Roughly Chopped vs. Finely Chopped: Demystifying Cooking Terms

The other day I was watching my hubby chop onions. The recipe said ‘thinly slice’ but he clearly was roughly chopping them. Which lead to the great debate on what is considered chopped, sliced, what counts as fine and what is rough. We thought we would clarify the difference, once and for all!


Roughly chopped 

It is a bit of a loose term, but if you where cutting an onion then the size would be approximately 2cm, for herbs the size just under 1cm. Roughly chopping usually has more leeway on the exact size, and variations wont affect the taste or texture of the dish much. This technique is often used in rustic dishes with robust flavours. 

Finely chopped 

This means chopping the ingredients into pieces ½ cm or less.

For garlic or herbs the size is approximately 2mm.  The term finely cube may also be used here and this is because the recipe texture and flavour calls for a consistent sized finely chopped ingredient. This is often but not always used in French cuisine and dishes with a subtle flavour profile. 


Cut vertically down your vegetable. You can slice these as thick or thin as you prefer, but recipes will usually specify a thin or thick slice. A thin slice will be as thin as you can possibly cut it.  


This is best done with a microplane (available from most home/kitchen stores), zester or mini grater, but can also be done on the fine side of your normal box/cheese grater.

Zesting lemons and limes or any citrus adds a wonderful taste and fragrance to your dish. The essential oils are in the skin and therefore by zesting you are creating maximum flava. Be careful to only zest the top colourful layer, turning the citrus all the time, once you reach the white part underneath the skin stop zesting or grating as this part can be very bitter. 

Crushed Garlic 

This is done with a garlic press, the clove is inserted into the garlic press and the handle squeezed, pushing out the garlic and leaving the skin behind. 

Deseeding a chilli and finely chopping  

If you want to reduce the heat of a chilli then you will need to deseed it – cut the top off your chilli and slice in half lengthways, using the tip of the knife. Then carefully scrape the seeds out of the chilli with a knife or butter knife.

To finely chop, slice the chilli lengthways into thin strips and then cube the chilli widthways. The cubes should be roughly all the same size and between 1 – 2 mm thick. 

Simmer vs. Boil 

Simmer – bring of pot of water to a boil and then reduce the heat slightly to a point where you see the bubbles slowing down slightly.

Boil – Bring a pot of water to the boil by turning your stove up to the maximum temperature and leaving it at that temperature so your water bubbles vigorously. 

Sauté vs. Fry 

Sauté – Sautéing means cooking small pieces of food ie onions, cubed vegetables over a medium-high heat with oil in a pan, moving it around with a spoon often to slightly brown. 

Fry – is when you cook larger pieces of food like steak or chicken breasts over a medium heat. You’ll only flip your food once when pan frying your food.

Dash vs. Pinch 

In measurements these are approximately as follows:

Dash: 1/8 teaspoon

Pinch: 1/16 teaspoon

When a recipe calls for “salt to taste,” it’s usually asking for a three-fingered pinch of salt at a time, mixing and tasting in between each pinch. 

When to use a serrated knife 

Serrated blades work well on foods that are soft, flexible or can be crushed easily with downward cutting. The “sawing” motion does not tear or break the food. Food such as tomatoes, soft fruits and breads. 

So next time your in the kitchen and you start debating the cooking terms – we hope this list helps!