Cooking Terms & Techniques

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All you need to know about cooking terms & techniques, and understanding recipe directions… explained in simple words!


al dente: Italian for “to the tooth”, it typically refers to pasta (or rice) which is cooked to be firm at the core and soft on the surface, i.e. not soggy and overcooked. It can also refer to vegetables that are cooked only until crunchy.

baste: means to pour, brush, or spoon a liquid, usually a sauce or a gravy, over food as it roasts. Basting is a very useful technique to moisten food while cooking and to enhance its final flavor.

blanch: cook in boiling water for a brief period of time (less than a minute), drain and cool quickly in cold water to stop the cooking process. Mainly used for vegetables, this is a great technique to soften, remove strong or bitter taste and help skin the vegetables for later use (tomatoes for example).

boil: cook a food in a liquid, usually salted water, which is heated until large bubbles form and rise rapidly to the surface (approximately 210 °F or 100 °C). It is the main technique for cooking pasta, rice and a variety of vegetables.

broil: cook directly under a heat source so that the side of the food facing the heat cooks rapidly. Commonly achieved with the oven grill function…

brown: browning, usually meat, means cooking it in oil or butter over high heat for a few minutes to give it a nice brown crust. Used to remove excessive fat and to give the meat a typical browned flavor.

caramelize: it’s the simple slow cooking of sugar, either added or naturally present in food (onions being a great example). Adds a rich, complex and wonderful flavor…

cream: stir or beat one or several ingredients to a smooth cream-like consistency.

dash: a small amount of a given ingredient, usually ground so it can be portioned easily, about 1/4 to 1/8 of a teaspoon.

deep fry: cooking food by entirely submerging it in fat, usually vegetable oil (or other fat that withstands high temperatures), using a flat open pan or deep fryer. Clearly not the healthiest option but does it ever taste good! Perfect deep frying is fast and performed at very high temperature (350-375 °F or 180–190 °C), which prevents oil from penetrating the outer surface. Fried food should always be placed on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

Dutch oven: big deep heavy pot used for roasting or grilling. Perfect for casseroles, stews and recipes that require a long cooking process.

emulsion: you have an emulsion (and you emulsify) when you try to blend two or more ingredients that do not typically blend, such as oil and water, or oil and vinegar (speaking of salad dressings).

fold: blend an ingredient with other ingredients with a slow circular motion, usually using a spatula. More gentle mixing technique vs. stirring or beating, often used for desserts preparation.

knead: work dough or other thick mixture by squeezing, pressing, stretching and folding repeatedly with your hands, so it becomes a uniform mass.

marinate: soak food in a liquid (the marinade), typically made with oil, soy sauce, yogurt or wine, and adding spices and seasonings. Marinated food is usually covered and refrigerated for some time (usually the more the better). Great technique to add flavor and tenderize any kind of meat.

pinch: a very small amount, typically used to portion salt, defined as what you can pick up between your thumb and first finger. Not to be confused with a punch which is a much larger amount!

preheat: allow an oven to warm up to a certain temperature, before putting food in it. Very important step that allows heat to transfer to the food more quickly, thus affecting texture and taste.

pulse: mix or blend by turning a food processor on and off in rapid succession and in short intervals (some processors even have a dedicated pulse button).

roast: dry-heat cooking technique, generally using an oven, that allows heat to penetrate the food evenly from all sides (same as baking). Food should be placed in the oven uncovered, so it is cooked by hot air and not by steam.

saute: fry quickly in an open flat pan over medium-high heat, using little oil or butter, and flipping the food with the motion of the pan. Slightly different compared to stir frying, which requires more fat and a shallower pan.

seed: remove seeds, usually from a vegetable. This is sometimes performed to improve food texture (for example tomatoes to be used in a sauce), or avoid excess bitterness (peppers) or spiciness (chilies). Now be careful when seeding, lemons will get you in the eye, we’ve all been there! Wear gloves and proceed with caution when seeding spicy peppers, we don’t want you setting your mouth or eyes on fire.

shred: tear into small pieces, either by hand or with a grater. Often used for chicken preparations as well as vegetables (shredded cabbage probably being the most popular).

sift: pass a dry ingredient, flour or sugar, through a sieve.

simmer: cook over low heat in liquid, sauce or gravy, kept just below boiling point.

 


 

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