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Is there an easy/safe way to chop a lot of carrots?

The only time (so far) I've made Hazan's Bolognese I made a huge batch that necessitated chopping several cups of carrots. Carrots are so hard that chopping them small enough without cutting myself takes quite a while as I'm careful while doing it. Do you have a trick for chopping a large amount of carrots in a safe and efficient manner? Thanks.

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  1. This is why they invented the Cuisinart. They really are a good investment.

    7 Replies
    1. re: SFDude

      I have one. I've just been concerned about getting pieces too small or not uniform. Am I being overly cautious? Thanks, Dude.

      1. re: c oliver

        Many people haven't learned to use a food processor properly. It's not so much a question of caution as of technique. You can't just dump whole vegetables in the bowl, turn the machine on, and expect uniform pieces. To achieve that, first, cut the trimmed, peeled carrots into about 1-inch lengths. Yes, I know. People say why bother to cut them if if you're putting them in the processor anyway. But that's the secret to evenly-sized pieces. And don't put in more than 2 cups of carrots at a time. Pulse 2 or 3 times for a coarse chop; 4 or 5 for a moderate one; 6 or 7 for a moderately fine one. For a fine chop, you can process for 10 seconds nonstop (for about 2 carrots) or up to 20 or 30 seconds for a larger amount.

        I have fairly good knife skills, so don't bother with the food processor if I'm only cutting up one or two carrots or onions. But if I'm doing a whole bunch, it still faster for me to cut the vegetable into smallish chunks and process in batches than to do it by hand.

        1. re: JoanN

          I think JoanN has it bascially right; the exact technique probably depends on your food processor. For mine, the critical element is not overloading it. In addition, for something like a bolognese, there can be a fair amount of variation in size without any bad effects as long as there aren't any large chunks.

          1. re: SFDude

            Thank you both. No, Joan, I think the cutting into short pieces makes perfect sense. And I agree with both of you that not overloading is key. At least it always has been for me with other things. I'm now looking forward to chopping those THREE cups of carrots :)

            1. re: c oliver

              I don't cut mine small but I don't overload but a large piece in with my push piece and it goes down nicely and slices. Same with the next piece. Still way faster than hand chopping. I do probably 5" but I don't put too much in at once. Every processor is different. Use what works for you best.

              1. re: c oliver

                Only 3 cups? Want to try our family secret? We use a crinkle cutter. The "secret" part is that crinkle cutting makes carrots taste better. ;)It's particularly nice when I make holiday carrots (steam carrots with diced apricots and raisins, then toss with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon). I hear you on the chopping and sore hands. I had four hand surgeries and have been good as new now for more than 10 years. Before that, it hurt to chop veggies.

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  Nice recipe. I may have to try that.

      2. The recipe I read called ( http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...) for only 2/3 c of chopped carrots. That is not much. ANd rom reading the recipe, it is not clear that they end up as visible objects in the sauce after it has simmer for at least 3 hours. So to save tons o' time, I would just coarse grate them.

        2 Replies
          1. re: Quine

            If the carrots are going to cook to disintegration anyway, then you can just throw them into a blender for a coarse chop if you don't have a food processor.

          2. You need to learn the "claw" method of holding the carrots or anything else for that matter. You cannot cut yourself that way. Basic knife skills. Google and there will be videos that will show you much better than I can tell you.
            Another thing, cut the carrot in half lengthwise so it has a flat area to lie on and won't roll around.
            Learn the claw and you will never be afraid again.
            I'll see it I can find a good video and come back to you.

            18 Replies
            1. re: billieboy

              Thanks. I know and use the method. And I cut them the way you say. It's just that they're quite hard --- or may be just the fact that I have quite weak hands.

              1. re: c oliver

                or maybe your knife isn't sharp enough? I have a ceramic knife and it just glides through the carrots if I halve them

                1. re: c oliver

                  OK good luck...BTW for anyone else interested I found a good video by Chad Ward who is an honest to God expert. Has a good book on kitchen knives.

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq0FH2...

                  1. re: billieboy

                    That's an excellent video. I knew the "claw" but not the "pinch." I think that will help. Thanks, bb.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      At the end of that video you can click on to some of his others, like dicing onions etc. He is an excellent teacher.

                      1. re: billieboy

                        I saw that and saved it. He's also quite easy to look at :) (My husbands' been out of time for a few days!) That pinch technique will give some needed stability. I really do have weak hands; this should help. I'll report back.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          C Oliver. Stop! Stop right there! If you have small (like many women do) or weak hands;Don't try to use a large chef's knife!!!! this is a mistake many women make. heck, in school and in kitchens I worked in, I was yelled at for using the Non-traditional Pinch grip. But it is now accepted as a grip that is more secure.

                          After over 45 years in the business (I had to be over a certain age before I could really "man" a knife in the family place) I learned: I have a smaller hand then men, I have a different hand grip size. Many good knives have grips that are too large for me to comfortabliy use or control of any period of time.
                          The balance, weight and grip all matter. Use a knife comfortable to YOU, one you feel secure holding and that does not tire you, WHy use a 12 or even a 10 inch chef, if a 8 in one works?

                          remember, it is the knife that is an extension of your hand, not your hand trying to control a "official" knife, and controlling you.

                          1. re: Quine

                            Actually my hands are the size of many men --- pretty long but thin. And also had carpal tunnel surgery decades ago and never worked to recover a ton of strength. Also have kind of a chronic tendonitis in my right thumb (lord, I'm a mess!) So my hands are weak. But, yeah, perhaps I should try out some smaller chef's knives and see how they feel. Thanks SO much for weighing in.

                            1. re: Quine

                              I have fairly severe arthritis in my right (dominant) hand, and I find that my biggie 10" chef's knife is a life saver. I need to exert lots less pressure than with my smaller knife.

                              1. re: Quine

                                I too have arthritis in my right hand, but I still find, as I have found for the last fifty years or so, that what works best for me is fitting the knife to the job. If I'm slicing onions or zucchini or even big fat carrots, I NEED my 10" chef's knife. The blade never leaves the cutting board but just "rocks" through whatever I'm slicing, the weight of the knife helps do that, and my hand isn't tortured by trying to lift a smaller blade to get it high enough to cut thick things. But I'm also a firm believer in "To each his own."

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  All of these replies are helping me. Thanks. The pinch technique feels stronger.

                            2. re: billieboy

                              I used the "pinch" technique for the first time and, although yes a little awkward the first time, it gave me ALOT more stability. And I think that compensates for some of my weakness. Yay!.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Can you describe the pinch technique for those of us dial-up Luddites who can't play video on our computers? TIA!

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  I can. The knife's back or spine is gripped between thumb and forefinger. This is just after the bolster of the knife and above the heel. You are pinching on the spine and your fingertips extend onto the sides of the blade.
                                  The heel is the rear-most part of the blade where you can exert maximum down-force.

                                  1. re: Scargod

                                    Excellent. I couldn't have figured out how to describe that. It also felt to me that my hand and remaining fingers became more a part of the handle, giving me if not more strength then at least more stability.
                                    BTW,gg, I could play the video but it took at least twice as long as it should because of the long pauses I usually get with things like that. But anything is faster than my old dial-up.

                      2. re: billieboy

                        Agreed billieboy! And be sure you're holding the knife correctly (hint, if you don't have a callous at the base of your index finger . . .) Lastly, practice leads to speed and perfection!

                        1. re: billieboy

                          Don't even try the cut a carrot in half deal, just slice off a piece (small slice) of the long side where is is thick. *Then* you have a flat stable side that you can now proceed to slice, cut, halve lenghtwise etc. If you have a real long skinny carrot, cut it in half top/bottom wise, so the thin piece you can chop easier and do the flat side making on the thick part. This works very well for all round wobbly veggies.

                          1. re: Quine

                            and actually.... that is what i do. It's too much of a pain to actually cut the carrot (or any veg) in half. But practice, practice, practice. I developed my knife skills on my own, then decided to go to a class at sur la table.... and found that I didn't even need it, lol.

                        2. When I make curries for 20 to 100 people, I use the food processor for onions and tomatoes. I would use it for carrots as well. Pulse some cut up chunks, making sure to not puree.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Oh, boy, someone finally is giving me permission to do this!!!! Sam, now YOU'RE my favorite. (I say that to each of our daughters - now 30 and 32 - and say shhh, don't tell the other one.)

                            Do you cook for 20 to 100 for pleasure??? I can just see your having some big yard and everyone gathers for an afternoon of cooking and libations :)

                            1. re: c oliver

                              The last Director General of our institute was a friend of mine from our post-doc days. They had the huge yard, tent awnings, long sturdy folding tables, plastic chairs, big kitchen inside and an even better one outside with industrial stoves and pots. His wife (a far better cook than ma and a well published tenured prof in a Canadian university) and I would often cook for multitudes. Then a lot of people have gotten married, and I've cooked for a lot of those receptions. Have always had a set of cooking colleagues as line cooks for these bigger occasions. At my place the numbers are way smaller so I can do it all - and use the food processor for a lot of tasks.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Sign me up. I'll be your kitchen slave. Haven't been to Colombia yet. Nor has my husband and he spent alot of time in Latin America. After "meeting" you I asked him and he hasn't either. He's VERY good at cleaning up afterwards and setting tables :)

                            1. re: purple goddess

                              Is "V-slicer" a mandoline? How would I get chopped carrots from that? Or maybe it's some other device I don't know about.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                yes. A mandoline. Ours turns carrots into julienne and then you load up the delivery slot, with all the julienned sticks, much like matchsticks all in a row, and then run them through again on a thin blade. Viola, diced carrots!

                                1. re: purple goddess

                                  Ah. VERY interesting. Thanks for sharing that tip.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Another option, depending on what you are using them for, is just to grate them.

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      I think the grater or FP will be the way I'll go.

                            2. I have this old (very unsafe for most people) hand crank rotary slider very similar to this picture: http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y63/...

                              I love it, whip through carrots to make either slices for salads or shredded for salads or sandwich mound. I fly through shredded cabbage, brocolli stalk, cheese - just change the cone. Mine attaches to my counter top. I think kitchenaid has a similar (safer) attachement.

                              1. Well, to revert to Cuisinart, I have all sorts of disks for mine, in addition to the standard blades. I have slicing disks that range from 1mm to 8mm, French fry discs, julienne discs, shredding and grating disks, as well as a whipping attachment that fits inside the bowl,

                                I'm not that familiar with your recipe, but if I wanted a finely chopped carrot, I would probably shred it first, then give it a whirr with the blade. For cutting by hand, I've also cheated on occasion and partially cooked the carrots before dicing or cutting when they're going to cook further in a dish. Makes them MUCH easier to handle!

                                1. i don't know hazan's bolognese recipe, but iirc, any bolognese sauces i've encountered don't have any chopped carrots visible -- any carrot component has broken down. thus, i'd just grate them with the food processor. if you want chopped carrots to stay in that shape, use the disc slicer in the processor, then chop the processed carrots by hand.

                                  1. I think many have missed the obvious. Use the thinnest knife you have, with as acute an angle as you can get. This may mean resharpening a knife to 16-18 degrees. A big, thick Chef's knife is probably sharpened to 22 or more degrees. This big wedged blade will be hard to get through a hard carrot. You push and push and them it goes bam! and "breaks" through. This reduces control and the blade might roll on you.
                                    You want a more razor-like blade so little pressure and effort is required. I love my Granton style Shun Santuko for these kinds of jobs!

                                    I think using the pinch grip, so you can get the pressure more directly over the carrot is preferable for you, seeing as how you have reduced strength in your hands. Then you are pushing more with your palm, too.

                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      Ok, I've been admiring your posts for a while but now you have officially joined my growing list of heroes. Perfect description of the "bam" effect when cutting carrots! A new knife sounds wonderful. I've been trying really, really hard to not spend since we've lost 1/3 of our retirment $$$. But that too is going on my short list. Thanks, Scargod.

                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          I did and I saved it. I tried not to look TOO closely :) If the Dow continues up, maybe. Thanks, S

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        Or since they're going into a sauce to be cooked down, you can simply par cook them until tender, after which you can slice them with a butter knife! Pragmatic and it works.

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          caroline, won't par cooking remove some of their goodness?

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Yes, but ONLY if you boil them and throw way the water. There are two options... If the sauce is boiled long enough, you can add whole carrots, boil until they're soft, mash them and return them (or even put them in a blendor with some of the sauce), and the other method is to steam them. Steaming wull not only retain all the flavor, it is also a faster cooking method than boiling.

                                          2. re: Caroline1

                                            Damn you Caroline! (envision Jon Stewart shaking his fist and screaming at the top of his lungs). You're so, so...pragmatic! How about a short nuke? You lose no vitamins or flavor?
                                            Hah! (and thank you ms. oliver)

                                            1. re: Scargod

                                              LOL! Gave you ever tried to nuke carrots? You can nuke a zucchini bare naked for three minutes, slash it open and dump in some butter. Delicious! You can nuke a potato for 6 or 7 minutes, slash it open, dump in some butter. Delicious! Can't do that with a carrot unless you put the carrot in a microwave safe cooking vessel and cover it completely with water. Steam your carrots on the stove top. No vitamin loss, no flavor loss, and they WILL get tender!

                                              But let me also add that "modern science" has worked very hard on improving the nukability of carrots. Carrots just flat out would not cook in my first Amana Radarange way back in the "whenever," Then, after a bunch of years, my not-with-me-long Iranian housekeeper killed the Radarange by trying to nuke a potato in it while I was outside grilling steaks... She put the potato in a copper pan in water with the lid on it and nuked it for ten minutes. KILLED the magnetron. The new microwave (forget what brand it was, but I think it was Japanese) did a little better job cooking carrots, but not by much.

                                              Anyway, steam your carrots, keep their flavor.... '-)

                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                Unless the vegetables are part of a one-pot meal like stew or stir-fry, I ONLY steam them. They taste better and clean-up is a breeze. Why would you boil the goodness out of a vegetable and then pour the water down the drain???

                                                  1. re: billieboy

                                                    Unless a 1 pot as you stated, steamed, all the times. I put 1/2 or less water in a pan and lightly steam or you my collander steamer. Usually just a small saute pan. Sometimes just the mesh steamer I put them in as I sliced them over a pot of water. Anything handy.

                                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                                      You talkin' to me? Am I your collander steamer? Doesn't take much to get me steaming.
                                                      Ahem: Ladies, I was just wondering (before), what you'd do with the liquid if your parboil them. Thus, I suggested microwaving, which I don't think I've ever done, as I recall..... Everything BUT a carrot. I've replaced a magnetron... really (seriously).

                                            2. re: Scargod

                                              Actually, while you have a point, of sorts, the thinnest knife can bend going into a hard veggie like a carrot. I am thinking of my 9 in filet knive, very thin, very sharp and so not for cutting carrots. PLus the OP wanted to cut carrots for a recipe easily and getting one's knives resharpened to new angles entirely, may well be way more of an undertaking than teh OP was looking for.
                                              I have always sharpened my chef's knives to the sort of angle you mention, yeah to me they are too thick, as is from the store. But then I have been sharpening my own knives since I was about 15 yo...ahem well over 40 years now. Myself, for chopping hard veggies or fruit (think pineapple) I use my chinese cleaver. And I use the pinch method on that as well.

                                            3. I just saw a way to julienne carrots that was new to me, on "Christina Cooks". She sliced a carrot into thin crosswise slices, fanned them in a straight line, then went down the line with her chef's knife, in a rocking motion, slicing the coins crosswise into julienne. She may have done the same with zucchini - I didn't see the whole thing. It would also work for eggplant and butternut squash, though you'd want to halve them lengthwise before cutting the first set of crosswise slices.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                seems like that would be a very short julienne. maybe i'm wrong in assuming julienne needs to be of some length?

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  From the epicurious food dictionary:
                                                  "julienne
                                                  [joo-lee-EHN, zhoo-LYEHN]
                                                  n . Foods that have been cut into thin, matchstick strips. The food (such as a potato) is first cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices. The slices are stacked, then cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips. The strips may then be cut into whatever length is desired."

                                                  In general, I hear "matchstick" size as typical size shape for julienne. So Yes, depending on thick around those carroty coins were; they could be shorter than typical. But if one cuts the coins on a bias, getting oblong coins, this technique would still work, producing a longer edge. However, personally, I'd shred carrots I could use that small. :)

                                                  1. re: Quine

                                                    Here's how Everyday Food magazine described the pieces: j
                                                    julienne - 1/16" thick and 1-2" long; matchstick - 1/8" thick and 1-2" long; baton - 1/4" thick and 1-2" long.

                                                    You're right, alkapal, the sticks were of varying length. She used a BIG carrot. While this method doesn't yield uniformly perfect sticks, it went fast and there were no safety issues as there are with trying to make a lengthwise cut without the carrot rolling. I like to marinate julienned vegetables, then put them atop fish or chicken before baking. The prep takes a long time and the carrots are the hardest ones (in both senses of hard) to do, so I'm giving this a try next time.
                                                    Quine, cutting the coins on a bias would help only if you make the second cut on a bias as well (or turn all the coins 90 degrees and re-fan first), since the stick length is determined by the second crosswise cut.

                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                      >>>>I like to marinate julienned vegetables, then put them atop fish or chicken before baking.<<<<
                                                      ...or throw on top of fried rice, an asian soup, or a salad of any sort, or cottage cheese...

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        I like my julienne vegetables best when Julie cuts them herself.

                                                      2. re: greygarious

                                                        greygarious, actually no. think 0 not o. I have actually used this method alot over the various years as a quick and not overly precise (as in presentation) to julienne a carrot, anything more than that, out comes the Benriner. :)

                                                2. I got one of those thingies at W-S that cubes veggies into a hopper. http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                                                  I'm not big on gadgets but this thing can cut through dense carrots, raw potatoes, winter squash, etc. like mad. I use it for veggie curries and chowders.

                                                  Three cups of attractive, uniform carrot cubes will take you about 5 minutes once you peel them and cut them into lengths that will fit across the blades. It will go through 3/4" of veggie but you probably want them thinner than 3/4" so slice them as deep as you want them to turn out, stack 'em up and whack 'em.

                                                  It comes with bladed grids of several sizes. I've got a Cuisinart too but when veggies are the main ingredient, this thing prepares them to cook uniformly and look very attractive.

                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: rainey

                                                    What a slick gadget that is! Thanks for sharing.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      Be advised they recommend it for soft things like summer squash and onions but I've been using it with carrots and winter squash for a good while with no problems. And it's cheap so if it breaks it's not like I can't replace it.

                                                      I did break a few of the plastic teeth on the small version chopping frozen walnuts into tiny bits. They impacted in the grid and spread the blades so the blades chopped off the plastic guides. Oops! W-S replaced it and I let them thaw a bit now. ;>

                                                      But I think the bigger one would do your carrots lickety split.

                                                      Oh! With the hard things, it's a little like karate -- you know, breaking the cinderblock with your hand. You've got to summon your courage and do it like you mean it. ;> Give it a sharp whack!

                                                      1. re: rainey

                                                        It reminds me of the Veg-A-Matic I bought way back in the '60s. It did French fries, sliced, diced, did everything it did in the TV commercials. Until I tried to slice a tomato "just like" they did in the commercial. I think the TV tomato was much firmer than my nice ripe juicy one.... That ended up all over my kitchen!

                                                        1. re: rainey

                                                          I can't see it lasting long with hard carrots. There are plastics, and well designed tools in plastic, that will hold up and do the job. I mean, there are plastic housings for car alternators that take the heat and strain. The problem I have is with cheap products made with inferior plastics, usually made in China. Few are made with the grade of reinforced, glass-filled plastic that the design requires. I have a now useless grater, where the frame is broken into many pieces. I have a cheese grinder that flexes all over the place when I try to grate Parmesan cheese. I am very wary of plastic cooking utensils...

                                                          1. re: Scargod

                                                            True. They aren't the target veggies it's designed for. But I do carrots and other dense veggies with it successfully.

                                                            I'm not expecting it to last forever at that price but it's easier to pull out than a mandoline and can do a large julienne, it goes in the dishwasher for cleaning, it does a LOT of veggies quick and there's no risk of getting cut with it.

                                                            1. re: Scargod

                                                              Those "thingies" are called alligator choppers and, as there are professional and expensive mandolines, there are professional and expensive alligator choppers. If anyone is seriously interested and put off only by the cheap plastic, they might want to consider one like this, designed for professional kitchens.

                                                              http://www.bridgekitchenware.com/brow...

                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                Thanks for that tip! I'm filing that resource away for the time when I'm ready to replace the plastic.

                                                                As I said, for a veggie curry or a quart of stuff for canning relish or a chowder the ability to whack out several cups of veggies that cook evenly is sometimes the difference in getting started and choosing a different item altogether.

                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                  Would you post that to my thread about cookware if you recommend the place: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6065... Have you bought from them? THX

                                                                2. re: Scargod

                                                                  Almost all Chinese products of similar materials are of the same quality as stuff made elsewhere. Lets all try to behave globally.

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    Thanks, Sam. I hate when that broad brush stroke gets used.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Now folks, I said usually and I said cheap products. I do not recant. Look at the OXO thread about all the stuff that is made from plastics and urethane that breaks or is inferior. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5534...
                                                                      Some of Oxo's products are well made and a few are not made in China. A made in China, plastic-framed, Microplane grater fell apart and the other crank grater is very flexible and binds up. Usually these are not cheap, either!
                                                                      Anyone/any country can make inferior products or use inferior materials, but the fact remains that much or most of it comes from China.
                                                                      If you can afford them, I have found that US and European products are usually superior.
                                                                      Having been in the product design/manufacturing business most of my life, I am often amazed at what is manufactured and marketed. I get my big paws on it and it lasts two seconds! I don't want these "play like" kitchen tools.

                                                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                      not drywall, sam. ask those folks in florida.
                                                                      or baby formula
                                                                      or candy
                                                                      or pet food
                                                                      or toys

                                                                      and scargod, i agree with you about the american and european plastics.

                                                                      i've also bought stove-top drip pans from china labeled "stainless steel" -- and they rusted so fast, it really made me angry. i'm very wary about chinese products. quite obviously, not every chinese product is a problem, but there does seem to be many widespread "quality control" issues.