To chop, to dice, to mince-prepping your ingredients

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It dawned on me that it is very important to teach my readers a few basic ways to prepare ingredients for cooking. Most importantly, how to cut or slice them. I realized that if I want  to help someone who never cooked before, that someone should start with some basic know-hows.

chopped vs diced, sliced
chopped vs diced

In this article, here are a few pointers on how to prepare your vegetables.

But before you do any cutting and slicing, may I remind you, safety is my middle name and so should you. I learned the hard way how to befriend a knife. We were not always good pals, someone at times ended up with some band-aids,yeah that would be me.

Start with a good chef’s knife. If you can invest on one, I believe that it will make a lot of difference in prepping ingredients. Don’t try to move your hands too fast. Start slowly when cutting until you get the hang of it. Later on, you will be like the pros.  Now, whatever knife you choose to use, the bottom line is make sure it is something you are comfortable with.

Let’s start with mincing. This would be the smallest cut. My example here is a minced garlic. My trick on mincing garlic is by pressing or smashing the garlic with a knife just like so. Press the knife with the ball of your palm. However, if you don’t like this idea, you can always just peel off the skin first, then just keep chopping until it is finely chopped.

After pressing or smashing it will look like this.

You can then peel the skin off and just chop very small.

Slicing. I think for this article, I chose the wrong ingredient to show you examples. I chose an onion and to be honest, I still don’t have a trick up my sleeves on how to not cry while chopping onions. Anyway, I always cut the onion in half, then peel the outer dry skin off.Then cut the ends off as well.

Always hold the onion with bent fingers, always with the cut side down on the chopping board and slice slowly.

Dicing. Going back to our onion. Dicing could also be small or big. It basically is square-y in shape. Of course my picture has a triangular shape but you get the point. Vegetables like bell peppers or tomatoes can be cut like this. With a whole onion, you just cut in half, cut each half lengthwise with the cut side down,then cut crosswise with the desired thickness or size.

When you have a recipe on hand and you are confused as to how small is small or how big is big, what I always say is just chop away whatever your gut feeling says. If the writer of that recipe is very particular about the size, normally, the writer will add a measurement, like “half of an inch” or “1/4 of an inch”. But if it will help you, look at the picture below to give you an idea:

Left to right: minced; chopped small (sometimes called chopped finely); chopped medium (sometimes called rough-chopped); diced (here it is large dice); and sliced (thinly).

It always comes down to personal preference on how you want to cut your ingredients. If you feel that you want bigger cuts as opposed to smaller cuts as what the recipe calls, I say go for it! Now, that being said, if you are new to cooking and just started learning, I recommend following the directions. That way, there is room for lesser mistakes!

So, good luck and happy cooking!

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