When reading an ingredient list, there are often instructions to slice, chop, dice, or mince vegetables, but what is the difference in each cut?
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 with each other 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.
In most cases, the smaller you cut a vegetable, the more flavor is added because it gets a chance for the flavors, oils, etc. to release into the recipe.
The first thing you will need is a surface to cut your vegetables on. Personally, I prefer to use bamboo cutting boards. We are trying to cut as much plastic as possible out of our house. You don’t have to have a cutting board, as long as you have a flat surface to cut on that won’t be damaged by a knife cut or give you a dull knife.
To do the actual cutting, you will need a good knife. Most of the time, I use a chef’s knife, but a paring knife is good for delicate cuts. The best knives are the ones that you can hold easily. We have a very basic knife block set that I’ve had for many years along with a set of ceramic knives.
For safety reasons, make sure the knife is sharp. I know it sounds backwards, but a sharp knife will make the different cuts easier. If you use a dull knife you can damage the vegetables or end up cutting in a way that hurts yourself.
Originally Published On: December 5, 2017
Last Updated On: June 12, 2023
When you slice something, you are doing exactly as it sounds and slicing your vegetables. You are leaving them in long strips. Some recipes will designate thin slices or thick slices. But typically you are making vertical cuts 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 thin 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.
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 in 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 them up easily in the meal.
Dicing up a vegetable is just basically a small chop. When you dice an 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 small cubes. 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 stir fry, or when it’s going into something such as 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.
The julienne cut is a French name for a cut similar to slicing. With a Julienne type of cut, you want to leave your pieces about 2-3 inches long and about 1/16th to 18/th inch wide. You are making precise cuts in the vegetables with a chef’s knife or utility knife.
There are two methods for making this formal vegetable cut. The first method starts with peeling the vegetable if necessary then cutting it into large pieces about 2-3 inches long. Then make horizontal cuts to make it into flat pieces. Put the flat side down and cut again into smaller sticks of vegetables.
The second way is to start at the root end of the vegetable and make diagonal cuts, resulting in flat planks. Then stack those on top of each other and cut them again into thin pieces.
The chiffonade cut is very similar to the Julienne cut, except it’s used for herbs and leafy greens. The best way to get a chiffonade is to roll the herbs or leafy vegetables into a tight roll. Then use a sharp knife to cut it into small pieces. Once they unroll, you will have long, thin strips.
The brunoise cut starts with a Julienne cut. You want to cut your vegetables into matchstick strips as in the Julienne method. Then, cross cut them in the other direction into a small dice cut. These should be uniform pieces.
Grated Vegetables or Shredded Vegetables
To grate vegetables, you will need a grater. I have a box grater that I love because it has multiple sizes in one tool. I can do a thin shred or a thick shred based on the recipe. It also has a side for slicing and a side for grating. Grated vegetables are the smallest cut you can have. The vegetables is rubbed on the grater and it makes very tiny pieces. Think about the parmesan cheese you buy in the plastic container, that’s grated cheese. You are getting the vegetables to such a small size they are almost powder-like.