. This is good advice when cutting anything, whatever the method, but never is a sharp knife more important than when cutting things this intricately.
How to cut brunoise
- Slice the vegetable lengthways into rectangles about 3mm thick. (Note that you will need to start a bit differently to brunoise an onion. See below.)
- Slice the strips lengthways into thinner strips, about 3mm in width. You should now have several long vegetable strips about 3mm wide on each side. The vegetable is currently cut julienne.
- To turn the julienne into brunoise, gather the strips together, turn them at a 90 degree angle, and chop them down into 3mm cubes. Voila. Your vegetable is now cut brunoise.
How to brunoise an onion
We all know onions are weird. Their layers can make them hard to slice (especially when you’re going this small), but they’re also effectively already sliced in one direction. That means adjusting the above brunoise instructions as follows:
- Cut the onion in half from top to bottom (in other words, through the root).
- Turn each side of the onion so that the cut side lays flat on your chopping board and the root faces away from you.
- Begin cutting the onion just short of the root, bringing the knife towards you as you slice through the onion in 3mm wide strips. By leaving the root intact, the layers of the onion will hold together to make cutting easier.
- Turn the onion 90 degrees to slice across the strips into 3mm pieces, cutting in a rocking motion from the top of the onion down to the root. Your onion is now cut brunoise.