Chopped vs. Diced: What’s the Difference & When To Do Each
by HexClad Cookware
Both chopping and dicing are common cutting techniques. You’ll see at least one in the instructions of almost any recipe you come across. But what exactly sets these two cutting techniques apart, and when should you use each? Let’s take a look and find out.
What Is Dicing?
Dicing is a basic cooking term that refers to cutting food into small and evenly shaped pieces. As one of the more precise cutting techniques, dicing can turn even the funkiest-shaped produce into small, neat cubes that will cook evenly and quickly for a shorter total cooking time.
From potatoes to tomatoes and from dragon fruit to ginger, you can use your dicing skills to turn any of the above into uniform cubes by cutting along their horizontal and vertical lines.
Typically, a large dice will yield cubes around 3/4 of an inch, while a medium dice will get your pieces to measure around half-inch chunks. So, a small dice should yield quarter-inch pieces. But, the most important thing to know is that all of the cut pieces are as close to identical as possible for even cooking and stellar presentation of your final dish.
How Do Dicing and Chopping Differ?
The difference between dicing and chopping largely comes down to the shape and size of your pieces in their final form. When a recipe calls for chopping, the final shape of your cut ingredient matters less than when dicing.
While diced ingredients should be cubed and nearly identical across the board, chopped ingredients can look a little less consistent. You should aim to cut your ingredients into roughly the same size chunks for a rough chop, but a few discrepancies or inconsistencies won't make or break your meal.
Chopping usually yields larger pieces than when working with dicing or mincing, which is more of a fine chop for when you need super small pieces, such as garlic.
Dicing is typically used to evenly distribute their flavors throughout your dish, whereas chopping is used when you need larger pieces that will hold their shape during cooking. For instance, you may want to use diced onions when making salsa to help evenly spread the onion flavor throughout the dish, but then use chopped onions for a soup for a burst of flavor as they simmer away in the broth.
What Dishes Require Dicing?
You’ll often dice your food items when you want to spread out flavor via smaller pieces, ensure veggies cook evenly on the stovetop, or form a more attractive display of your meal.
For example, a small or medium dice is great when making salsas or condiments, such as tomato relish. Recipes for stews may call for a large dice, ensuring the produce sautés evenly and holds its shape. A large dice spreads flavor throughout the pan as it cooks.
Salad recipes may also call for a large dice when using ingredients such as onions, avocados, or tomatoes. The even pieces give you bonus points for the presentation. The uniform, small cubes brighten up a bowl of greens.
What Dishes Require Chopping?
Dishes that often require chopping include stir fries, braised dishes, and veggie bowls. You’ll often chop veggies for pasta dishes or nuts to use as a texturally interesting (and nutritious) topping on breakfasts and desserts.
When making a salad, you’ll often chop the greens that serve as your base. The shape and size consistency of the leafy greens won’t affect the flavor or look of your end result.
Chopping is often used to ensure your food pieces stay intact as they cook. Cut your ingredients too small when a recipe calls for a chop, and you may end up with a texture closer to mushy after cooking.
Which Knife Should You Use To Chop?
A chef’s knife will serve you well when chopping ingredients, especially with larger and tougher ingredients such as potatoes, butternut squash, melons, or carrots.
The versatile chef’s knife has a broad heel blade and tapers off to a fine point at the tip. Slightly heavier than your paring or santoku knife, the added weight makes this knife easier to control when working with thick ingredients. The sharp point can pierce softer ingredients as needed, making chopping a breeze.
The curved blade of the chef’s knife is ideal for the rock chop technique, which allows you to simply rock the knife back and forth on your cutting board to chop or mince your ingredients.
Which Knife Should You Use To Dice?
When it comes to dicing, you have a few options. Make your choice based on the size and consistency of the ingredient you're chopping and consider the size of the dice cut your dish requires (a small, medium, or large dice).
A santoku knife is ideal for precision dicing. This knife is especially useful when working with soft or juicy produce prone to squishing or splatter, such as tomatoes or ripe peaches. With an ultra-thin blade, you can use a santoku knife to cut a narrow pathway that won’t damage the rest of the ingredients. It’s perfect for a small dice.
The Santoku knife contains shallow indentations to help keep clingy ingredients, such as garlic or fleshy fruits, from sticking to the knife as you dice.
You have one more good choice when it comes to knives that handle dicing well: the paring knife. Small ingredients, like shallots or garlic, were made for this one. Lightweight and short, the paring knife can help you make tiny cuts and provides better control when working with smaller foods.
What Are the Essentials for Successful Dicing and Cutting?
Whether you’re dicing or chopping, there are a few musts to follow in the kitchen to help ensure your prep routine is safe and efficient.
A sharp blade is perhaps the most important component of safe and practical cutting. A dull blade is harder to cut with and more dangerous. Since a dull knife requires more force, it is more likely to slip and lead to an injury than a well-sharpened knife.
Choose the dull knife that’s been sitting unsharpened for far too long, and it’s not only your hands that could suffer but also your food. A lackluster knife is more likely to damage the ingredients you’re cutting, which makes it harder to dice evenly and precisely.
Even the sharpest blades wear down and dull over time. Luckily, honing your knives regularly is a simple way to help keep them in tip-top shape. Using honing steel helps realign the microscopic “teeth” of the blade, " helping keep the knife’s edge smooth and straight.
For optimal performance, you should hone your knives every month or so, depending on how often you use them, while also professionally sharpening your knives once or twice a year.
We all know the saying: practice makes perfect. While it may seem a tad cliche, it really is true. Honing your knife skills takes patience and practice. But, with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a knife-wielding veggie chopping pro.
The good news is with the right knives, you can feel comfortable as you practice your dicing and slicing. At HexClad, we forge all of our full-tang knives with 67 layers of high-quality Japanese Damascus steel, providing you with superior balance for precision cutting and rock-chopping alike.
And with the unique pattern on the blade formed by the various layers of steel, plus the rare forest green pakkawood handles, you’ll look and feel like a pro.
A High-Quality Cutting Board
When we think of safety in our cutting techniques, we usually think about the sharpness of the knife and the position of our fingers — both important! But, the quality of our cutting board is an often-forgotten factor.
Your cutting board should be stable, sturdy, and durable. Investing in a cutting board that can withstand daily use, is gentle on your knives, and is resistant to bacteria are all crucial factors in setting up a safe and sustainable cutting workspace.
A cutting board that slips and slides under pressure is an easy way to up your risk of injury. Consider a cutting board with a non-slip grip or a rubber bottom, or place a damp cloth underneath your cutting board to help keep it in place as your chop.
The Bottom Line
Brushing up on your knife skills and cutting techniques is always beneficial. They are real time-savers. Practicing your techniques can better equip you to try even more complex knife cuts down the line.
Whether you roughly chop veggies into large chunks for a quick weeknight stir fry or carefully dice uniform pieces for a stew to share with friends, the Hexclad Six Piece Essential Knife Set with Block will provide you with the high-quality tools you need.
Cut anything from the tiniest berries to the thickest winter squashes. No matter where you’re at in your cooking journey, HexClad is here to help.