Cooking

Final Cut

The way you chop vegetables actually affects how they taste
Photo: Tasting Table
Cutting Vegetables

Ever wondered how important it is that you follow instructions and actually julienne vegetables instead of slice them? NPR pooled a bunch of experts, and it turns out:

Slicing, dicing or chopping has a big impact on the way vegetables taste.

In addition to flavor and aroma, texture contributes to taste, and shape and size influence the way your taste buds perceive the food. Here’s how it breaks down:

① Size matters.
The smaller the vegetable, the more the cooking method will sink in. A finely diced onion will react stronger with oil or butter, for example, than one cut into large hunks.

② Surface area is more than skin deep.
If a recipe calls for slicing a carrot into long, flat pieces instead of little cubes, follow the instructions. “The charred taste is enhanced by the increase in surface area created by the lengthwise cut,” Leslie Brenner of cooking blog Cooks Without Borders tells NPR.

③ Timing is everything.
Smaller cuts, like a brunoise, will cook much faster than larger ones. This will affect the texture of the vegetable itself—those chopped carrots will get mushy fast if they’re tiny—as well as how quickly it will infuse flavor into the dish.

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Different strokes for different folks.
Vegetables react differently with each cut. A tomato releases certain enzymes and aromas when sliced, while a head of broccoli emits sulfur compounds when it’s chopped.

⑤ Be there or be square.
It’s OK to judge a book by its cover, or, here, a vegetable based on its shape. As Brendan Walsh, dean of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, explains it, a round piece of food may prime people to react differently than a square cut.

So next time you’re wondering if you really need to chop according to recipe instructions, take heed and don’t roll the dice.

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