As explained in the section on washing, leeks are easiest to clean when they are
first sliced in half vertically so all the dirt can be scoured from them at the same
However, some recipes call for cutting leeks into full rounds or for leaving them
whole (mostly for small or baby leeks.)
In these cases, cut only from below the “dirt band,” since, as a general rule, this
part of the leek is free of embedded dirt so it needn’t be cut open for washing.
Rounds cut from at or above the dirt band must be pulled apart and washed before
use (the Swirling Method is recommended under these circumstances.)
Sticks Big and Small Start with leek halves lying flat sides down for stability:
Half MoonsPlace washed leek halves flat sides down for stability, then slice crosswise
to thickness directed by a recipe, usually about 1/4".
Slice lengthwise one or more times for long strips of various sizes. These make
fun, noodle-like additions to a dish.
Cut long strips crosswise for matchsticks. These are nice for stir-frying and making
Slice leek halves crosswise for half barrels of different lengths that are good for
braising and roasting.
These cutting techniques may remind you of the cutting instructions for zucchini,
and for good reason. Even though they have little else in common besides the color
green, zucchini and leeks are both long, cylindrical vegetables which makes cutting
Whole, Halves and Quarters When leeks are the star ingredient in a dish, they are
often used whole, or simply sliced lengthwise into halves (or quarters for very large
leeks.) Once cut this way, they are commonly braised, steamed, or grilled.
It can be easier to make some of the smaller cuts on leeks with a paring knife rather
than a chefs knife.
For these leek cuts, take special care to just barely slice off the the roots.
This will leave enough of the connective base to keep the leeks layers together.
However, the bond is tenuous, so continued care must be taken throughout the cooking
process if the leeks are to stay together.
Slice green tops from the other end of wholes or halves. For whole leeks, slice
well below the Dirt Band so the white bottoms are free of dirt. If dirt is still
embedded in a whole leek, slice in half lengthwise, just far enough down to wash
out the inner layers.
Julienned LeeksFor many vegetables, julienning is made easy with a juilienner tool
like the one to the left. While this handy tool can’t be used on something as soft
as leeks, the thin flexible layers of a leek make another technique possible:
Peel off several layers. Both white and green parts of a layer can be julienned,
but they should be kept separate since they are treated differently.
Or faster yet, just slice long strips into 2-3” lengths.
Stack layers, slick inner surfaces facing down. Using a sharp paring knife, slice
thinly as directed by recipe (usually between 1/8” and 1/4”.) Cut Strips into shorter
lengths, as directed by recipe.
Alternatively, cut leeks halves into 2-3” half barrels,and slice each into thin strips.
Full RoundsCut crosswise to thickness directed by a recipe, usually about 1/4",
being sure to cut below the dirt band (see Note to the right.)