When reading through a recipe, it’s very common to see an ingredient list that tells you to mince a clove of garlic or to dice an onion. But what is the difference in these terms and what’s the correct way to cut your vegetables?
Most of these terms I have learned just from cooking and watching cooking shows. But for someone starting out cooking, or even some who have been cooking for years, it may be hard to know the meaning behind all of the terms in a recipe. I often find that the two most confused are dicing and chopping.
It doesn’t help either that the instructions on how to cut your vegetables (and sometimes other foods) are listed in the ingredients so it’s never explained in the recipe. Often, a recipe calls for 1 onion chopped or 2 cloves of garlic minced or 1 red bell pepper sliced.
So what do you need to do when you run into these common terms? I’ll start with the largest cut and work my way down.
When you slice something, you are doing exactly as it sounds and slicing your vegetables. You are leaving them in long strips, and some recipes will designate thin slices or wide slices. But typically you are just cutting vertically on the vegetables.
Slicing is most used with large vegetables that are added to a recipe for their texture and taste. When you make fajitas, typically the peppers are left in strips. I also use slicing when we are getting things ready to make our homemade sushi since it needs to be long enough to fit in the sushi rolls.
The next cut, going in size order, would be a chop. When you chop a vegetable, you are cutting it into large squares. Usually, these are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces. When you have to chop, the size has more room for interpretation and you can make it to your preference. In some recipes, I prefer to have my veggies chopped larger, and others I prefer them smaller.
Recipes that ask for chopped vegetables tend to be the bigger vegetables, such as broccoli or cauliflower. These are the veggies that you want to be bite-sized so you can stab them with your fork or pick up easily in the meal.
Dicing up a vegetable is just basically a small chop. When you dice onion, for example, it should be small enough to add to the flavor, but too small to really be able to pick up on a fork. Diced vegetables are about 1/4 to 1/8 inch chunks. They don’t have to be exact squares, but they need to be small.
Dicing is typically done for recipes when you are going to be putting many vegetables into a dish, such as making fried rice, or when it’s going into something such as a soup.
To mince something means to cut it as small as you can with a knife. Depending on what you are mincing, it can be difficult to do sometimes and take a while. This is where something such as a mincing tool comes in handy. The most common vegetables that need to be minced are garlic and ginger.
Typically, the ingredients that are minced are only added for their flavor. You don’t want to bite into a piece of whatever you are mincing because it’s usually something that is very strong.
Various recipes will ask you to either slice, chop, dice, or mince your ingredients, and the different sizes are important to know because it can really change the flavor and texture of the meal. Also, in most cases, the smaller you cut a vegetable, the more flavor that is added because it gets a chance for the flavors, oils, etc. to release into the recipe.