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Chopping, Dicing, Mincing

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
What are the differences between these techniques? What constitutes a rogh chop or a medium or fine chop? How big are the pieces in a fine, medium, or rough dice? How small are pieces that have been minced?

Are there any standard or general descriptors for these techniques?

scb
post #2 of 11
Good qu, Shel. For me, chop is a bigger, chunky pieces; mince is very small (almost tiny) pieces and dicing is well, somewhere in between like a kernel of corn. That's pretty inprecise, so I'll be watching to see the responses.
post #3 of 11
.... Are there any standard or general descriptors for these techniques?

yes: chop, dice, mince <g>
as you already know, chop-dice-mince is large-medium-small

how big is big? how small is small? undefined and relative terms.

garlic: the size of a (non-elephant) clove essentially rules out "chop" -
dice it or mince it. minced garlic is really itty-bitty pieces but "minced meat" is way heck larger.

do you chop or dice the whole tuber for potato salad?
well, depends on how big you like your "chunks"
most people would say dice - but compared to a diced carrot for peas & carrot, a bit on the large scale, no?

often you'll see "diced" defined in terms of actual physical dimensions:
quarter inch dice, for example.

I would "define" their size in terms of the dish / component under preparation - and that's hardly an exact science either - if you're making a gratin topping, mixing onion with bread crumb... when does a diced onion size cut become a minced onion size cut? pretty fine line..... and the diced size of the cut for a browned gratin might not the same as the size you would want for a stuffing - but it's still bread crumbs and cut up onion.....
post #4 of 11
The size of your cubes derives from the size of your stick cuts.

Now we're just waiting for someone to standardize that. :)
post #5 of 11
I don't know if they've ever been standardized, but I know how I think of them.

Chopping results in random, irrigular sharped pieces, and has little to do with the size---although we tend to think of chopping as dividing into rough, largish pieces. But I can certainly chop a garlic clove.

Dicing, to me, connotes precision, in that the pieces are cubes. A standard dice is a quarter inch. A large dice would be anything bigger than that. A brunois is an 1/8th inch dice.

Mincing is anything smaller than a brunois. And is usually so fine the product is paste-like.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
If I knew that, I'd not have asked the question. Is a large dice about the same as a small chop?

scb
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
I don't know what a stick cut is, although I think I may know ....

scb
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thank you ... that info helps a lot.

scb
post #9 of 11
Chopping, dicing, mincing. Oy.

Allumette, Baton, Batonnet, and Julienne. Are all "sticks" about 2" long. Allumette are about 1/2" x 1/2" in cross section. Baton, about 3/8" x 3/8", Batonnet about 1/4" x 14", and Julienne about 1/8" x 1/8" When the sticks are cut into cubes, the allumette becomes large dice; the baton, medium dice; the batonnet, fine dice; and the julienne, brunois.

A rough chop can mean several things. It can mean that the food is chopped into irregular shapes and sizes, or (rarely) that it is chopped larger than large dice. If food is rough-chopped irregularly, and the sizes range from medium to fine dice, the chop is called a concasse. If the food is rough chopped iregularly and the sized range from fine to brunois, the chop is called a mignonette.

"Mincing" generally means to cut as small as possible. When mincing is done by hand, it's typically done with a rocking motion of the knife. Clasically, a mince is smaller than a brunois. Modernly, a mince is smaller than a micro-brunois (1/16 x 1/16 x 1/16). Usually mincing involves some "smushing," because most knives are not sharp enough to cut pieces that small cleanly. This can be a good thing because mincing releases flavorful aromatic oils and causes textural changes going beyond very small. Or, it can be a bad thing for the same reasons.

Most cooks with good Western technique will cut the sticks, dice, concasse, etc., with an action that includes "push cut" (pushing straight down on the knife), slicing and shearing. That is, the tip of the knife is held close to the board; the knife is held with a pinch grip in front of the bolster; the cook pushes the edge down with a slight shearing motion helped by the radius of the tip; and as the edge starts to cut, the cook pushes the knife slightly forward in a slicing motion. This is a very quiet cutting action, and is one of the few things I was actually taught rather than left on my own to learn. I was also taught to whisk without beating the whisk against the side of the bowl.

You'd almost think Chef Hermann came to work hung over, wouldn't you? "Ach hahaha," my @$$. Who's laughing now? You old **** putz. Sorry. PTSD flashback.

When dicing, Western cooks with good technique hold the food with a "claw," off-hand and move the knife against the fingernails of the off hand to gauge the thickness and precision of the finest cuts. The bases of good technique are "pinch," "claw," "cut and retreat," and "thumb in."

Asian chefs tend to chop straight down and make a lot of tapping noise as their knife repeatedly hits the board. No one takes backseat to me when it comes to respecting Asian technique, but the noise makes me a little nuts, honestly. Sign of age?

Of course, there are significant variations in "good technique." There's no one right way to do these things -- as long as it's fast, accurate and doesn't involve a decreasing number of fingers, you're good to go. The one universal requirement to making the finer cuts is a very sharp knife.

The Asian action rewards a highly polished edge with a very acute and/or single angle. The more slicing component (sliding the knife forward or back) there is in a cook's action, the less polish the edge should get.


Big caveat on all this technical booshwah: Not all recipe writers use the terms precisely. In fact, very few. Almost none.

Feeling more knowledgeable yet?
BDL
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post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

Yes ... thanks!

scb

post #11 of 11
I've abandoned the designations, and say that chop is the big holes on my Vidalia Chop-wizard, and mince is more the small holes. Not precise, I know, but consistent...
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