The mystery of minced vs diced vs cubed revealed
When you read a recipe, undoubtedly you've seen the terms “minced”, “diced” and “cubed” before when talking about cutting vegetables, garlic, herbs and sometimes meat. However, do you know what they mean? Did you know they indicate certain knife techniques and sizes of food after cutting? Do you know why a recipe writer chooses one technique over the others? If not, we'll explore the difference between these terms and how you can use that knowledge in your everyday cooking.
Mincing a given item cuts the food into the smallest possible pieces. This can mean knife cuts that are less than 1/8 inch apart or using a food processor or meat grinder to break the food down into very tiny pieces. This is done so that the food cooks very quickly and usually so that it will at least partially dissolve into whatever it's cooking.
One of the most common things you will be asked to mince is garlic, which you can do by making several sets of very fine knife cuts or by crushing the garlic and then running your knife through it several times.
Unlike mincing, dicing is a more precise knife cut. The goal of a dice is to turn the food into a set of pieces which are (hopefully) roughly the same size. The term dice comes from the fact that recipes used to assume that the end result would be the size of a die in a board game, though there are actually three recognized sizes of dices: large, medium and small dice which are 3/4 inch, 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch, respectively. If a recipe doesn't specify large, medium or small dice, assume the recipe author meant medium dice for meat and small dice for vegetables.
Dicing does two things for food. It allows it to cook evenly on all sides and it makes the final product look prettier. Also, if you see a recipe that calls for food to be chopped, assume the author meant a medium or small dice, whichever works for a recipe. A “rough chop” is basically the same size as a chop, only the recipe writer is telling you that ensuring even sizes in the final food product isn't important.
Cubed is the largest of the three cutting sizes and tends to mean food that is cut into the same shape as a die (hence the term cubed), but is larger, usually one inch or more. Normally, only meat is cubed, though in some rare cases you may see cubed vegetables. Most often, you'll see recipes call for meat in stews or kabobs to be cubed to promote even cooking and improve visual appearance in the final dish.
If you see a recipe call for a cubed product, try to go for 1-inch pieces as this is likely what the recipe writer had intended.