Knife Skills Spotlight: The One Cut Every Cook Should Know

by Chef Wards

Knife skills are one of the most essential topics chefs learn in culinary school—and for good reason. Cutting vegetables, fruit and meat properly and in uniform pieces doesn’t only provide visual appeal. It ensures even cooking when all the pieces of food are the same size, and it evenly distributes flavor and texture throughout.

One of the most commonly used cuts is the dice. And if you’re going to learn just one knife skill for cooking at home, dicing should be it! Let’s break down the different types of dice and how to use them.

The 3 Types of Dice

There are three types of dice: small, medium and large. These are different from a rough chop, which is more of a casual cut. Rough chop suggests that each piece should be “roughly” the same size, whereas as dicing is more precise.

Small dice are often used for onions, when you want the flavors to meld into the dish, as opposed to yielding large chunks. Soup is a prime example. The onion should seamlessly fold into the broth, so it doesn’t overpower it. A medium or large dice would work best for roasting vegetables, as the pieces often shrink in the oven. Roasting small diced vegetables puts them at risk for burning.

How to Dice: A Step-By-Step Guide

We recommend using something easy to practice dicing, such as a potato. Save the softer produce like tomatoes for later. Also, be sure to keep the final size in mind from the start (steps 2 and 3). You can review measurements below.

  1. Cut the vegetable into a rectangular shape. If this is too time consuming, go ahead and skip to step 2.
  2. Cut the vegetable into slices.
  3. Cut each slice into sticks.
  4. Cut each stick into cubes, according to dice size:
    • Small: cut cubes approximately ¼ inch thick
    • Medium: cut cubes approximately ½ inch thick
    • Large: cut cubes approximately ¾ inch thick

Tip: A small ruler is a great kitchen tool to have on hand as you’re learning. Once you have it down, you’ll be able to eyeball it.

Here’s a good, quick video guide for cutting medium dice. You can use this for all cuts by tweaking the measurements accordingly.

As with all knife skills, dicing becomes easier and faster with time and practice. Mastering the dice technique will allow you to cook more aesthetically-pleasing food that’s uniformly cooked all the way through.

While you’re perfecting your knife skills, why not take a cooking class to learn even more and enjoy the experience with friends? The Austin Artisan offers interactive cooking classes for all levels. Check out our options here.

Posted in: Cooking Classes, Pro Chef Tips