In a sea of recipes, no matter the cuisine, two techniques appear again and again: chop and dice. No matter what you’re making, having the skills to chop and dice effectively will often get you halfway there. But what is the difference between the two, and when do you need to use each technique?
A larger chop is appropriate for chunky stews, and soups, when you intend to see and experience the toothsome quality of the vegetables (as in a tagine, for example), or meat (think: beef stew). Anytime the vegetables or meat will cook for a fairly long time and begin to soften under heat, a chop should work.
These smallish, even pieces of vegetables or aromatics (including carrots, celery, and onion) are widely called for in all styles of cooking. In sauces, omelets, chilies, and soups like a minestrone, a dice is the perfect size. Generally speaking, the more pungent the vegetable (garlic, onions) the smaller the dice. You’ll see dice at work in recipes like Spicy Chorizo & Tomato Penne, where the tomatoes create an even canvas of flavor, without showing up too loudly in the finished dish. When in doubt, a dice will work in most recipes.
You’ve read up on the basics—now put them into practice! Chop and dice are common enough cooking instructions that you don’t need to seek out recipes that use these techniques if you want to practice, but just to be on the safe side, you can start with these: