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Top 10 Basic Cooking Terms You Need to Know

Written by: Lindsay Shugerman

October 28, 2011
Filed Under Food 

Tags: ,

Contributed by Lindsay Shugerman, Top 10 Guru

One of the top ten basic cooking terms everyone should know

When you’re learning to cook, recipes can be confusing. That’s because they’re full of cooking terms you may not know.
We want to help.

Here are 10 cooking terms you need to understand to go from the words in the recipe to delicious food on your table.

10. Poach

Poaching means to cook something entirely in water or onother liquid. It usually involves dropping the food item into boiling broth, water or syrup – for instance poached eggs which are slid neatly into a pot of water to cook.

Ocassionally, poaching can refer to cooking fish or other meats in hot broth or sauce, instead of baking or pan frying.

9. Blanch

Unlike poaching, where food is cooked completely in liquid, this food term means to start the cooking in liquid, or to just cook briefly in hot liquid. For example, blanching a tomato makes it easy to remove the skin.

And it’s common to blanch asparagus before using in many dishes…that quick dip into the hot water (only seconds), brings out the bright green color and makes it slightly more tender.

8. Fold

Understanding this food term means the difference between a light, fluffy soufflé and a pancake. Folding is the means of combining something heavy (like a batter) with something very light and air filled (like beaten egg whites.)

The gentle folding motion forms layers, unlike stirring which mixes things together.

7. Sear

To sear is to quickly cook the outside of a piece of meat or fish over high heat. It’s a way to seal in juices before baking or roasting, ensuring a tastier final dish.

6. Cream

Ironically, creaming has nothing to do with cream. This food term refers to a complete blending of a soft ingredient, like butter, with a dry or granualar one, like sugar. When the two have been blended until they form a smooth paste, we say that they have been creamed.

5. Dice

The first cutting term in this list of important cooking terms, do dice means to cut something into small but still recognizable chunks of about the same size and shape. Think game dice and you’re on the right track.

4. Braise

Braising is actually step two in a two part cooking method typically used for meat. The meat is first seared (number 7 on this list), and then cooked until done in a seasoned liquid like broth or sauce. The combination produces the moist, flavorful meat dishes typical of French cooking.

3. Mince

This food term means to chop something into very tiny pieces, where a specific shape (like a dice or a slice) is no longer visible. Mincing releases the juices, and allows the ingredient’s flavors to be well incorporated into the dish.

2. Simmer

One of the most common mistakes new cooks make it to keep the heat too high under foods, effectively boiling away the moisture and the flavor long before the food is actually cooked. Simmering means to cook a liquid-based food at a low temperature. There should still be steam (some, not a lot), but no bubbles if a dish is simmering.

1. Saute

The number one food term that confuses new chefs is the saute. Sauteing means to cook food with a small amount of fat in a shallow pan (a saute pan with a heavy bottom is ideal) over relatively high heat. Unlike frying, the food is not crisped…it is simply softened before moving on to the next step.


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