What does it mean to mince something?
On the scale of cutting things into little pieces, a mince is smaller than a dice, shred or chop, but not quite puréed, pulverized or squashed to a pulp. Things that are typically minced include shallots, garlic, ginger, onion, lemongrass, peppers, herbs, meats, words.
Why mince? Mince when you want to make sure that a powerful flavor is spread evenly throughout a dish. Also, mince if you want to make sure that you won’t bite into a too-big chunk of something potent, like garlic, or something difficult to chew, like ginger or lemongrass.
How to mince? Some cooks are born to mince with a chef’s knife, swiftly and precisely yielding the smallest bits of garlic, onion and herbs. For the clumsy and the lazy, a garlic press will mince several cloves at a time, a grater will work for ginger, and a vegetable chopper or baby Cuisinart will mince vegetables and herbs. A butcher is your best bet for mincing meat.
Caution: Mincemeat does not equal “minced meat.” Aside from contributing a little suet to the cause, the butcher can’t help you make a mincemeat (or mince) pie, which contains minced fruits, nuts and spices. The butcher may, however, send you off with “minced meat,” such as ground beef or pork, for your kibbi or larb.