I recently posted about How to Read a Recipe and in order to be successful when you are cooking, not only do you have to know how to read a recipe but you have to understand what you are reading. Here is a list of common cooking terms that you may find in a recipe:
Italian for “to the tooth.” It describes pasta that is cooked until it offers a slight resistance when bitten into, rather than cooked until soft.
To cook food, covered or uncovered, using the direct, dry heat of an oven. The term is usually used to describe the cooking of cakes, other desserts, casseroles, and breads.
A combination of dry acid, baking soda, and starch that has the ability to release carbon dioxide in two stages: when liquid ingredients are added and when the mixture is heated.
A chemical leavening agent that creates carbon dioxide and is used in conjunction with acidic ingredients, such as buttermilk, sour cream, brown sugar, or fruit juices, to create the bubbles that make the product rise.
Syrupy and slightly sweet, this dark-brown vinegar is made from the juice of the white Trebbiano grape. It gets its body, color, and sweetness from being aged in wooden barrels.
To moisten foods during cooking or grilling with fats or seasoned liquids to add flavor and prevent drying. In general, recipes in this cookbook do not call for basting meat and poultry with pan juices or drippings. That’s because basting tools, such as brushes and bulb basters, could be sources of bacteria if contaminated when dipped into uncooked or undercooked meat and poultry juices, then allowed to sit at room temperature and used later for basting.
An uncooked, wet mixture that can be spooned or poured, as with cakes, pancakes, and muffins. Batters usually contain flour, eggs, and milk as their base. Some thin batters are used to coat foods before deep frying.
To make a mixture smooth by briskly whipping or stirring it with a spoon, fork, wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer.
A popular Cajun cooking method in which seasoned fish or other foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until charred, resulting in a crisp, spicy crust. At home, this is best done outdoors because of the large amount of smoke produced.
To partially cook fruits, vegetables, or nuts in boiling water or steam to intensify and set color and flavor. This is an important step in preparing fruits and vegetables for freezing. Blanching also helps loosen skins from tomatoes, peaches, and almonds.
To combine two or more ingredients by hand, or with an electric mixer or blender, until smooth and uniform in texture, flavor, and color.
To cook food in liquid at a temperature that causes bubbles to form in the liquid and rise in a steady pattern, breaking at the surface. A rolling boil occurs when liquid is boiling so vigorously that the bubbles can’t be stirred down.
A bouillon cube is a compressed cube of dehydrated beef, chicken, fish, or vegetable stock. Bouillon granules are small particles of the same substance, but they dissolve faster. Both can be reconstituted in hot liquid to substitute for stock or broth.
To cook food slowly in a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan on the range top or in the oven. Braising is recommended for less-tender cuts of meat.
A coating of crumbs, sometimes seasoned, on meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables. Breading is often made with soft or dry bread crumbs.
Heavily salted water used to pickle or cure vegetables, meats, fish, and seafood.
To cook food a measured distance below direct, dry heat. When broiling, position the broiler pan and its rack so that the surface of the food (not the rack) is the specified distance from the heat source. Use a ruler to measure this distance.
The strained clear liquid in which meat, poultry, or fish has been simmered with vegetables and herbs. It is similar to stock and can be used interchangeably with it. Reconstituted bouillon can also be used when broth is specified.
To cook a food in a skillet, broiler, or oven to add flavor and aroma and develop a rich, desirable color on the outside and moistness on the inside.
For rich flavor, butter is usually the fat of choice. For baking, butter is recommended rather than margarine for consistent results. Salted and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably in recipes; however, if you use unsalted butter, you may want to increase the amount of salt in a recipe.
To split food, such as shrimp or pork chops, through the middle without completely separating the halves. Opened flat, the split halves resemble a butterfly.
To brown sugar, whether it is granulated sugar or the naturally occuring sugars in vegetables. Granulated sugar is cooked in a saucepan or skillet over low heat until melted and golden. Vegetables are cooked slowly over low heat in a small amount of fat until browned and smooth.
To cool food to below room temperature in the refrigerator or over ice. When recipes call for chilling foods, it should be done in the refrigerator.
To cut foods with a knife, cleaver, or food processor into smaller pieces.
To evenly cover food with crumbs, flour, or a batter. Often done to meat, fish, and poultry before cooking.
To work a solid fat, such as shortening, butter, or margarine, into dry ingredients. This is usually done with a pastry blender, two knives in a crisscross fashion, your fingertips, or a food processor.
Refers to a small amount of seasoning that is added to food. It is generally between 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoon. The term is often used for liquid ingredients, such as bottled hot pepper sauce.
To cook food by completely covering with hot fat. Deep-frying is usually done at 375 degrees.
A two-pan arrangement where one pan nests partway inside the other. The lower pot holds simmering water that gently cooks heat-sensitive food in the upper pot.
To coat a food, either before or after cooking, with a dry ingredient, such as flour, cornmeal, or sugar.
To lightly coat or sprinkle a food with a dry ingredient, such as flour or powdered sugar, either before or after cooking.
A method of gently mixing ingredients without decreasing their volume. To fold, use a rubber spatula to cut down vertically through the mixture from the back of the bowl. Move the spatula across the bottom of the bowl, and bring it back up the other side, carrying some of the mixture from the bottom up over the surface. Repeat these steps, rotating the bowl one-fourth of a turn each time you complete the process.
To cook food in a hot cooking oil or fat, usually until a crisp brown crust forms. To panfry is to cook food, which may have a very light breading or coating, in a skillet in a small amount of hot fat or oil. To deep-fat fry (or French fry) is to cook a food until it is crisp in enough hot fat or oil to cover the food. To shallow fry is to cook a food, usually breaded or coated with batter, in about an inch of hot fat or oil. To oven fry is to cook food in a hot oven, using a small amount of fat to produce a healthier product.
To rub food, such as hard cheeses, vegetables, or whole nutmeg or ginger, across a grating surface to make very fine pieces. A food processor also may be used.
To coat a utensil, such as a baking pan or skillet, with a thin layer of fat or oil. A pastry brush works well to grease pans. Also refers to fat released from meat and poultry during cooking.
To work dough with the heels of your hands in a pressing and folding motion until it becomes smooth and elastic. This is an essential step in developing the gluten in many yeast breads.
A seasoned liquid in which meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or vegetables are soaked to flavor and sometimes tenderize them. Most marinades contain an acid, such as wine or vinegar.
To soak food in a marinade. When marinating foods, do not use a metal container, as it can react with acidic ingredients to give foods an off flavor. Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the kitchen counter. To reduce cleanup, use a plastic bag set in a bowl or dish to hold the food you are marinating. Discard leftover marinade that has come in contact with raw meat. Or if it’s to be used on cooked meat, bring leftover marinade to a rolling boil before using to destroy any bacteria that may be present.
To determine the quantity or size of a food or utensil.
To heat a solid food, such as chocolate, margarine, or butter, over very low heat until it becomes liquid or semi-liquid.
To chop food into very fine pieces, as with minced garlic.
To stir or beat two or more foods together until they are thoroughly combined. May be done with an electric mixer, a rotary beater, or by hand with a wooden spoon.
To add enough liquid to a dry ingredient or mixture to make it damp but not runny.
To cook a food, especially meat, in a skillet without added fat, removing any fat as it accumulates.
To boil a food, such as vegetables, until it is partially cooked
A grease- and heat-resistant paper used to line baking pans, to wrap foods in packets for baking, or to make disposable pastry bags.
To cut off the skin or outer covering of a fruit or vegetable, using a small knife or a vegetable peeler.
The skin or outer covering of a vegetable or fruit (also called the rind). Peel also refers to the process of removing this covering.
A small amount of a dry ingredient (the amount that can be pinched between a finger and the thumb).
To cook a food by partially or completely submerging it in a simmering liquid.
To heat an oven or a utensil to a specific temperature before using it.
To process or mash a food until it is as smooth as possible. This can be done using a blender, food processor, sieve, or food mill; also refers to the resulting mixture.
To decrease the volume of a liquid by boiling it rapidly to cause evaporation. As the liquid evaporates, it thickens and intensifies in flavor. The resulting richly flavored liquid, called a reduction, can be used as a sauce or as the base of a sauce. When reducing liquids, use the pan size specified in the recipe, as the surface area of the pan affects how quickly the liquid will evaporate.
A large piece of meat or poultry that’s usually cooked by roasting. Roasting refers to a dry-heat cooking method used to cook foods, uncovered, in an oven. Tender pieces of meat work best for roasting.
A French term that refers to a mixture of flour and a fat cooked to a golden- or rich-brown color and used for a thickening in sauces, soups, and gumbos.
From the French word sauter, meaning “to jump.” Sauteed food is cooked and stirred in a small amount of fat over fairly high heat in an open, shallow pan. Food cut into uniform size sautes the best.
To heat a liquid, often milk, to a temperature just below the boiling point, when tiny bubbles just begin to appear around the edge of the liquid.
To cut narrow slits, often in a diamond pattern, through the outer surface of a food to decorate it, tenderize it, help it absorb flavor, or allow fat to drain as it cooks.
To use a sharp or blunt instrument to rub the outer coating from a food, such as carrots.
To brown a food, usually meat, quickly on all sides using high heat. This helps seal in the juices and may be done in the oven, under a broiler, or on top of the range.
A vegetable oil that has been processed into solid form. Shortening commonly is used for baking or frying. Plain and butter-flavor types can be used interchangeably. Store in a cool, dry place. Once opened, use within 6 months. Discard if it has an odor or appears discolored.
To put one or more dry ingredients, especially flour or powdered sugar, through a sifter or sieve to remove lumps and incorporate air.
To cook food in a liquid that is kept just below the boiling point; a liquid is simmering when a few bubbles form slowly and burst just before reaching the surface.
A long, narrow metal or wooden stick that can be inserted through pieces of meat or vegetables for grilling. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before you thread them to prevent burning.
To remove a substance, such as fat or foam, from the surface of a liquid.
A flat, usually thin, piece of food cut from a larger piece. Also the process of cutting flat, thin pieces
To cook a food in the vapor given off by boiling water.
To allow a food, such as tea, to stand in water that is just below the boiling point in order to extract flavor or color.
To cook food in liquid for a long time until tender, usually in a covered pot. The term also refers to a mixture prepared this way.
To mix ingredients with a spoon or other utensil to combine them, to prevent ingredients from sticking during cooking, or to cool them after cooking.
A method of quickly cooking small pieces of food in a little hot oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat while stirring constantly.
The strained clear liquid in which meat, poultry, or fish has been simmered with vegetables or herbs. It is similar to broth but is richer and more concentrated. Stock and broth can be used interchangeably; reconstituted bouillon can also be substituted for stock.
The colored outer portion of citrus fruit peel. It is rich in fruit oils and often used as a seasoning. To remove the zest, scrape a grater or fruit zester across the peel; avoid the white membrane beneath the peel because it is bitter.