Chopping Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs add wonderful flavor to many recipes. Use the best techniques and tools to chop them to the right size for the most flavorful, beautiful results.
Tips for Chopping Herbs:
- To make long strips (called "chiffonade"), commonly used for basil and mint, stack individual leaves on top of each other, then roll up the leaves. Cut thin slices off the leaf roll to make long, thin strips of herb.
- The best knife for chopping herbs is sharp with a wide blade, such as a chef's knife or a Chinese cleaver, that lets you chop without hitting your fingers on the cutting board. Don't use serrated-edge knives, because they won't cut cleanly.
- Delicate fresh herbs like basil and cilantro can be torn into pieces with your fingers instead of chopping, for a rustic effect.
- If you’re unsure whether to use the stem, taste a bit to determine if it has the same taste and texture as the leaves.
- To cut large amounts of fresh herbs, place them in a bowl or measuring cup, and cut them using kitchen shears in short, quick cuts.
- Herb scissors feature multiple blades to make chopping herbs quicker. Simply cut herbs right into your dish or into a measuring cup for a super fast method.
- Make sure your cutting board is clean before you chop anything. Herbs can absorb "off" flavors from remnants on the board, and hard ingredients, like chunks of peppercorns or seed spices, can damage the fine edge on knives.
How to Chop Fresh Herbs:
- Rinse your herbs and carefully dry them with paper towels.
- If using herbs with a woody or thick stem, like rosemary, basil, or older thyme, strip the leaves off the stems with your fingers. Save the stems for other uses.
- Remove the lower stems from herbs like parsley or cilantro. (You can chop the upper stems.)
- If you’re using herb scissors, hold the herbs by the stem and clip directly into the skillet or dish for easy cleanup. For more precise measurements, snip directly into a measuring cup.
- If you’re using a knife, clean your cutting board, leaving a wide working area, and pile the herbs on your cutting board.
- Chop the herb pile roughly first, drawing the herbs into a pile as you rechop.
- Finely chop the herbs by using the "hinge" method. Hold the knife firmly but not too tight with one hand, and place the fingers of your other hand on top of the knife down by the tip, both to keep the tip lightly pressed to the cutting board and to keep that hand out of the way. Raise the knife handle up and down rapidly, using a rocking motion, with the tip of the knife acting as a hinge.
- Use the knife to draw the herbs back into a neat pile after every few strokes to make sure they are chopped evenly.
- Use the fresh herbs in your recipe as soon as you've finished chopping them.
Storing Fresh Herbs:
- Store un-chopped, soft herbs in a glass of water, like cut flowers. Cilantro and parsley may be stored in the refrigerator while basil should be stored at room temperature. Hard stemmed herbs, like rosemary and thyme, may be stored wrapped in a wet paper towel, and the loosely in plastic wrap.
- To freeze herbs, puree in a food processor with a bit of olive oil and freeze the thick mixture in ice cube trays for easy portions later on. If an oil base won’t work for your recipes, you can simply chop the herbs and press them into ice cube trays, filling with a bit of water.
- Hard-stemmed herbs may be frozen right on the stem. Lay them out on a cookie sheet to freeze them, and then transfer to freezer bags once they are frozen. After they are thoroughly frozen for about a week, you may remove the leaves from the stems and store in the freezer in jars or bags.