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“A thru B” Basic Cooking Terms:
Adjust seasoning – To change the seasoning that is called for in a recipe to adjust for your personal taste or the tastes of those you are cooking for. For example, you may decide to use more or less salt, more or less herbs, more or less seasonings, etc., than a recipe actually calls for.
Bake – To cook in the oven. The terms baking and roasting are often confused. Roasting is different from baking in that roasting usually means cooking at a higher temperature in the beginning to get the surface of the foods to brown.
Barbecue – A basic cooking term describing the grilling of food over a wood or charcoal fire, or ceramic briquette fire. Usually some sort of rub, marinade, or sauce is brushed on the item before or during cooking.
Baste – To moisten food during cooking with pan drippings, sauce, or other liquid such as melted butter, by using a basting brush, which resembles a paint brush. Basting prevents foods from drying out.
Béarnaise – A warm, egg and butter sauce similar to hollandaise, but with the addition of white wine, shallots, and tarragon. Bearnaise is a Classic sauce that is served with Filet Mignon.
Blacken – A way of cooking where the meat is seasoned with a spicy Cajun seasoning mixture then fried in a hot skillet until blackened on both sides.
Braise – This basic cooking terms means to cook in a small amount of liquid. Braised dishes use a relatively small amount of liquid.
Broil – To cook with a direct heat source above the food, usually a gas flame or an electric coil.
Brown – To cook meat quickly at a fairly high heat to brown the surface of the meat. Browning can be done on the stove top in a pan or under the broiler in the oven.
Butterfly – To cut almost through the center of a thick steak and then open it up before cooking so that it resembles the wings of a butterly. This is usually done to enable a thick steak like a filet to cook to well-done quickly, so that it doesn’t dry out.
“C thru D” Basic Cooking Terms:
Cajun Cuisine (or Cajun Cooking) – A cuisine that originated in Louisiana with Southern, French, African and American Indian influences. One of the main seasonings used in Cajun food is cayenne pepper, which gives the food a slightly spicy-hot “kick”.
Caramelized – Refers to onions or garlic that have been cooked until the sugars in the onions or garlic come out and turn the onions or garlic a rich golden color with a sweet taste.
Clarified butter – Clarifying removes the water and milk solids in butter. You usually clarify the butter that you will use to dip lobster or seafood in. You can make clarified butter by slowing melting sticks of butter, then turning off the heat and letting the milk solids float to the top. You then skim off the milk solids.
Compound butter – Whole, unmelted butter combined with herbs or other seasonings and used to top steaks or vegetables for additional flavor. It is usually formed into a log and then refrigerated or frozen and served on top of the steak, which melts from the heat of the cooked food.
Deglaze – To add liquid to a pan in which foods have been sautéed or roasted in order to dissolve the caramelized juices stuck to the bottom of the pan. The purpose of deglazing is to make a quick sauce or gravy. To make a pan-deglazed sauce, first pour out any fat left in the pan. Make sure that what’s left in the pan isn’t burnt. Add a few tablespoons of flavorful liquid, such as wine, broth, or water to the pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned juices. You can use the sauce as is, or you can make it more rich by adding a small amount of broth, butter, and/or a little heavy cream. You can also add flavorings to it, such as herbs and seasonings, or pureed garlic, herbs or ingredients such as pepper.
Demiglace – A rich sauce made from a mixture of equal parts of brown stock and brown sauce that has been reduced in half, and typically has a bit of wine in it.
Dredge – To coat a food with flour by dragging the food through the flour before frying or baking.
“E thru G” Basic Cooking Terms:
Egg wash – A mixture of egg or egg white, oil, and water brushed over floured items, which are then deep-fried or pan-fried.
Flambé – A process used in cooking where some type of alcohol is added to a saute pan, and then the alcohol is lit either by the gas burner, a match or a lighter to cause a dramatic effect with the flames. This is a well-loved technique that chefs or cooks use to impress a group of people while they’re doing demonstration cooking, or tableside cooking. Some of the most well-known flambéd dishes include Steak Diane, Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee. Garlic Bulb– Refers to an entire bulb of garlic, which is divided into many sections called cloves.
Garlic Clove – An individual section of a garlic bulb.
Garnish – To decorate a plate with some type of food after you’ve placed a food on it to make it appealing to the eye and more attractive. For instance, you could sprinkle finely chopped parsley over mashed potatoes.
Gorgonzola – Gorgonzola is a blue-veined Italian cheese with a buttery color and a firm, crumbly texture. It is similar to common domestic bleu cheese, but has a stronger flavor.
Grill – To cook with the heat source below the food, traditionally over wood, charcoal, or ceramic bricks (or an electric coil in the case of an outdoor electric grill).
“H thru K” Basic Cooking Terms:
Half and Half – A mixture of half cream, half milk. The fat content is between 10 and 12 percent.
Jaccarder – A handheld device that is made of dozens of needle-like blades that puncture the meat and tenderize it by breaking down the grizzle. Many professional chefs use this utensil to tenderize steak cuts that otherwise might be somewhat tough.
“L thru N” Basic Cooking Terms:
Marinade – A mixture of ingredients used to flavor, moisten and tenderize foods.
Meat Hammer – A utensil made from metal or wood that isshaped much like a hammer that is used for tenderizing meat. The grizzle in the meat is broken down when you pound the meat with the hammer. A meat hammer can also be used to “flatten” meat that you want to be thin so it can cook quickly. (It looks just like the one in the picture to the left.)
Medallions – Medallions are filet mignon that has been sliced thinner than a typical filet, usually about 1/2″ thick, instead of 1″ to 2″ thick for a typical filet. They are sliced thin to speed up the cooking when you are preparing a dish that is sauteed quickly.
Mesquite Wood – Wood from a hardwood tree that grows in the Southwest and in Mexico, that has a distinct smoky aroma, and is used for flavoring and smoking foods.
Mortar and Pestle – A kitchen tool that consists of a small heavy bowl and a heavy stick that is used for crushing or smashing ingredients such as peppercorns or spices. The bowl and stick are typically made of a heavy material such as granite, marble or hardwood.
“O thru Q” Basic Cooking Terms:
Panfry – Panfrying is when you cook meat in a hot pan, turning the meat only once or twice, or when it is browned on one side.
Pan gravy – A sauce made by deglazing pan drippings and combining them with a roux or other starch and additional stock.
Panko – Panko is another term for Japanese breadcrumbs, which is used to coat foods for frying. It is usually more light and airy and crispier than typical breadcrumbs.
Peppercorn – Peppercorns are small hard berries from the pepper plant that are used to make ground pepper. The black peppercorn is picked when it is almost ripe, then dried. Peppercorns are available in three different types: “Whole” peppercorns are just as stated – they’re whole. “Cracked” peppercorns are peppercorns that are coursely chopped; “Ground” peppercorns are peppercorns that are finely chopped, such as table pepper. Peppercorns are also available in many different colors, from black and grey, green, shades of brown and beige, and shades of red and pink.
Pepper Mill- Sometimes referred to as a pepper grinder, this is a kitchen utensil that is filled with peppercorns, then either a handle is turned or a cap is twisted to grind the peppercorns into coarse pepper. The coarse-ground pepper is sometimes called “cracked pepper”.
Pilaf – A seasoned rice dish in which the rice is sautéed before the liquid and other ingredients are added.
Puff Pastry – A dough that is usually pre-made and purchased in the freezer section of grocery stores. The dough is flaky and rich and is used to wrap meats or other food items in before baking. The puff pastry turns a golden brown.
“R” Basic Cooking Terms:
Reduce – Cooking liquids down so that some of the water they contain evaporates. It is used to concentrate the flavor or a sauce or a broth, and sometimes used to thicken the sauce.
Rest – While you are cooking a steak (or any meat for that matter), the juices in the steak will collect in the center of the steak. This may cause the outer edges of the steak to become dried out. To prevent dried out edges, let the steak sit for 3 to 5 minutes after you remove it from the heat source. This is referred to as letting the meat “rest”. During the resting period, the juices in the center of the steak will travel to the outer edges, thereby giving you a juicy steak. (You can cover the steak during this time to keep it warm.)
Roast – This basic cooking term describes how to roast meat. The purpose of roasting is to create a golden brown crust on whatever it is we are roasting and, at the same time, make sure the meat, properly cooks in the center. When roasting, no liquid should be added. If the food needs to be basted throughout the roasting period, hot fat or butter should be used. Many times, you start out roasting the meat at a higher temperature to brown it on the outside, and then reduce the temperature to finish it off.
Rosemary – An herb with a fresh pine flavor with needle-like leaves.
Roux – A mixture of butter and flour, cooked until bubbly, that is used as the thickening agent for sauces.
Rub – Either a wet mixture of flavorings (such as garlic or onion that is mashed into a paste with seasonings), or a dry mixture of herbs and seasonings that is rubbed into a steak before cooking to enhance the flavor.
“S” Basic Cooking Terms:
Sage – An herb that is silvery-green with woody stems, commonly used for flavoring meats.
Sauté – To cook over high heat in a small amount of fat in a sauté pan or skillet.
Scallions– A vegetable that is a member of the onion family, sometimes called a “green onion”. The scallion typically has a small white bulb and a long green stem. Both the white bulb and the stem can be chopped and used in cooking or used raw in salads.
Sear – To brown the surface of pieces of meats by submitting them to intense heat in a pan in the beginning of the cooking process.
Shallot– A vegetable from the onion family. It resembles a small onion in appearance but is usually narrower and longer, and has a sweeter and milder flavor.
Substitute – To change an ingredient in a recipe to a different ingredient because the ingredient that is called for is unavailable, or because of personal taste. For example, a recipe may call for fresh minced onions and because you don’t happen to have any fresh onions, you might decide to substitute onion powder or dehydrated onions from a jar. Keep in mind that when you’re doing substitutions, the exact measurements of the ingredients are not always interchangeable, so you may have to adjust the measurement. In other words, the flavor from a half-cup of dehydrated onions will be MUCH STRONGER than the flavor from a half-cup of fresh minced onions. You would need to adjust the measurement in your recipe to avoid overpowering the recipe with the onion flavor.
“T thru Z” Basic Cooking Terms:
Teriyaki – A sweet sauce of Japanese origin that contains soy sauce, sherry, sugar, ginger and seasonings.
Unsalted Butter – Butter that contains no salt, that is typically used in cooking.