One of the most important things you need to know, not only during Cook This!, but for cooking in general, is knife skills. Knowing how to handle a knife makes cooking an enjoyable experience. Plus, you can show off all your awesome skills! There are several cuts required for the Cook This! Culinary Challenge. Knife cuts are listed below (check the challenge packet to see which cuts are required for your specific age level).
Dice, small: ¼ in. x ¼ in. x ¼ in.
Dice, large: ¾ in. x ¾ in. x ¾ in.
Julienne: 1/16 in. x 1/16 in. x 2 in long
Brunoise: 1/8 in. x 1/8 in. x 1/8 in.
Slice: a cut that comes from cutting through a product latitudinally (across, not lengthwise)
Mince: an irregular cut that is smaller than 1/16 in.
Chiffonade: a cut made by rolling up leaves (typically basil)and then slicing across the leaves to make thin strips.
Check out this link for an awesome article not only on knife cuts, but types of knives and the parts of a knife: http://chasingdelicious.com/kitchen-101-knives-basic-cuts/
There are two reasons that knife skills enhance your culinary prowess. First, it makes your food more visually appealing. When you see a fresh salsa sold in the store, you would want to see nice little squares of diced onions and peppers. Plus, who wants to bite into a big hunk of pepper in their salsa? Second, and more importantly, it allows your food to cook at the same rate. If your pieces of onion are all the same size, they will sauté at the same rate and finish cooking at nearly the same time. This is especially important when cooking very tough vegetables, like potatoes or carrots, because they take longer to cook and become tender.
Keep working hard and get excited to Cook This!