There are many methods of cooking out there but we will stick to a few main concepts.
Stews are like thick hearty soups usually containing thick chunks of meats and vegetables. They can be cooked in a pot on the stove, in the oven, or in a crock pot/Dutch oven. Because they are cooked over a long time, vegetables need to be large and chunky to compete with the cooking time. If they are too small they will simply disappear or become mushy. Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes are often used as well as onion, garlic, celery, turnip and squash.
Soups are different as the broth base and sometimes the protein is already cooked therefore vegetables don’t need to be as large. They should be sautéed first then added to water or broth. The cut should be consistent for each vegetable yet still being identifiable. Think about dipping your spoon into your homemade soup masterpiece but the veggies just fall off or slip off the spoon. They have been cut too long or too big. Then again cutting too small will render them invisible. At this point your only hope is to purée…and that’s not such a terrible thing.
Roasted vegetables can be delicious and attractive but the cut here is important. To retain moisture without burning, dehydrating, or undercooking the trick is to slice the vegetable to a medium thickness. Too thin will dry it out and too thick will undercook and burn the outside. All slices should be consistent in size and shape to ensure an even result.
This is a very quick method of cooking which requires the vegetables to end the race nicely by being tender with a little crunch left. This requires longer thin cuts. Carrots and celery cut on a diagonal, onions sliced vertically or squarish chunks.
The number one thing to prevent here, besides lighting your vegetables on fire, is losing them through the grill into the fiery pit below. So large but thin and as flat as possible.
The purpose of sautéing, whether onions, mushrooms or pepppers is to create a base for other foods, to add to sauces, or to enjoy on their own with or without a protein. The chop is usually small and squarish.
3 Key words
CONSISTENCY – vegetables are chopped to a consistent shape or size to enhance presentation and texture.
FEASABILITY – are you matching the right tool with the vegetable and the cut you are making?
EDIBILITY – if you are crunching your soup, slurping your stir fry, or using your roasted vegetables as poker chips…you may need to take this course again.