How to Chiffonade Basil (or Any Leafy Herb)

08/15/2014 at 10:55 AM ET

Basil Chiffonade
Courtesy Food 52

The term “chiffonade” — which roughly translates to “made of rags” — is one of those bits of cooking lingo, like confit or sous-vide, that intimidates by its very sound. But in terms of actual difficulty, chiffonade comes in at about a 1 out of 10.

The chiffonade technique is commonly used for basil, mint, or lettuces, and it’ll make your leafy greens of any size look like a pretty, fluffy pile of ribbon. Here’s how to do it:

First, stack your leaves. Start small: You’ll want around 10 leaves at a time, according to Fine Cooking, though with a bit of practice you can make your stacks even bigger. We like to layer bigger leaves at the bottom and smaller ones on top.

Basil Chiffonade
Courtesy Food 52

Next, roll the stack lengthwise, as tightly as possible. It should look like a cigar.

Basil Chiffonade
Courtesy Food 52

Now you’re ready to slice across the cigar. You’ll need a very sharp blade: Our Test Kitchen Manager Allison says that the knife of choice in culinary school was a paring knife, which you’d pull towards you while cutting with just the tip of the blade, to get a very precise, super-thin chiffonade. We usually use a bigger blade, like a chef’s knife, and employ a more traditional slicing motion. Allison also keeps things tidy by removing the tips first, and discarding them (or using them for less-exact garnishes).

Basil Chiffonade
Courtesy Food 52

Either way, the closer the cuts, the thinner and more delicate your chiffonade will be. Continue slicing until you reach the stem.

Basil Chiffonade Basil Chiffonade
Courtesy Food 52

To avoid the “paper doll” effect — where the strips stick together — Allison recommends following through completely with your knife, with a slight forward motion once the entire blade makes contact with the board.

If you’re worried about browning, chiffonade your herbs just before you use them. And then voilà, you’ve got a lovely addition to salads, pastas, fish, or even fruit — before you could even say sous-vide.

Basil Chiffonade
Courtesy Food 52

How do you use your chiffonaded herbs? Do you have any tips for achieving perfect ribbons? Tell us in the comments!

—Talia Ralph 

This article was originally published on Food52, a site that brings cooks together to share recipes, ideas and support.

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FILED UNDER: Expert Tips , Food , PEOPLEskills

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