Recipes are full of measurements, ingredients and directions. Sometimes we come across a word and are not quite sure what it means. Sometimes those terms require us to be very precise or the recipe won’t turn out correctly. Becoming familiar with those cooking terms is a necessity and allows the cook to spread their wings and try new things.
Crush – To press hard enough to extract juice. Can be done with a garlic press, flat side of a knife or mallet.
Mince – To cut into very tiny pieces such as with onions and garlic, using a knife such as the Chef’s Knife.
Chop – To cut with a knife by rocking the knife from the tip of the blade to the back. You need to use a knife that allows for this rocking motion such as a Chef’s Knife.
Dice – Cutting the food into cubes that are less than 1/2 inch in diameter. Most commonly done with a Chef’s Knife but if you are comfortable with your knife skills can even use a Cleaver.
Cube – Cutting the food into cubes that are 1/2 an inch or more in diameter. A Chef’s Knife is the most common but even a Cleaver can work, if you feel comfortable with such a large blade.
Sliver – To cut into long thin strips such as you find almonds.
Julienne – When food is cut into long sticks, such as french fries.
Pare – To cut off the outer skin of a food such as with potatoes and apples. Use of a paring knife makes the job much simpler.
Peel – To strip off the outer skin of food by hand, such as with an orange or banana.
Toss – To very gently mix food so as not to cause bruising, such as with a salad.
Fold – A way to combine food so as not to lose air such as with a mousse. The spatula is “cut” into the food and gently drug across the bottom of the bowl and the food is flipped over. Rotate the bowl and repeat as needed.
Cut – A way to combine fats with a dry ingredient. The end results are balls of fat and dry ingredients forming crumbs. There are 3 main methods.
1.) Holding a knife in each hand they form an X over the fats. The knives are pulled apart, thereby cutting the fat.
2.) A fork is used by pressing down on the fat until it has created crumbs.
3.) A pastry knife is used the same as a fork. This tool is much faster than using a fork.
Stir, Mix and Blend – Used to combine ingredients evenly. Stir is the most gentle, and as you progress to mixing and blending you become a little more vigorous in your efforts.
Cream – Beating until the food is light and fluffy, such as with butter and shortening.
Beat – To use a whip or firm spoon to vigorously combine ingredients. This is much stronger than to blend.
Whip – To use a whisk or beaters to incorporate air into a food, such as making whipped cream.
Knead – To fold dough over repeatedly in order to form a smooth dough and increase gluten. The more you knead, the more gluten is created. Always follow the time lines in the recipe as some foods you want very little gluten, while others you want a lot.
Saute – To gently cook over medium heat.
Brown – To cook over medium to medium high heat in an attempt to brown all sides of the food. This not only adds flavor, but is aesthetically pleasing.
Scald – Heating milk to 180 degrees (82 Celsius) to kill bacteria and enzymes (required for making bread) and denature the proteins. This was needed before pasteurization so in modern cooking it is done mainly to increase the temperature of the milk or change its consistency for specific dishes like Béchamel sauce.
Simmer – To bring food to a very low boil. Bubbles will form and collapse under the surface and on the edges of the pan.
Boil – Bubbles will now form continuously and be breaking on the surface of the liquid.
Rolling Boil – The bubbles are forming more rapidly. Food can easily scorch or reduce at this temperature and should never be left alone.
Roasting – Using a dry heat to add carmelization for meats and vegetables.
Broil – to cook with a dry heat from above the food. This is done at a very high temperature and is only done to put a finishing touch on food. A close eye must be kept on the food to prevent burning. Some older ovens require that the door be slightly ajar when the broiler is used so know your equipment.
Cool – To allow food to come to room temperature.
Chill – Requires the food be placed in the refrigerator to cool down.
Room Temperature – Allowing an item to sit on the counter to bring up the temperature. Butter and eggs whip better if left out for at least 15 minute before hand. Meat such as steak cooks better as the outside gets a nice crust and the inside is not ice cold. This does not mean you are ignoring basic food safety! Food should only be left out if it is going to be used immediately.
Meat Thermometer – Placed into the meat while it is cooking to check the internal temperature. It is common practice to insert the thermometer after the meat is cooked but this is a very bad idea. Doing so creates a portal for the juices to run out and leads to a dry cut of meat.
Candy Thermometer – Specifically designed to use while making candy. Look for one that you can attach to the side of the pot and the numbers are easy to read. Candy can move from 1 stage to the next rapidly and you should stop cooking right before it reaches the temperature you are looking for.
T/Tb – Tablespoon
tsp – teaspoon
Packed – pushing down on the ingredient into the measuring cup. This is most commonly done with brown sugar, but also used when canning. Never pack unless instructed to!
Level – After an ingredient (such as flour) has been scooped into the measuring cup, take a flat object and rest it on the rim. Make a quick swipe over the cup and this ensures the measurement is precise.
Liquids – All liquids beyond a tablespoon should be measured in a liquid measuring cup. You will never get a completely accurate measurement in a dry cup. Once the liquid is in the cup, place it on a lever surface and bend down so you are looking straight onto the lines. From the top it may look accurate, but once you view it from this angle you may see it is off by quite a bit.
Splash – A quick tip or jerk of liquid added to a recipe.
Dash – A quick tip or jerk of a dry ingredient to a recipe.
Season to Taste – Sometimes a recipe calls for a specific amount of salt and pepper. However, especially when using canned ingredients that already contain salt, you may not require as much as the one who developed the recipe. Seasoning to taste just means you taste the finished recipe and see if you want more salt or pepper.
Slow Cooker – Often referred to as a Crock Pot, however that term refers to a specific brand. All Crock Pots are slow cookers, but not all slow cookers are Crock Pots. This is a counter top appliance that allows food to be cooked low and slow all day long without supervision.
Double Broiler – The fancier term is bain-marie, but whatever you call it, it allows food to be cooked in a very delicate way. For example, eggs can be heated to a temperature that will kill bacteria, but the eggs won’t curdle. The process is used when making sauces and melting chocolate. The bottom pot is in direct contact with the heat source and filled with water. The food is placed into the top pot.
The bowl can be glass or metal, just remember it will be hot. When melting chocolate special care must be made to ensure absolutely NO water gets from the pot into the chocolate or it will seize and be unusable.
Marinate – Placing food into a liquid in order to add flavor and tenderize. Always follow the directions of a marinade as leaving meat too long can either cook the meat or tenderize it to the point it becomes mush.
Baste – To spoon a liquid over food while it is cooking. Traditionally done with turkeys for Thanksgiving. However, It has been found that basting merely allows the heat to escape the oven every time it is opened and leads to a drier turkey. It is far better to cover with tin foil and keep the oven shut. When suggested for foods in a frying pan, it is much more successful in adding the desired flavor.
Sifted – To put flour into a sort of sieve or strainer and shake it in order to strain out the lumps and allow the finer particles to pass through. It also allows dry ingredients to be combined in a way to ensure they are incorporated throughout. For example, you can place your flour, baking powder and salt in a sift and it will mix together for you as it goes through the strainer. If a recipe calls for “sifted flour” it is to be sifted before measuring. If it calls for “flour, sifted” it is to be sifted after it is measured.
Rest – Putting food to the side and allowing it to set there undisturbed.
Flour – Okay, I know you are thinking of the food product, but it is also a verb. Wipe shortening, oil or butter on a pan making sure to get every tiny space. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of flour into the pan and shake it till the flour clings to every exposed bit of oil. This is to prevent cakes and brownies from sticking to the pan.
Did you learn anything new? Please let me know if you think I missed any terms and happy cooking!