Cook-a-bulary

Recipes often use some special terms or jargon which are not so commonly used and can lead to confusion. Here is an extensive list of such terms with their meanings. Let me know if I missed out on some.


Al dente: Refers to a food item that has been cooked through without losing the firmness. Pasta is generally cooked 'al dente' which means it is well cooked but not mushy. 

Bake: Cooking in an oven surrounded by heat. Baking salmon in an oven at a preset temperature for a specific length of time is a very popular way of cooking it.

Batter: Traditionally batter is a semi-liquid mixture of flour, eggs and milk/water. However, batter can be created using other ingredients too. While making fried chicken we use a spiced batter to dip chicken and coat it before deep frying.

Beat: Vigorously stir something. For making a nice and fluffy omelette it is important to beat the eggs thoroughly to incorporate more air into it.

Blanch: Technique used to ensure that the natural color of a vegetable is not lost during the process of cooking. It is basically quickly cooking the vegetable in boiling water and then immediately transferring it to a bowl of ice-cold water.

Blend: Mixing two or more ingredients. While making a strawberry smoothie, the milk and strawberries are blended together either in a mixer or a hand blender.

Boil: Cooking in a liquid that has been heated up to 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

Braise: Combination of cooking in dry and moist heat. For braising meat, it is first seared on high heat (dry) and then cooked in broth on low heat (moist).

Breading: Technique of coating with breadcrumbs before frying.

Brine: Brine is highly concentrated salty water. Meat is usually soaked in brine solution for the purpose of tenderizing. If a whole chicken is soaked in brine overnight and then baked the day after, the end product is a lot more tender and juicier.

Broil: Refers to grilling technique using high, direct and dry heat. Broiling a fish is simply grilling it until the skin turns brown or slightly charred.

Broth: Also known as bouillon, broth is a flavorful liquid obtained by simmering vegetables or proteins in a  lot of water. The liquid is then strained and used as a cooking medium. Chicken broth (also referred as chicken stock) is often used as a base for preparing chicken soups.

Caramelize: Technique of cooking sugar until it completely melts and results in a brownish syrupy liquid.

Dash: An approximate amount of seasoning. In some recipes you may come across terms like add a dash of salt which essentially means add a little bit of salt typically around one eighth of a teaspoon.

De-bone: Removing bones from poultry, meat or fish.

Deep-fry: Frying a food item by completely immersing it in hot oil.

Dice: Cutting in cubes is often referred as dicing.

Dollop: Closer to a scoop, dollop usually means a round blob of soft food. Adding a dollop of vanilla ice-cream to your cold coffee, take it to a whole new level.

Similar to breading it also means coating an item in flour, breadcrumb, cornmeal, or any another dry ingredient before frying. Breading is more specific to coating with breadcrumb.

Drippings: Juices or fat oozing out of poultry or meat while cooking in oven. 

Drizzle: Pouring liquid over food in a zigzag fashion. Drizzling chocolate syrup on your vanilla ice-cream or melted butter on your pancake can be a great touch to an otherwise ordinary food.

Fillet: A boneless piece of meat, poultry, or fish.

Fluff: Fluffing is a technique of lightly mixing rice using a fork so that it is not all clumped together.

Fold: Combining ingredients using an over-and-under method. Usually used to prepare batter for cakes, folding the mixture helps incorporate more air to the batter resulting in a moist and fluffy cake.

Grate: Moving a block of hard food over a serrated surface so obtain shreds of food.

Grease: Applying oil or batter on a surface to prevent food from sticking. Before pouring cake batter into a baking tin, the surface is greased so that the cake comes out easily without sticking.

Grill: To cook on direct heat using a gas grill or charcoal.

Grind: Crushing into powdered form. 

Julienne: To cut into thin long strips like a matchstick. 

Knead: To bring together a dough using your hand by pressing, folding and tactically applying pressure with the heel of your hand. 

Marinate: Soaking food in a semi-liquid mixture of ingredients to infuse flavors and tenderize. For example, chicken is often marinated before cooking for better results in taste.

Mince: The technique of very finely chopping vegetables, poultry or meat.

Pan-fry: Cooking in a pan over medium to medium-high heat without too much of tossing or turning.

Parboil: To partially boil food items to soften them to some extent but not completely.

Pinch: Similar to dash this is about the amount that comes in your pinch to be sprinkled over food. Approximately this is about one sixteenth of a teaspoon.

Poach: Cooking by simmering in a small amount of liquid over low heat.

Puree: Smoothly mashing and blending a food item. 

Reduce: Increasing concentration of a liquid by letting it simmer over low heat so that the flavors are trapped in.

Roast: Cooking in an oven (dry heat) without covering.

Roughly chop: Cut into relatively large uniform chunks using a knife.

Saute: Cooking over high heat in very less oil. This is a very common technique of cooking in Asian cuisine.

Sear: Cooking over high heat to quickly brown the surface of vegetables or meat.

Shredding: Similar to grating but usually leads to larger pieces.

Shallow-fry: To fry food in less oil (opposite to deep frying where food is completely immersed in oil)

Sieve: Technique of separating solid and liquid portions of food using a strainer.

Sift: Technique of pouring a dry ingredient on a sieve and gently shaking it in order to get rid of lumps.

Simmer: To cook below boiling temperature.

Slice: Cutting into thin, flat pieces.

Steam: Method of cooking using vapors from a boiling liquid in a covered pan. 

Stew: Slow cooking technique where vegetables or proteins are simmered in broth in low heat. 

Stir-fry: Cooking small pieces of food over very high heat usually in a wok.

Temper: Cooking technique in which whole spices (sometimes red chillies, bayleaf, ginger etc) are roasted in hot oil to infuse flavor into the dish at the beginning. Usually practiced in South Asian countries.

Toast: Technique of crisping a food item.

Toss: Mix together ingredients by shaking the ingredients and flicking them in air, this ensures even distribution of spices.

Whip/Whisk: Rapid beating of ingredients while mixing them to incorporate air and volumize.

Zest: Peel of citrus fruits.










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