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I often cut herbs to top off my dishes or as a core ingredient in salsa, sauces, guacamole, or any other similar use. For most purposes I would want a fine chop but in some cases more of a strip is called for to top or garnish. What type of knife should I use and how should I cut it? I'm most interested in the techniques associated with efficiency and safety.

  • What shape are you trying to cut it into? – Cascabel Oct 21 '16 at 1:17
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Strips of herbs is called a chiffonade:

  1. Stack the leaves together.
  2. Roll the leaves into a cigar shape
  3. Slice across them.

I typically use a chef's knife.

If I have multiple herbs, I'll wrap the smaller leaves in one of the larger ones. (eg, basil & oregano)

If you want it minced, then you should "run your knife through" the pile. Which in expression to mean in this context to rock your knife over the pile, turn it, rock it some more ... and keep repeating until everything's the size you want it.

update :

Even though the question clearly stated 'like basil', for other sizes/shapes of leaves, there are ways to efficiently get them into a cut up pile (possibly strips) that you can then mince finer:

For longer-leafed herbs (eg. culantro), you don't need to roll up the leaves. Just stack up what you need, hold them from the stem end, and rock/slice them.

For small leaf herbs, you're not going to get what I'd call strips. It's more like confetti. If you don't have a larger leaf in the recipe to wrap them in (basil, mint, sesame, or even vegetables like spinach), then you'll want to keep the leaves on the stem.

For tender stem plants (celery, parsley, etc. (except for cilantro (green coriander) -- throw that out and use culantro instead, as it doesn't taste like soap), you just hold the stem end and rock/slice your way from the top.

For woody stems, you work similarly, but slow down when you're getting close to the woody part. Then you turn the stem so you're cutting more parallel with the stem, and cut in from one of the sides. Roll the stem over, and continue working in from the side. Repeat until you've gotten off all you can without cutting into the woody stem. If there's still a lot of leaves left, break off the branches of the stems, and either work them individually or stack them up to try to work a bit faster. (For some plants, it's easier to break it off before you start, and work each one individually.)

  • Basil is one of a very few herbs where I can imagine this working. What do you do if you only have herbs with small or irregular leaves? – rumtscho Oct 21 '16 at 7:05
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    If you do this a lot I'd suggest investing in a mezzoluna . – 5arx Nov 8 '16 at 5:35
  • The mess with cilantro, flat leaf parsley.... is how it superglues itself to fingers and cutting boards if still wet from washing... – rackandboneman Nov 8 '16 at 8:53
  • @rackandboneman : the answer for half of that is to never use cilantro. For the flat leaf parsley, if I grow it myself I don't typically wash it. If it comes from the store, hold it by the stem and flick off most of the water (might want to do this outside ... if in an apartment use the bath or shower), then spread out a couple of paper towels, spread the herbs on the towels, then roll it up tightly ... leave it for a minute or two, then unroll and chop them how I mentioned. – Joe Nov 8 '16 at 18:23
  • And if they're still sticky after that -- you shouldn't be touching the leaves for the most part. You hold the stem in one hand, knife in the other. When pushing it back into a pile, use your knife. The only time that you might touch the leaves is if you have to wipe off any that stick to the knife, and I just use a single finger for that. To transfer it, I scoop up the pile with a larger knife, and then dump it into whatever I'm cooking. (which again, might require wiping off the knife) – Joe Nov 8 '16 at 18:27
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For few and even leaves like mint and basil, stacking and cutting works out. It can be used as a garnish too. But if you want to cut herbs like cilantro and any other smaller and softer leaves, I would take a bunch of them in my hand and hold tight, then start chopping from the end, moving the hand backwards till it is done and repeat the process for the remaining Portion. If you are not satisfied with the size rough chopping the finished cut leaves will do. I use lots of leafy vegetables like spinach, amaranthus etc for my regular cooking (south Indian recipes to be precise) in bulk, and I can't finish chopping if I go for stacking few leaves and chopping them (except for garnish may be). I just pluck the leaves and chop them in bunch after washing.

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first of all you have to pluck all basil leaves n roll it titghtly between your index finger n thumb then put it on chopping board n cut it finely, not leaving more space means cut it very finely if u want to chopped it more finely turn basil leaves direction and cut it again..i think u would be satisfied with it...but keep in mind that u dont hve to press the leaves so much otherwise it would loose its colour.

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