I've heard numerous times (especially in connection with Italian dishes) that you shouldn't cut basil with a knife, but rather tear it with your hands. I've heard two different reasons for this:
the steel knife oxidizes the basil causing the edges to turn black (which is visually unappealing);
the tearing bruises the basil and releases more oil from the leaf than simply cutting it would.
But, I'm skeptical of (1) and don't particularly care about the color issue anyway (I consider this a negligible issue; additionally, you could use a plastic knife if the steel knife is really the cause of the supposed oxidation). Also, with (2) you could simply bruise the leaves before cutting and still save time especially if you need to cut/tear a lot of basil.
Examples of the claim:
- Seasoned Advice - Denies claim (2), makes claim (1)
- Yahoo Answers - Claims (1) and (2).
- Taste.com.au - Makes claim (1)
- Kitchen Myths - Denies claim (2).
So, are there any non-negligible reasons to tear basil instead of cutting it (or vice versa)?