Kitchn Love Letters

The Best Tool for Chopping Herbs Is Not a Knife

published Jun 25, 2021
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Fresh homegrown cilantro herbs, plant based food, local produce, close up, top view. Organic green leaf vegetables, healthy vegan eating, harvest time
Credit: Getty Images | istetiana

Unquestionably, one of the best ways to make a dish taste better is to add fresh herbs. And summer, with all its lush greenery, brings it in the fresh-herbs department. (Of course, you can grow herbs inside year-round with a little bit of know-how or smart equipment. Or, you know, just buy them any time you want.) My point? This is the time of year when I use herbs in anything and everything: chopped herb salads, pestos, marinades, compound butters, and cocktails with a savory sprig in their step.

But herbs are often as delicate as they are flavorful, and bruise easily with an unwieldy knife blade. And apart from the occasional muddled drink, they really shouldn’t be bruised. That’s why, for chopping herbs, I prefer a mezzaluna over a knife or even kitchen shears.

What’s a mezzaluna? A mezzaluna is a knife with a curved blade (although there are plenty of mezzalunas with two or three matching blades). The shape helps you achieve a back-and-forth rocking motion that works incredibly well for slicing, chopping, and mincing. And while single-handled mezzalunas exist, they don’t give you the satisfying see-sawing motion that you get from the double-handled version. Although you can find many interpretations of this fun-to-use kitchen tool, I prefer one that has a handle at either end of a single, curved blade.

Of course, for it to work well, a mezzaluna’s blade also has to be thin and wickedly sharp. “Basically, a razor blade with handles,” says Christopher Arturo, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. That quality, along with its curved blade and rocking motion, means it slices cleanly through a pile of parsley without crushing the herb and releasing its essential oils too early.

You might be asking: But is a mezzaluna good for just herbs? Of course not! It deftly chops lettuce, leafy greens, garlic, ginger, and any and all nuts. It’s great for making pesto, too — mincing together basil, pine nuts, and garlic. It’s also frequently used to chop up cheese and meat.

I could go on, but you probably want your own mezzaluna by now, right? Of course you do! They’re often sold with a shallow wood bowl or indented board to accommodate the cutting edge, which adds to their charm and makes them extra-neat to use (I mean that in cool-ness and tidy-ness). You can find some truly beautiful sets on Etsy, but Amazon sells a perfectly nice mezzaluna by the German manufacturer Triangle — at a pretty perfect price (less than $20!).

Do you have a mezzaluna? Let us know in the comments!