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How to Cut Shallots: 4 Easy Techniques

Shallots bring a mild garlicky tang to your dishes and give onion robustness too. Being sweeter and milder in astringency than onions, they’ve long been the preferred choice for cooks wanting oniony depth without intense onion burn and acidity.

Once you know how, cutting and slicing shallots is a kitchen task you’ll master in no time!

In this article, you’ll learn how to shop for shallots, how to prep shallots in the kitchen, different shallot cutting techniques, cooking with shallots and how to store shallots for longevity.  

Shallots vs onions

Shallots vs onions

Shallots are part of the onion (allium) family, but this mini onion is quite unique. Unlike onions, shallots grow in clusters of multiple bulbs whereas larger onions like white onions produce a single bulb.

The shallot is smaller than the onion and each shallot bulb can have multiple cloves, just like garlic.

Unlike onions, shallots have a mild garlic flavor and they’re perfect for giving a subtle onion flavor in dishes where normal onion would be too strong for the flavor profile. 

Picking the best shallots at the store

Selecting good quality produce is key to the success of your meal. Here’s how to get the best shallots:

  • Shallots are available year-round, but they’re best in season, which is April to August
  • Shallots should be without dampness on the skin and the bulbs should feel heavy relative to their size
  • Look for a firm flesh texture without discoloration or mold spores
  • Young and small shallots will be milder in flavor than larger ones
  • If possible, buy shallots wrapped in paper with ventilation holes. Plastic wrap will cause the shallots to sweat and eventually rot

Cleaning and peeling your shallots

Before we move onto cutting, slicing, and dicing and all that good stuff, let’s start at the beginning with cleaning and peeling your shallots.

Here’s how:

You’ll need a chef’s knife and a sturdy, non – slip chopping board here.

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As shallots come in their own protective skin, there’s no need to wash or rinse them unless they’re dusty or still have soil clinging to them. 

Peeling shallots method 1

  1. Separate the shallots, leaving the skins on
  2. Put the shallots into a pot of boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes
  3. After the boiling water has softened the outer skin of the shallots, remove the shallots from the boiling water with a slotted spoon
  4. Drain the shallots and run them under cold water briefly to stop the cooking process
  5. Trim off the root and stem ends of each shallot
  6. At this point by grasping the softened outer (papery) skin at one end of the shallot and squeezing with your fingers, you can pop the shallot out of its outer layer of skin very easily
  7. Discard the papery shallot skins and chop the shallots as desired

Peeling shallots method 2

  1. Holding each shallot securely on your chopping board, cut off the stem end, leaving the root end intact
  2. Now, using your fingernail on the open (stem) end of the shallot, work under the papery skin layer and loosen it from the flesh of the shallot
  3. Once the outer skin is loosened, grip it firmly in your fingers and peel it down the shallot, towards the root end, pulling the peel off as you go and discarding it
  4. You can either trim off the root end at this point or leave it attached to make cutting easier 

How to cut shallots

Cutting shallots

There are a variety of ways that you can slice and dice shallots for easy usage in recipes. We’re going to cover the most useful cuts to know. 

Slicing shallots

  1. Take a peeled shallot, and if you’ve left the root end intact all the layers will still be held together, that’s what you want
  2. Cut the shallot in half lengthways, along its middle, this will give you two halves of shallot
  3. Place the flat side of the shallot half face down on your chopping board, so that the rounded side is facing up towards you
  4.  With your chef’s knife, start on one side of the shallot and cut through the shallot lengthwise, leaving a small space just after the root end so that the ends of the layers remain attached
  5. Continue making vertical cuts along the length of the shallot half from one side to the other until you’ve sliced the whole shallot half through into slices 
  6. Once the flesh of the shallot is sliced through into slices, you can trim off the end root piece that is securing all the layers of shallot together and the slices will fall apart for you to use in your recipe
  7. The wider apart your cuts are, the thicker the slices of shallot will be. Keep the cuts wide for chunky slices and very close together for fine slices of shallot

Cutting shallots into rings

  1. Take a whole peeled shallot and hold it firmly by the root end on the chopping board with your non – knife hand
  2. Holding the shallot in place, take your chef’s knife and starting at the stem end, make a slice through it in one smooth motion so that the flesh falls away in an intact ring 
  3. Decide how thick you want the rings of shallot to be and using that increment as your guide, continue slicing through the shallot (it’ll fall apart into separate rings) until you’ve reached the root end
  4. Once you’ve reached the root end you can discard this or add it to your compost heap
  5. The rings of shallot can now be breaded and fried, used as a garnish or put raw into salads, these are all popular choices
  6. For half rings of shallot, simply cut once through the center of each shallot ring, this will produce half moon shapes or half rings

Cutting shallots into quarters

  1. Take a whole peeled shallot, and holding it firmly on the chopping board with your non – knife hand, use your chef’s knife to cut it in half lengthwise
  2. Take each shallot half and place it face or flat side down on the chopping board 
  3. Find the middle of the shallot half and place your knife at that point vertically, so that you’re going to cut through the shallot half lengthways
  4. Make one sure and smooth cut through midpoint of the shallot half, and it will be divided into 2 pieces, or quarters of shallot
  5. Remove any portions of the root end if these are still present and discard
  6. Continue quartering all the peeled shallots in this way until you have enough to use in your recipe

Dicing shallots

  1. Take a peeled, whole shallot and cut it in half lengthwise, along its longest point
  2. Place each shallot half face down on your chopping board, and hold it securely by the root end
  3. Make vertical cuts lengthwise along its length from root to stem end without cutting through the root material that’s holding the layers together
  4. Once you’ve sliced the halved shallot vertically, you’re going to turn the shallot so that the slices you’ve just made are running horizontal to you (across your body)
  5. Now, holding the shallot slices together with your fingers, you’re going to cut vertically across them from one end of the shallot to the other, until you’ve reached the root end which you can discard
  6.  Bear in mind that wide apart vertical cuts will give you chunky dice of shallot, and cuts close together will give fine dice
  7. Continue until you have the required amount of diced shallot for your recipe

Cooking with shallots

Cooking with shallots
Source: wikipediacommons

As seen in the picture above, shallots are often used as a base ingredient for stock, sauces, and soups because of their gentle onion character. That being said, they’re also fantastic breaded and fried, used in stir fries, pickled with tangy malt vinegar, in hearty stews and casseroles and raw in salads.

Shallot FAQs

How to cut shallots for grilling?

On a barbeque grill, you can either grill shallots whole, or cut them into halves or quarters. Wrapping them in a foil packet with a bit of oil and seasoning is also a good trick and will prevent them burning/cooking too quickly.

What’s the best way to store shallots at home?

Net bags for pantry storage are best as they’re breathable, and shallots should be stored in a cool, dry pantry away from light. 

If you’re storing shallots in the fridge, leave them whole and place in a tightly sealed container.
In the freezer, freeze them whole and they’ll last about 3 months. 

In conclusion

Shallots, although a bit fiddlier than the traditional large onion, add a unique accent to many dishes. 

In this article we’ve covered selecting the best shallots, prepping, slicing, and dicing shallots, and cooking with these flavorsome orbs of goodness.Do join us again on the site for other exciting blog articles on vegetable prep and cookery, knife skills and so much more!

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