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Batonnet is a French culinary term that refers to a specific type of cut used in preparing vegetables such as potatoes for use in other dishes or as an appealing appetizer. Similar to the allumette and julienne, the batonnet is typically the largest of the three cuts and is typically used to set up a vegetable for dicing. This type of cut is typically 1/4 inch (6.35mm) by 1/4 inch (6.35mm) and about 2 inches (about 5 cm) long. Learning how to properly cut a batonnet is one of the most important parts of early culinary training, since fast and precise cutting is often crucial for restaurant food preparation.
The batonnet is typically made by first preparing an item, such as a potato, by cutting off each end and cutting the potato to have four flat sides to work with, like a rectangle. Once the item to be cut is properly squared off, it should be cut into slabs that are 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) in width. These slabs are then stacked upon each other, typically only about three or four high to prevent excess sliding, and then cut again 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) wide.
This creates a final cut that consists of a long stick that is 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) on each side, and can then be cut to about two to three inches (between 5 cm and 7.62 cm) in length for a true batonnet. Unfortunately, though the term specifically refers to this size cut, sometimes there is confusion regarding the size and it can instead be referred to as an allumette or julienne cut. An allumette, the French word for a matchstick, is usually slightly smaller and though similar in length should be 1/8 inch (3.175 mm) by 1/8 inch (3.175 mm) on each side. A true julienne is typically even smaller and is 1/16 inch (1.5875 mm) by 1/16 inch (1.5875 mm) on each side.
Once these long sticks are prepared, it is quite simple to then perform dicing by simply cutting each stick — already stacked during the batonnet cut — across the length of the initial cut to create squares. A small dice typically uses a batonnet cut as the foundation for 1/4 inch (6.35mm) cubes, while the allumette and julienne cuts create a brunoise dice of 1/8 inch (3.175mm) cubes and fine brunoise dice of 1/16 inch (1.5875mm) cubes, respectively. Proper cutting skills often require extensive practice for a chef to learn how to quickly make these cuts while also being as precise as possible regarding the size of each cut.
It really comes down to practice. Most professional chefs and most TV chefs have spent dozens, if not hundreds, of hours preparing foods while learning and working their way up in the industry.
While it looks flashy and impressive on TV, it really comes down to practical requirements of preparing food on a line or in a professional kitchen. They learn to cut and chop fast out of necessity, rather than merely to look good doing it. Much like any craftsman or artist, they have practiced extensively to be as good as they are.
I've never heard of the batonnet cut, but I have done the julienne cut (that is, my version). From watching the food channel, I'm just amazed how quickly and accurately those chefs cut meat and particularly fruits and vegetables.
I've tried to notice and learn the techniques that they use, but it seems to take a lot of practice, or maybe just talent.
When the chefs are cutting fruits and vegetables for a special display for a buffet table, they must have a good eye for size. The pieces look so uniform.
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