Of the many different ways to cut vegetables in the kitchen, brunoise style is arguably one of the best looking. Meant to produce small, even squares of any vegetable or fruit, it's a fantastic mix of two different cuts.
To cut brunoise style, do the following:
Throughout all steps for cutting brunoise style, it is imperative to properly line up all edges. Otherwise, the perfect squares that are a mark of the cut will be lost. More detailed steps and tips on when to use the brunoise cut can be found below.
Brunoise style is one of the essential cuts to learn in the kitchen for anyone looking to elevate their cooking level and is perfect for a variety of vegetables and uses. Learning the specifics of the cut can be a challenge, but given enough practice, this is a cut anyone can master. The basic process remains the same across any vegetable or fruit receiving the cut.
Before cutting anything in the kitchen, be sure to have a sharp knife. Not only does it make the highly accurate cuts necessary for proper brunoise styling easier, but a sharp knife is safer. This is largely due to the fact that less force is required to cut through materials when the knife is properly sharpened; more information on safe cutting practices can be found here.
As a general tip when cutting brunoise style, remember that it is one of the smallest common cuts in the kitchen. An effective brunoise knife cut most often measures around 1/8th of an inch all around and is defined by its size. Larger cubed cuts are not true brunoise cuts, and are instead “diced”.
The distinction between cuts may seem arbitrary, and for most home chefs the differences are minimal. However, in the interest of accuracy, it is important to define these cuts by the size of their final product.
The first step in cutting anything in the brunoise style is preparing the vegetable or food to be cut. Preparing the vegetable itself can be split into a series of smaller steps that are taken when preparing for any cut or food preparation, including:
Washing and peeling the skin off of vegetables is common prep work that should occur before cutting them at all in the kitchen. This washes away dirt and possible pesticides used on the vegetable. Peeling the skin is not necessary for a brunoise cut, but some vegetables such as potatoes are better prepared without the skin.
Of these preparation steps, the most important for brunoise style cuts is squaring off all edges. This is most clear when cutting carrots, a vegetable that commonly sees this cut. The round shape of a carrot simply does not allow for even squares to be produced, so the rounds must be cut and used somewhere else.
When squaring off the edges of any food, it is best to waste as little material as possible. Cut as close as you can to the outside of the food while preserving straight lines. Once one side has been cut, flip the vegetable so it rests on that side and continue until all edges are complete. When all cuts are done, the vegetable should resemble a rectangle. The round slicings can be used in other foods or as part of stock, or you can simply discard them.
If you are dealing with a particularly long vegetable, such as a leek, it may be beneficial to split these rectangular pieces into even cuts. This will not directly affect the brunoise cut later, but may make the vegetable easier to handle. Be sure to keep the lengths similar; otherwise, future cuts may become more difficult and ruin the perfect cube look. A good length is about 2 inches.
Once the vegetable to be cut has been squared off and is ready for handling, the next steps can occur.
Now that the vegetable is ready in its rectangular form, it is time to cut them in the julienne style. This is another common kitchen cut, which essentially cuts large rectangles into thin, even strips.
Originating in France, the julienne style sees common usage across garnishes and salads. It is easy to do - in fact, you likely use the cut already even if you did not recognize the name! To start, rest the rectangular vegetable on the cutting board. Cut the food lengthwise so that it separates into thin strips that retain their width and length.
Julienne cuts should be made roughly 1/8th of an inch in width. Occasionally, julienne cuts will be cut to 1/16th of an inch instead, but this is commonly referred to as a “fine julienne”. Sticking to 1/8th of an inch for now will result in brunoise cuts later. If the pieces are cut thicker at this stage, the end result will be closer to a normal diced cut. If they are cut thinner, the result will be a fine brunoise, an incredibly small cut that sees little use.
Once all necessary parts of the vegetable have been cut into strips, turn the food 90 degrees and repeat the process. This will result in pieces that retain their length, but their thickness and width are equal. Once again, cut them to roughly 1/8th of an inch.
At this point, the julienne cuts are complete. These thin strips are commonly found in salads and as garnishes, so their shape should not be a surprise. The brunoise cut is almost ready to be completed. Once again, if you have any scraps or strips left over, use them in soups or stocks as additional flavor.
This step is what separates a brunoise cut from a julienne cut. Essentially, what this step achieves is a diced look, cutting the previously created strips into cubes.
Stack a few of the cut pieces at a time. This will speed up the process, but also make it look better; brunoise cuts look best when they are even in size and match the other cubes. This is easiest to achieve when stacking a few at a time and cutting them.
Once a small pile has been created, line up the edges by lightly tapping any edges sticking out with the flat of your knife. The strips should be very similar in length, width, and thickness. If there are any pieces that are wildly different from the others, separate them from the rest. They will result in different sized cubes and ruin the look and purpose of a brunoise cut if mixed in.
Now that the pieces are evenly aligned, take your knife and purposefully cut the stripts into cubes. Once again, try to make each cut in about 1/8th of an inch intervals. If the three cuts that occur are correct and match the others, the end result will be perfect cubes.
At the end of the process, you will have a large stack of very small cubes and have successfully completed a brunoise cut. The vegetable is now ready to use as a garnish or splash of color across a variety of dishes.
The size of the cubes from a brunoise cut is tiny. This is the intended result! If it feels too small while you are cutting them, do not worry. Remember that, due to their small size, they can burn easily; if you are going to cook with these cuts, consider switching up to a medium or even large dicing.
When attempting to brunoise less firm vegetables or fruits, you may notice that the cut does not have the intended result, and instead results in a mushy mess. This is common with onions, thanks to their layers, or many fruits that do not stay firm. Larger cuts are necessary with foods that cannot stay firm.
A brunoise style cut is used to cut vegetables or fruits into small, uniform cubes. It can be viewed as an extension of a julienne cut, as it follows the same beginning steps but adds an additional cut at the end of the process.
Specific use cases for a brunoise cut are fairly limited, so the cut is one of the rarer common kitchen cuts. Still, it is useful to know, especially for chefs who spend a significant amount of time on garnish, soups, or sauces.
The brunoise cut originated in France as a method to add color and sophistication to dishes. Unlike some other cuts that retain the shape of the vegetable, the brunoise cut is specifically designed to look unnatural; cubes are rarely found in nature.
French cooking often revolves around respect for food, the utilization of fresh ingredients, and strong attention to detail. The brunoise cut touches upon many of these aspects and encapsulates the cooking philosophy as a whole.
Fresh ingredients are easier to work with, more aromatic, and firmer. Each of these is relevant to the brunoise cut. Firmness and ease of working are essential for quickly producing the small cubes, as any softness will transform the cubes into mush. Many brunoise cut vegetables are used for aromatic garnishing, making freshness even more relevant.
Creating a proper brunoise cut requires strong attention to detail, as any mishaps or wrong measurements during the cutting process results in cubes that are deformed or rectangular rather than square. A significant reason to choose this cut is the fine and precise look of the end product.
Respect for food may seem counterintuitive to a cut that seems to produce a significant amount of waste, but this is not the case. The scraps that are often cut from vegetables to square them off are almost never thrown out; they are instead utilized in soup stocks or eaten raw. While the cut itself may not seek a product that uses all parts, it does not diminish the respect for the ingredients.
As a brunoise cut is essentially just a small dicing cut, there are many other forms. The key difference between a brunoise cut and other similar cuts is the size of the end product. Cubing a vegetable follows the same basic procedure; the difference lies in the thickness of each cut. At the end, when all cuts are complete, the brunoise must be entirely cubed and exceedingly thin.
The brunoise cut also has a slight variation, called the “fine brunoise”. Rather than cutting the cubes to 1/8th on all sides, they are cut to 1/16th an inch. In France, this 1/16th size is the standard, but other parts of the world adopted different nomenclature.
The french brunoise is extremely close in size to mincing, another cut. This closeness is likely why brunoise style cuts are larger throughout the rest of the world. Mincing is, once again, a cubing cut that gets ingredients down to incredible thin sizes. Due to the smallness, it is mincing is less precise than brunoise cuts.
Brunoise cuts cannot be applied to every vegetable or fruit thanks to how fine the end product becomes. Many softer foods cannot be cut that thin without losing their integrity and falling apart. As such, there are only a few common vegetables which are given the brunoise cut treatment.
As a general rule, firm foods can be brunoise cut with little to no issues. Anything that can stay firm and solid even in small form factors will not have issues cut like this. However, even still, there are some foods that are more common to cut this way than others.
Brunoise style cuts are almost exclusively used for vegetables or the occasional fruit. While frozen meats or other foods can likely be cut just fine into the small form factor, there is little need; meats would burn quickly and portions would be uncommon to say the least. It may be helpful to remember that brunoise cut vegetables are best used for garnishes, not large pieces of any meal.
Carrots are likely the most commonly brunoise cut vegetable. Their color injects a beautiful aspect into a large variety of dishes and their firm consistency makes them an easy candidate for brunoise cuts. Additionally, they are well-liked and can be eaten raw or put into different sauces.
Carrots present a challenge for brunoise cuts thanks to their circular shape. Beginners especially may notice a large part of the carrot going to waste as they perform the first cuts to make the shape rectangular. With time, cuts will become more accurate and less of the carrot is likely to go to waste or toward other purposes.
Due to brunoise cut vegetables commonly being used as a garnish, carrots are well-liked for their color and easy to pair flavor. Small cubes of carrot can be applied over salads, soups, meats, and other creations very easily. Especially when paired with a salad, the color can make the plate truly pop. Additionally, the brunoise cut makes them easy to blend into the dish as a whole.
Celery is one of the easiest vegetables to cut brunoise style thanks to their shape and firmness. Celery is also commonly used in soups, sauces, and garnish for so many dishes that it inevitably sees the cut often.
Combining brunoise cut celery with other vegetables such as carrots or leeks is also common, both to bolster the complexity of the garnish and establish a dish’s color profile. Consider adding brunoise cut celery to a variety of dishes for extra flavor and professionalism.
Potatoes are a fairly rare choice for brunoise cuts due to how they are normally served, but they are a fantastic option for those who are looking to practice the cut. Thanks to their firm nature and easy shape to square off, many different cutting techniques can be practiced on them.
The resulting size of brunoise cut potatoes makes them almost useless for most dishes outside of mashed potatoes or thickening of soups, but that does not mean that the cut is a waste. Especially while learning, consider using potatoes for practice on a more forgiving vegetable. The resulting cut can also be browned and cooked quickly for garnish on salads or plant-based sides.
Turnips are also commonly brunoise cut thanks to their firm flesh and earthy flavors. Turnips vary slightly from other common vegetables thanks to the fact that they are normally cooked to avoid their bitter flavor. Many other brunoise cut vegetables are served raw.
Instead, turnips are commonly boiled in salt water for a few minutes and then shocked in an ice bath. This method allows them to retain their texture and shape while ridding them of their bitter raw taste.
There are many other vegetables which can also be cut brunoise style to varying degrees of popularity. When deciding whether or not a vegetable is a good option for this cut, consider the following:
These three questions will help determine whether another cut is better or not. Brunoise cuts almost always require the vegetable to be firm, and work best when intended for a garnish or sauce. If the vegetable will be cooked, consider the cooking method. Boiling or par-boiling tends to be the best option to avoid burning any brunoise cut foods, as the many edges can quickly brown too much.
Brunoise cuts are fairly limited in their effective uses, making it easy to determine whether or not it is the right cut for the job. While, theoretically, any cut can be applicable for almost any use, brunoise cut foods tend to burn easily or mush together if used incorrectly. This is largely due to the incredibly small size of the cuts.
Common usage of the brunoise style cut is limited to soups, sauces, and garnishes. There is also a dish called a brunoise. These limited uses also contribute to the foods often being cut brunoise; namely vegetables with the occasional fruit thrown in.
Soups and sauces are two of the most common uses for brunoise cut vegetables. In soups, brunoise cut vegetables are used to add flavor and substance to a variety of dishes. In sauces, the smaller profile of brunoise vegetables allows for them to easily add flavor and be skimmed out later when the sauce is complete.
Soups use brunoise cut vegetables to compliment other flavors without overpowering them. The small size makes them perfect for taking in with stocks or consommé, what is essentially a light soup broth that is meant to be had alone.
When used in heavier soups that combine stock with other things such as meats, thick cut potatoes, or other vegetables, the brunoise cut foods can easily be overpowered. As such, they’re predominantly used to add some color to the soup stock as well as flavor.
When used in a consommé, the brunoise cut vegetables quickly become a main feature of the dish. Meant to be drunk more than eaten, the consommé is a clear soup that is made from clarified bouillon. Despite holding an incredible amount of flavor, quite a bit of the fat and sediment normally found in soups is removed during the clarification process by egg whites.
After the consommé has been created, brunoise cut vegetables are added on top and compliment the flavor of the dish. Providing the consommé with extra mouthfeel and substance, it transforms an already fantastic dish into an exceptional one.
A common complaint of home chefs when it comes to creating sauces is getting the flavor from vegetables and stock-type foods without resulting in chunks in the sauce. Cutting vegetables brunoise immediately fixes this issue in a variety of ways.
The extra surface area from the cut allows for more of the aromatic and taste of the vegetable to properly make its way into the sauce, and the incredibly thin cuts make the vegetable break down quickly, allowing it to either be sifted out or simply become part of the larger sauce.
The use for brunoise cut vegetables in sauces is practically endless; any sauce base can have vegetables easily added to it to affect the flavor, consistency, color, and aroma. One of the most common is tomato concasse, a rough cut tomato sauce that is used in a variety of situations. Adding brunoise cut carrots, leeks, or celery to the tomato concasse creates a slightly more complex flavor profile and additional color.
Other sauces where adding brunoise cut vegetables to the mix may prove helpful include hot sauces, stocks, and various dips. Getting creative with sauces is one of the easiest things to do with brunoise cut foods.
The single most common use for brunoise cut foods is as an aromatic garnish on dishes. The number of dishes this can be applied to are endless; as it is a finishing touch, the use of brunoise cut garnish will largely come down to the chef’s personal choice.
It is worth exploring brunoise cut foods as a garnish across a variety of dishes to see what calls out to you the most. It is used on meat dishes, curry, sautés, salads, or almost any dish you can imagine.
Brunoise cut vegetables are best for applying an aromatic garnish rather than a flavor hint. While they still hold flavor, the small profile makes them harder to balance in comparison to flavors in the main dish. However, the many sides and cuts release the aroma of the vegetable. This is a great boon for helping dishes have an extra note.
The nature of the perfect cubes from a brunoise cut make it fit better on some dishes than others; a natural and hearty meal may make those square carrots look out of touch, while they are right at home near a plate of restaurant-quality rack of lamb.
Consider the look, feel, and aroma of garnishes before applying them.
Brunoise as a dish is incredibly simple to make and has a small handful of variations. The classic brunoise consists of carrots, onions, leeks, celery, and turnip cut brunoise and cooked gently in butter. This is often used as a flavoring ingredient to accompany other meals such as sauces and soups, but it can be eaten as is.