If a recipe specifies that you chop, dice or mince ingredients, these methods can help you achieve the best results in your cooking. When ingredients such as vegetables or herbs are cut to a precise size, they provide a specific texture and flavor that can make or break the success of your dish.
In this article, you’ll learn why a recipe will call for you to chop, dice or mince ingredients and how each of these common prep methods helps provide flavor, texture, and color to make a dish more appealing. You can perform each of these three methods by hand with a sharp chef’s knife or you can use a small appliance such as a food chopper or food processor.
What is Chopping in Cooking?
When chopping ingredients for a recipe, you cut them into larger pieces that are similar in size. Using a sharp chef’s knife or a small appliance such as a food processor, cut your ingredients into uniform pieces that are about ½" - ¾" – between a dime and a nickel in size. Alternatively, you can learn how to use an electric food chopper to do the cutting for you.
The term chop is used when the recipe requires larger pieces, which are ideal for recipes such as stews and soups that will cook slowly, like chopped potatoes, allowing the ingredients to soften but maintain their color, shape, and flavor.
Chopping is also a way to prepare food that will go into a food processor to make them even smaller pieces or completely puree, or to incorporate into other ingredients for recipes such as smoothies, hummus, tabouli, baba ganoush and sauces. Lemon peels are a commonly chopped ingredient that are added into recipes. If ingredients are too large when added to a blender or food processor, they may not fully incorporate into the recipe, leaving uneven chunks or a grainy texture.
How to Chop (vs. Dice or Mince)
One ingredient you’ll often need to chop for recipes is an onion. First, cut the ends off, peel the onion and cut it in half. To dice, set the flat side down and make a few horizontal cuts end-to-end, then slice down vertically every ½" and then turn it to cut again every ½" across those cuts.
Other Foods that are Commonly Chopped
Onions are not the only ingredient that will need chopping in recipes. Here are a variety of foods that often require chopping and some tips for how to chop more efficiently:
To chop herbs such as basil or parsley more efficiently, you can roll the leaves together into a cylinder first and then run your knife through it every ½". You may also need to run the knife through in the opposite direction one or two times to get the desired size and shape.
Rounded ingredients such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes, squash, cabbage and even mushrooms are easier and safer to chop when you first cut them lengthwise into halves or quarters, so you can place them flat side down before further chopping. This prevents the food from slipping out from under the pressure of the knife when making a cut.
Additionally, be sure when chopping bok choy or chard to separate the greens from the stalks. Cook stalks first so they have time to soften before you add the greens, which will cook more quickly.
What is Dicing in Cooking?
Dicing is a method of cutting ingredients into small, uniform pieces about ¼", or the size of green pea. Dicing can be done by hand or with a food processor, like the KitchenAid® Food Pro, and is ideal for fresh, raw vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, and peppers to make salsa, bruschetta and salads.
Diced ingredients provide texture to recipes whether they’re raw or cooked. A larger dice will take longer to cook and release its flavor, adding a pleasing toothiness or mouthfeel to soups and stews. Smaller diced food like mirepoix, which is a base of aromatics for soups and stews that’s made of carrots, onions and celery that's cooked in butter with herbs, softens quickly when cooked and adds more depth of flavor to dishes.
HOW TO DICE (VS. CHOP OR MINCE) AN ONION
To dice an onion, you’ll want to follow the same basic steps as for chopping an onion outlined above, with the goal of producing medium, evenly-sized pieces. Make all of your dicing cuts at precise and uniform ¼".
OTHER FOODS THAT ARE COMMONLY DICED
Dicing is also an important method for preparing food items other than onions. Here are some foods that are commonly diced and tips for dicing more easily:
To dice rounded ingredients, first cut them in half and then into ¼" wide sections, or planks, so they can rest on the cutting board flat side down. Cut the planks into ¼" batons and then turn 90 degrees to cut ¼" sections, making little cubes.
It’s not generally necessary to cut off rounded edges to create perfect cubes, instead aim for ¼" pieces that will cook at the same rate or provide the same mouthfeel in a raw dish.
What is Mincing in Cooking?
Mincing is a method of cutting ingredients into the smallest possible pieces approximately ⅛" or smaller. Mincing food distributes it evenly throughout the dish and allows it to cook quickly and release the most flavor. You can mince ingredients by hand, a food chopper or a food processor with dicing kit, like this one available from KitchenAid.
Ingredients such as garlic and ginger are often minced in order to help their flavor blend into a dish without overpowering a single bite. This method helps create flavor and texture balance in a recipe.
Meats like chicken can also be minced for use in recipes such as burgers or tacos.
How to Mince (vs. Chop or Dice) an Onion
To mince an onion, follow the same steps of peeling and halving the onion as chopping or dicing. Rather than making ½" or ¼" cuts, space your cuts very closely together at ⅛" or smaller intervals, which produces the desired tiny, uniform pieces that are easy to incorporate with other ingredients.
Other Foods that are Commonly Minced
Other food items besides onion can be minced to help release and evenly distribute flavors throughout the dish. Here are other foods that are often minced in recipes along with some tips for mincing effectively:
To mince ingredients such as ginger, carrots, celery, and shallots, it’s helpful to first cut them into thin matchsticks. Then, cut the matchsticks into tiny minced pieces by holding them in tight bundles while you make the ⅛" cuts across the bundles.
When mincing garlic, you can first smash the cloves with the flat edge of the knife and then gather the cloves together and rock the knife back and forth through the pile repeatedly until they’re all cut into tiny pieces. Or you can mince garlic in a food processor to save time.
As you expand your cooking repertoire, you’ll find that recipes require very specific ingredient preparation. By understanding that a recipe calls for you to chop, dice, or mince to cook at a specific rate or to provide a desired texture or flavor, you will know how ingredients work together to create the optimal results. Once you’ve mastered these food cutting techniques, you can enjoy the magic of your cooking turning out just as you expected.
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