One of the first tasks I learned in culinary school at FCI, and one skill that every cook should know how to do, is properly dice an onion. The french term “ciseler” most basically means to finely dice an onion or shallot. Properly dicing an onion involves creating uniform cuts both horizontally and vertically. This combination will produce a fine, small dice that keeps most of the juices from excreting (which naturally occurs when cutting any veg). For this HOW TO, I would recommend using a very sharp knife. A sharp edge means less juice and less tears! So here’s how to…dice an onion!
Step 1) Clean the Onion
– Start by cutting off each end of the onion (the root and tip). Be careful not to take the entire root end off. Having some root will hold the vegetable together, making the dice much easier.
– Once both ends are removed, use your knife to remove the outer skin. If the next layer is dry or slimy, feel free to remove that layer as well.
Step 2) Portion the Onion
– Once the onion is cleaned, it’s time to portion the onion in half. To do this, cut the onion in half, lengthwise, from root to tip. You should have half of the root on both portions, holding the onion layers in place.
Step 3) Slice the Onion Horizontally
– Now it’s time to “ciseler” the onion. Lay half of the onion, flat side down, on the cutting board with the root end away from your knife blade. Starting closest to the cutting board, make a horizontal slice through the onion, making sure to not cut through the root entirely.
– Next, move up the onion about 1 mm, and make another horizontal cut. Again, make sure not to cut all the way through! Continue this process until you reach the top of the onion.
Step 4) Slice the Onion Vertically
– Starting at either end of the onion, make vertical cuts lengthwise across the onion (root to tip). Make sure the cuts are also 1 mm apart (or the same distance as your horizontal cuts). This will insure that your dice is even!
Step 5) Complete the Dice
– Now that the onion is sliced both vertically and horizontally, it’s time to finish the dice. To do this, cut the onion from the top of the onion down to the cutting board. Again, the more even the slices, the more even the finished dice. An even dice should fall from the onion.
– Repeat this entire process on the other half of the onion. Your final product will be an even onion dice you can use for your next meal!