Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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To Chop or Not To Chop.....

How often do you see these kind of directions in a recipe:
Cut Size Comparison - Far
Left: Chop (Example #1)
Far Right: Mince (Example #3)
Bottom:  Large Dice
Center: Medium Dice
Top: Small (or Fine) Dice (Example #2)

1 cup chopped onions (Example #1)


1/2 cup diced onions (Example #2)


1 tablespoon minced onions (Example #3)

What does the recipe author mean?  Aren't those the same thing, don't all of those mean to cut things into pieces?  Well, YES and NO! There are some differences, though somewhat subtle, differences all the same!

I would like to shed some light on these often used, often interchangble, but frequently misunderstood terms!  Here, I have included detailed information on each of these terms, plus pictures showing cut sizes with a dime in each photo for comparison.

Let's start with CHOP:  The definition of CHOP according to On Cooking, A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals, To chop is to cut an item into small pieces where uniformity of size and shape is neither necessary (for example, coarsely chopped onions for a mirepoix that will be removed from the stock before service) nor feasible (for example, parsley)."  So, for the first example, the chopped onions do not need to be uniform, this can also be termed "rough chop".


The term DICE will often be defined further by the addition of another word, such as the term, "small dice", "medium dice" or "large dice".  In culinary terms, there are specific measurements for each of the dice sizes and each piece should be of uniform shape and size.  If the recipe calls simply for the ingredient to be diced, it most often means medium dice.

Left: Large Dice
Bottom: Small Dice
Upper Right: Medium Dice

Small Dice (sometimes referred to as Fine Dice):  a cube shaped item with dimensions of 1/4" x 1/4" x 1/4"
Medium Dice:  a cube shaped item with dimensions of 3/8" x 3/8" x 3/8"
Large Dice:  a cube shaped item with dimensions of 5/8" x 5/8" x 5/8"

The term MINCE is defined as cutting an item into very small pieces.  The terms finely chopped and minced are often used interchangebly and are most often used when referring to garlic, shallots, herbs and other foods that do not have to be uniform in shape, but must be cut very small.


I hope these explanations and pictures help to clear up any confusion about cuts and sizes referred to in recipes.  If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment!

Drop by my website, Sylvia's Kitchen, for some tasty treats!

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