Mincing is a dicing process to take a food from intact down to smaller pieces. You want to end up with the small pieces averaging about one-eighth of an inch in size. Fine diced is another term for it, although a ‘dice’ is typically square, yep, like the kind of dice in a game. A mince is generically small pieces that are often irregularly shaped and smaller.
The most known reference to mince is garlic, although ginger is a close second. At least in the US, the UK uses the term ‘mince’ to refer specifically ground meat…gotta love those crazy brits. They also call the machine a mincer, so there’s that.
What we mince
The most common group to call for mincing are hard vegetables such as onion, celery, peppers, shallots or such. The single most common item being minced garlic of course. These types of things are what we will walk through the how to mince process, cutting from the whole to the small pieces. Since the goal is to have nothing but the meat of the vegetable reduced to small pieces with your knife, peel them first, then seed if needed.
Why we mince
With your pungent items like garlic, shallots, ginger or onions, the finely chopped bits spread their taste throughout the dishes, sauces or soups they are used in. Some recipes rely on mincing so that the food will cook quicker as well.
The smaller pieces also let you enjoy a bit of everything in each bite, more so than dicing. It lets the flavor and texture integrate throughout.
Here a couple specific tips for taking it from a whole garlic clove to the small pieces of ‘mince garlic’. First separate the garlic clove from the bulb.
Then you need to peel the paper off, the eternal challenge.
Old school is to crush the whole cloves with the flat side of your blade and they are easier to peel. Even if you occasionally break the garlic cloves when you smash them, they are getting cut even more eventually.
Some people like to use a garlic press as part of their process. In our opinion, garlic presses tend to juice out too much and you end up with an inconsistent result. There are also devices out there to get the skin off, everything from a container to shake them in or a tube that you roll, and the skin is shed pretty effectively.
How to mince
The dicing step
Using a chef’s knife, you want to slice, then chop, then mince the food. Obviously, the starting size of the vegetables dictates parts of this chopping process.
To mince garlic from a clove, after peeling the papery skin, a single cut the length of the clove, then thin slices, will get you set up to begin mincing.
For onion, the dicing process is a bit more work to get to smaller pieces.
Starting with a peeled onion, cut in half through the root end with your chef’s knife. Carefully cut back toward the root most of the way with your blade parallel to the board and about a half inch above it.
Then 5 or 6 downward cuts, again most of the way to the end.
Then you make your downward cuts across your slices to end up with it well diced and ready to be minced.
The mincing step
Now it gets fun, and this works for anything you want to mince. With your off-hand, you keep the tip of the blade in contact with your cutting board. Using a rocking motion, lifting the knife up and down, work your way across the bits.
As you us the rocking motion to reduce the size of the pieces, they will spread out across the cutting board.
Push them back together and make a couple more passes with your chef’s knife, you will end up with well minced garlic and other foods for your recipe.
Devices to mince with
There’s a fair number of choices in the market for devices that you can use, falling into three broad categories: food processors, choppers, mandolins. In every case, some prep is needed to get the food ready to process into a minced result. Food processors and choppers will benefit from having things coarsely chopped to reduce the chance of getting a pureed result.
These devices have you slide food over a sharp blade that will give you two dimensional cuts. So, if you prep sliced garlic or such, to run up and down the device, you will end up with a mince. Not the best alternative, and not much quicker than a knife with a board, its biggest strength is uniform sizing.
These little guys actually work quite well. Not to minimize them, they did get painted with the late-night TV sales brush suggesting lesser quality. We are speaking to the push-top units with a chamber holding the food to be chopped. They are effective at an average amount of food, giving you smaller pieces quite quickly with minimal fuss.
These are often bigger and more effective at larger batch sizes, there are also very effective small food processors, often labelled electric choppers in the market.
The issue with a food processor is that you are only a few pulses away from a puree if you don’t pay close attention. That is why we recommend dicing or cross cutting garlic cloves or onions, or anything, before running them through. Putting them in whole creates a more inconsistent result.
Having minced garlic on hand is not only a time saver, but almost any cooking is better with garlic. Having a clove or twelve already prepped makes it even easier to use. After you have taken the time to mince garlic you can store it in a small airtight container in the refrigerator for at least a week, ready to be cooked in whatever dish you have planned
Kitchen skills learned well can save you a tremendous amount of time and, becoming competent in how to wield a knife professionally creates a cook’s sense of pride. Mincing takes a bit of practice, but it is a talent, once acquired, that is never forgotten.
Mincing is an essential preparation technique meaning to cut food into very small pieces, usually less than 1/8″. Mincing ingredients helps to distribute flavor more evenly in a mixture; this cut is often used for garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs.
To Mince with a Chef’s Knife:
Hold the knife blade by both ends (chopping hand at the knife’s handle and other hand – used for steadying – placed over the top of the knife’s tapered end). Chop with radid up-and-down movements from side-to-side over the food, gathering the ingredients repeatedly into a heap over and again with the knife blade. Use the knife’s tip point to pivot. Continue rocking the knife over the food until it is very finely chopped and all the pieces are about the same size.
Click here for a MINCING HOW-TO VIDEO