Bell peppers are great in lots of dishes! They can be used cooked or raw; you can stuff them, dice them, stew them, or scatter rings in a salad. And they’re quite good for you, too. Yet large peppers are pretty awkward and strange to cut, what with the seeds and ribs and the tough skin. While there are many ways to cut bell peppers, they mostly boil down to two: hollowed-out peppers, which can be cut into rings, or julienne strips, which can be cut crosswise into dice.
EditHollowing a Whole Pepper
- Cut the stem end from the body of the pepper. Most cooks will find it easiest to lay the pepper on its side, the stem toward your strong side (the right if you’re a righty), and then cut crosswise just below the “shoulders.” The entire stem and its base should come off in one piece.
- Depending on the pepper, there may be quite a bit of flesh remaining attached to the stem, which can be cut free and chopped if desired.
- Alternatively, the point of a sharp paring or similar knife can be inserted between the stem and the shoulder. Then rotate the pepper in one hand while holding the knife firmly in the other. The stem should come away cleanly.
- Cut the ribs and seeds away from the flesh. Start by turning the pepper so its opening faces you. Insert the point of a smallish, sharp knife (such as a paring knife) into the pepper and cut through the ribs close to the flesh. Rotate the pepper’s body and continue cutting until all the ribs and seeds are loose, and remove.
- When using hot peppers, don’t touch your eyes or other sensitive areas until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly, preferably in an acidic solution (a little vinegar or lemon juice does the trick). Wearing gloves may be wise with very hot peppers.
- Remove the remaining seeds. Bang the pepper’s opening against your hand or a cutting board, or rinse under cold water.
- Cut crosswise into rings (optional). Turn the pepper sideways as in step 1 above. Cut crosswise into thin or thick rings, as desired.
- Peel the main flesh of the pepper (optional). Using a good vegetable peeler, serrated or not, start at the rounded shoulders and peel toward the point. You won’t be able to peel everything, because some parts will be in the dents or pleats, and not accessible to the flat blade.
- Peeling peppers makes them more delicate to bite and flavor. The skins are somewhat bitter, especially with green peppers, as well as being tough to chew.
- Separate the flesh along the pleats. Place the pepper point-side down on a cutting board, or hold firmly in your off-hand if you’re comfortable cutting in-hand. Insert a sharp knife’s point into the top of each pleat, at the stem, and cut downward until you reach the point. Rotate the pepper and repeat until the flesh is separated into sections. Pull the sections outward, away from the stem, and they’ll break off neatly.
- Peel the remaining flesh (optional). Now that all the flesh is accessible, complete the peeling process.
- Remove the veins and seeds. Lay the sections flat on the board, and either cut the veins and seeds free or else pinch and pull them off with your fingers. Cutting is cleaner and faster, but it does mean using a knife quite close to the off-hand fingers.
- Most of the seeds and veins will have been removed in step 2, but there will likely be some still stuck here and there. If you’re not looking for perfectly clean julienne or dice, you may be able to skip this step.
- Cut lengthwise into julienne strips. Turn the sections so they run front-to-back, parallel to your knife. With a smooth cutting motion guided by the knuckles of your off hand, cut the flesh into strips of the desired thinness.
- Dice the strips (optional). Rotate the julienne strips 90 degrees on the board and cut again as before, creating even dice.
- Cut the pepper in half lengthwise. Stand the pepper on its point. Using a large, sharp knife (chef’s knife, etc.), cut straight down through the base of the stem and to the point, splitting the pepper.
- Remove the stem from both halves. With the point of the knife (a paring knife is probably easier for this part), cut around where the stem part meets the flesh, and discard the stem.
- Pull out the ribs. With the knife or your fingers, cut or pull out all the whitish ribs.
- Remove the remaining seeds. Bang the pepper halves, open-end down, on the cutting board or your open hand.
- Cut in strips. Lay the pepper skin-side down, with the point end toward you. With your knife and off-hand in the usual position, knuckles guiding blade, cut in strips.
- Dice (optional). Turn the strips 90 degrees on the board and cut as before.
- This method is faster than the previous one, but it’s also less delicate. You can’t get the peel off fully, for one thing. In addition, this method will tend to break the flesh here and there a little bit.
- The skin of a pepper is remarkably tough, and can easily crush rather than cutting. For this reason, as when cutting the pepper’s close-cousin the tomato, it is very important to use a sharp knife. If clean cuts are unimportant to you, a serrated knife works pretty well.
- It is generally better, when cutting the flesh on a board, to put the skin side down. That way you won’t crush the flesh.
- As with any fresh ingredient, begin by washing the pepper(s) well in cold water. Then continue by choosing whether you want your peppers (1) hollow or in rings, or (2) in julienne strips or dice.
- When selecting peppers, choose ones that are glossy and firm to the touch. Avoid those that are wrinkly, soft, or dull.
- Bell peppers keep well in the refrigerator for 3-5 days after purchase. Keep in the salad drawer if possible.
- If your knife is very sharp and you’re pretty dexterous, try this quick trick to remove the ribs from a hollowed-out pepper (Method 1). When you insert the knife, make sure the blade is away from you. Then, as you cut through each rib, roll the pepper away from you. With practice, you’ll find that you can do the whole rib-removal job in one quick motion, which looks very cool!
- Take the usual precautions when handling a sharp knife.
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