Fresh herbs are an important part of many recipes, and chopping them to the right size helps blend their flavors in.
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.
How to Chop Fresh Herbs:
- Rinse your herbs and carefully dry them with paper towels.
- Clean your cutting board, leaving a wide working area.
- 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.)
- 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.
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.