Garlic is a pungent and flavorful ingredient used in cuisines around the world. It adds a distinct aroma and zing to soups, meat dishes, sauces, and more. When cooking with garlic, you have a choice between leaving the cloves whole, crushing them, slicing them, or dicing them into tiny pieces. So should you dice your garlic? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
The Case for Dicing Garlic
Dicing garlic into very small pieces gives you a few advantages in the kitchen:
- More flavor distribution – When garlic is finely diced, the flavor gets evenly incorporated throughout the entire dish. With whole cloves, you get intense garlic bursts when you happen to bite into one.
- Fast infusing – Diced garlic infuses its flavor very quickly into oils, sauces, and liquids since there’s more surface area exposed.
- Easy chewing – Tiny garlic pieces will basically dissolve in your mouth as you eat them. You don’t have to worry about accidentally chomping down on a whole clove.
- Smooth texture – Finely diced garlic gives a smoother, more uniform texture versus large chunks.
So if you want garlic flavor in every bite without risking overwhelming pungency or a chunky texture, dicing is the way to go.
Reasons to Avoid Dicing Garlic
However, there are also some downsides to dicing garlic:
- Time consuming – It takes significantly longer to chop garlic into a fine dice versus slicing or rough chopping. All those tiny cuts add up.
- Oxidation – When garlic is diced small, more of the Cloves surface is exposed to air which causes quicker oxidation. This can result in bitter, slightly metallic notes.
- Difficult to remove – If you want to remove the garlic from a finished dish, it’s much harder to do when finely diced versus leaving cloves whole.
If time is limited or you don’t want that oxidized flavor, you may want to skip dicing.
When is Dicing Garlic a Good Choice?
Here are some examples of recipes where dicing garlic works best:
- Salad dressings – The small pieces will distribute nicely throughout the dressing.
- Marinades – Diced garlic infuses its flavor quickly into the marinade.
- Stir fries – Tiny garlic bits will cook up fast on high heat.
- Sauces – Finely minced garlic gives great flavor and becomes undetectable in texture.
- Meat rubs – Diced garlic mixes in evenly and coats the meat well.
When is Dicing Garlic a Bad Choice?
Here are some instances when you’re better off not dicing the garlic:
- Roasting garlic – Whole cloves roast up deliciously mellow and spreadable.
- Garlic bread – Sliced garlic provides great bursts of flavor when biting into a garlic bread slice.
- Garlic shrimp – Leaving cloves whole infuses flavor while cooking and they can be easily removed after.
- Soups – Larger garlic pieces are easier to fish out compared to tiny bits.
How Small Should Diced Garlic Be?
If you do decide to dice your garlic, how small should the pieces be? Here are some common garlic dice sizes:
- Fine dice – About 1/8 inch or 3mm pieces
- Small dice – Around 1/4 inch or 5mm
- Medium dice – Approximately 3/8 inch or 8mm
- Large dice – Around 1/2 inch or 12mm
In general, the finer you dice the garlic, the more evenly distributed the flavor will be. But smaller pieces also oxidize faster. A small or medium dice is a good middle ground for most applications.
Tips for Dicing Garlic
If you do need diced garlic for a recipe, here are some tips:
- Use fresh firm garlic heads and peel the cloves first.
- Remove any germ/green sprout if present – it can be bitter.
- Chill the peeled cloves for 15-30 mins before dicing to firm them up.
- Slice thinly first, then dice by cutting perpendicular to the slices.
- Use a sharp knife to minimize crushing which can cause oxidation.
- Work quickly and gently to avoid bruising.
- Use the diced garlic promptly or store covered in oil to prevent oxidation.
So should you dice garlic? It depends!
Finely dicing garlic distributes its flavor well and gives great texture. But it can be time consuming, cause faster oxidation, and make it hard to remove the garlic later.
In many recipes, leaving the garlic cloves whole or roughly chopped works perfectly fine. Dicing is best saved for instances when you really need the flavor evenly dispersed throughout a dish.
If you do dice garlic, work quickly and gently with fresh cloves to get the best flavor results. And dice it to the size most suitable for the particular dish you’re making.
With the right technique and understanding when it’s called for, diced garlic can be a great culinary tool to enhance many dishes.