Dicing, as its name would imply, is a knife cut that results in uniformly cubed food that resembles game dice, though without the dots. Dicing is an excellent method of cutting food for soups or stews as cooking diced food in liquids helps keep their cooking even. This results in a uniformly cooked finished product. Unfortunately, most food items that you need to dice are often oblong, tubular or round shapes, but this is where learning the skill of the knife cuts come into play.
Vegetables are the most common food items that are diced so we will use them as an example. Begin by preparing your vegetables including washing, drying and peeling, if necessary. Once they are ready, try to find a flat side on the vegetable that you can put against the cutting board. This makes dicing them much easier. If you cannot find a flat area, trim one side of the vegetable until it is flat to make your knife cuts easier.
Dicing Thick Vegetables
For thick vegetables, such as potatoes, the first step is to cut them into steaks with the desired thickness of your dice. Once you slice your vegetable into steaks, put one of each round steak's flat side on the cutting board and cut it into strips, again cutting them to the size of your desired dice. The final cut is to turn those strips into cubes. You can stack together multiple strips when dicing to make this process faster. With thinner vegetables such as carrots, you can skip the steak step and cut the carrots directly into strips before you finish the dice.
Dicing onions can be a difficult proposition for inexperienced chefs and even some more experienced ones. In order to make it easier, follow these steps. 20 minutes before you want to dice your onion, toss it in the freezer. This will make it easier to dice as it will inhibit the onion's well-known ability to make people cry. Cut the onion in half by slicing downward from top to root, then peel it.
With the root end away from you, cut each half of the onion to your desired dice size while keeping the root intact. The next step is the most difficult and requires you to make similar horizontal cuts, again leaving the root intact. Be careful not to cut yourself when doing this step as you place your other hand over the onion to hold it against the cutting board. Finally, place the onion with its cut side down and slice against the previous vertical cuts to the size of your desired dice.
Depending on the intended use of the food, the size of the dice might vary but there are some standardized sizes. A cube that measures about a half-inch on each side is called a large dice and is usually used when cooking stews or other dishes with long cooking times. A medium dice is half that size with about a quarter of an inch on each side and it is also primarily used for soups and stews and the long-cooking dishes that need bite-sized pieces of food.
The smallest type of dice, known as Brunoise dice, results in cubes that are only about an eighth or sixteenth of an inch on each side. This is generally used for garnishing and is unsurprisingly one of the harder dicing cuts to learn.