Learning to Cook? Here's a Handy Glossary of Terms and Techniques
- Aug 26, 2005
In this chapter
Weight and Measurement Conversions
Common Cooking Abbreviations
Oven Temperature Chart
Food Yield Equivalents Chart
Just like any specialty area, cooking has a vocabulary all its own. You will see terms like these in almost any recipe, so make sure that you know exactly what the recipe is asking you to do before you jump in and start cooking.
Al dente: Italian term meaning "to the tooth." Used to describe the texture of pasta or other foods, such as blanched vegetables, that are cooked just until tender but slightly firm to the bite.
Bake: To cook, covered or uncovered, by dry heat, usually in an oven. When baking, it is important to preheat the oven first. Do not crowd the oven. Air must be allowed to circulate freely to ensure that the food cooks evenly. When meat, poultry, or vegetables are baked uncovered, it is called roasting.
Barbecue: To cook meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables on a grill placed over an intense heat created with charcoal, gas, or wood.
Baste: To spoon, brush, or drizzle barbecue sauce, pan drippings, or a marinade over meat, poultry, vegetables, or fish while grilling or roasting. A bulb baster is specifically designed for this purpose. Basting moistens, adds flavor, and enhances the finished appearance. If basting with pan drippings, check occasionally to ensure juices are not evaporating. If the pan drippings are evaporating, add a small amount of liquid such as stock, wine, or water to the pan. Brushing or basting roasting vegetables with oil or melted butter creates a browned crispy surface.
Batter: A thin or slightly thick liquid mixture usually containing flour, eggs, liquid, and a raising agent such as baking powder. This mixture can be poured, dropped from a spoon, or used as a coating for fried foods.
Beat: To mix foods by stirring vigorously in a quick, even, circular motion, lifting the mixture up and over with each stroke. This incorporates air into the mixture and makes it light and fluffy. Use a wooden spoon or a fork to beat. Most often used for eggs, but also a useful method to create a smooth consistency and remove lumps in sauces or custards. This also can be done with an electric mixer.
Bind: To add an ingredient, such as an egg, cream, or butter, to thicken and hold the other ingredients together.
Blanch: To immerse food, usually fruits or vegetables, very briefly in boiling water, either to help loosen the skin or to cook slightly to preserve color and flavor. To loosen the skin on fruits such as tomatoes, nuts, or peaches, immerse the fruit in boiling water for 20 seconds and then plunge into cold water. Remove, let the fruit cool slightly, and then remove the skin. Blanching before freezing stops the enzyme action that destroys the fresh flavor, color, and texture of fruits and vegetables. Immerse in boiling water 1–3 minutes, remove, and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process and then freeze.
Blend: To thoroughly combine two or more ingredients with a wire whisk, spatula, fork, spoon, or electric mixer to a desired consistency.
Blind Bake: To bake an empty pastry shell so that it is well cooked and crisp. The pastry dough is placed in a pie or quiche pan and lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Dried beans or baking marbles are placed on the paper or foil to ensure the pastry retains its shape as it bakes. The weights and lining are then removed and the pastry is cooked a bit longer to complete the baking.
Boil: To bring the temperature of water to 212°F, at sea level, which causes bubbles to constantly rise and break on the surface. Small bubbles will start to form along the inside edge of the pot, gradually increasing in size and intensity. Large bubbles rapidly rising and breaking on the agitated surface indicates a full, rapid, or rolling boil. Covering the pan will speed this process. Food, such as potatoes or pasta, are placed in water that is not yet at a boil, or already boiling, and cooked for a determined amount of time according to the recipe instructions. Medium bubbles rising less intensely with a less agitated surface are known as a "slow boil."
Bone: To remove the bones from meat, poultry, or fish. A thin, flexible boning knife is often used for this process.
Braise: The technique of browning meats or vegetables on the stove top in a small amount of fat and then transferring them to the oven to slowly cook in a few inches of liquid. This cooking technique tenderizes and flavors foods and is especially appropriate for tough cuts of meat. A heavy, tightly-lidded, steep-sided pan such as a Dutch oven is a great pot for braising because it completely surrounds the food and cooks it evenly.
Bread: To dredge or coat with bread or cracker crumbs, usually after first dipping food into a beaten egg or other liquid so that the crumbs will adhere. Breading will seal in moisture and create a crispy crust when the food is cooked.
Brochette: Meat, fish, or vegetables threaded on a skewer and baked, broiled, or grilled.
Broil: To cook food under intense direct heat, usually under a gas or electric oven broiler. A quick, easy, and healthy method of cooking meats, poultry, fish, or vegetables as the high heat seals in the moisture while browning the outside and creating a tender inside. The broiler must be preheated, the food lightly brushed with oil (due to the intense heat), and placed 4–6 inches from the heat source. Barbecuing produces the same result, with the heat source on the underside of the food.
Broth: A liquid created by cooking meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables, or a combination of those foods, in water.
Brown: To cook food quickly at a high heat, usually in a skillet with a small amount of fat, to seal in the moisture and to give food an appetizing, rich, brown color on the surface. A very hot oven or a broiler also will brown foods.
Bruise: To partially crush an aromatic food, such as garlic, to release flavors before adding to a recipe. Press down on the garlic with the flat side of a knife blade, applying pressure with the palm of your hand.
Butterfly: To split food, usually meat, down the center, removing any bones and cutting almost all the way through. The two halves are laid open flat to resemble a butterfly or a book, creating a larger, thinner piece of meat suitable for stuffing.
Caramelize: To melt sugar over low heat, without burning, until it dissolves into a liquid state creating a golden or dark brown syrup. Also refers to sautéing onions or other vegetables over medium-high heat until their sugars break down and caramelize, resulting in a brown color and rich flavor.
Chiffonade: French for "made of rags." Vegetable or large herb leaves, such as basil, are stacked, rolled into a tight cylinder, and cut across the stem, which creates strips or ribbons when unrolled. Most often used as a garnish.
Chill: To refrigerate food or place it in ice or ice water until cold.
Chop: To use a knife to coarsely cut food more than one time, into small or large, non-uniform pieces.
Clarify: To clear a cloudy liquid, such as stock, by adding raw egg whites or eggshells and simmering for 10–15 minutes. This attracts and holds the impurities in the liquid. After cooling, the liquid is gently poured through a fine wire sieve (strainer) or cheesecloth to strain out the residue.
Coat a spoon: To dip a spoon into egg-based custards and sauces to test for doneness. The food is done if an even film, thin to thick depending on the recipe instructions, is left on the spoon and a clear path is left when your finger is drawn across the coating.
Core: The center of a fruit or vegetable that holds the stem and seeds. To core is to remove this area with a small paring knife or corer, a tool designed specifically to remove the core from an apple or pear, leaving a cylindrical hole through the center.
Cream: To thoroughly blend a softened ingredient, such as butter or shortening, into itself or other ingredients, such as sugar. Use the back of a spoon against the side of the bowl to blend and eventually create a smooth, light and fluffy texture.
Crimp: To press two pastry edges together, sealing them, and forming a raised, decorative edge that holds in the filling. To crimp, place the thumb and side of folded index finger over the pastry edge at a 45° angle and gently pinch, continuing all around the edge, creating a diagonal ridge on the rim. Do not pinch too hard as you are only shaping the dough, not stretching it. Another method is to create a "V" with the thumb and index finger of your left hand placed on the pastry rim facing out. Gently press the dough up and out with the "V", while pressing in toward the "V" with the index finger of your right hand. This creates a little scallop that continues all around the edge. You also can press the two pastry edges together with the tines of a fork to create a flat, but sealed edge.
Cube: To cut food into small, square pieces ranging in size from 1/4-inch to 1 1/2-inches—larger than a dice, more uniform in shape and size than a coarse cut.
Curdle: Caused by overcooking, too much heat, or agitation. An egg- or cream-based mixture will separate into a liquid that contains small, solid particles.
Cut: To divide food one or more times with a knife into small or large pieces.
Cut-In: To mix a solid fat, such as butter or shortening, into a dry ingredient with a pastry blender, two table knives, or the fingers, until particles are the desired size, usually the size of coarse bread crumbs. A pastry blender is made for this purpose and is rocked back and forth through the mixture until the fat is distributed as desired. Two table knives are drawn back and forth in opposing directions, cutting the solid into the dry ingredients. Fingers are the choice of professional chefs, in a method referred to as rubbing in, in which the fat is rubbed into the flour using the tips of the fingers.
Dash: A measuring term referring to a very small quantity, usually between 1/8 and 1/16 of a teaspoon, or one or two quick shakes, as in "a dash of hot sauce."
De-beard: To remove the beard from a mussel prior to cooking.
Deep fry: To rapidly cook foods by submerging them in a deep pot of very hot oil. It is essential to use an oil that can be heated to a high temperature without smoking. Oils with a high smoke point are corn, grapeseed, safflower, and peanut oil. Fill the pan no more than halfway with oil since a higher level can be dangerous and many house fires are started by deep-fat pans catching fire. Heat the oil to just below the smoking point. With tongs, or a small wire basket on a long handle made for deep frying, place the foods, such as potatoes for French fries, breaded onion rings, or battered calamari, into the hot oil and deep fry. The recipe directions will give the length of time for cooking. When done, carefully lift the food out of the pan with tongs or a wire basket and transfer to paper towels to drain. This cooking method is most suited to less delicate foods that have been coated with batter or breading to protect them from the high heat.
De-glaze: To add wine, broth, or water to the bottom of a hot roasting or sauté pan in order to loosen the drippings or browned bits deposited while cooking a food, usually meat or poultry. As the liquid heats, scrape the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits. Stir these into the liquid to create the beginnings of a sauce to be seasoned and reduced to the desired consistency or used to make gravy.
Degrease: To carefully skim the fat off the surface of a liquid, such as a soup or stew, with a spoon. Alternately, you may chill the liquid to solidify the fat for easy removal.
De-vein: To remove the dark vein (the intestinal tract) which runs down the back of a shrimp. Shell the shrimp, cut a lengthwise slit along the outside curve of the back, and remove the vein. Rinse well under cold water. In smaller shrimp, the vein can be eaten. However, the vein in larger shrimp contains grit and should be removed.
Dice: To cut into equal-sized, 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes. Smaller and more precise than a chop, while larger and more precise than a mince. Recipes will call for a fine, medium, or large dice when it matters what the vegetables look like, or that they cook in approximately the same amount of time.
Dilute: To thin the consistency or weaken the flavor of a sauce or stock by adding more liquid.
Dot: To scatter small bits of an ingredient, usually butter, over the surface of a food.
Drain: To remove or pour off liquid from food, such as cooked pasta or potatoes, through a colander or strainer. Fat can be drained from a skillet after cooking meat. Food such as bacon or fried chicken also can be placed on paper towels to drain. The towels will absorb the fat from the surface of the food.
Dredge: To coat food lightly but completely with dry ingredients such as flour, cornmeal, or bread crumbs in preparation for frying to help brown the food and seal in moisture. Food can be dragged through the dredging ingredients or shaken in a plastic or paper bag with the dredging ingredients. Always shake off excess dredging ingredients before browning. Baked or fried sweet items, such as donuts, are sometimes dredged with sugar and spices, such as cinnamon.
Drippings: The melted fat, juices, and browned bits left in a roasting or sauté pan by meat or poultry as it cooks. Fats are often skimmed from the pan, and the remaining drippings are used to make a sauce or gravy.
Drizzle: To slowly pour liquid in a fine stream over the surface of a food.
Dust: To lightly sprinkle a food, before or after cooking, with dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, or spices. The dough, rolling pin, and the work surface are dusted with flour before rolling or kneading pastry to prevent it from sticking to any of the surfaces. A plate may be dusted with cocoa powder before setting a slice of cake or dessert on it to enhance the presentation.
Emulsify: To combine liquids that normally do not combine easily into one mixture, such as oil and vinegar. The presence of a third ingredient, called an emulsifier, is required to stabilize and sustain the pairing. Emulsifiers include mustard, eggs, and milk.
Entrée: The main dish of a meal.
Fillet: A piece of meat, chicken, or fish that has had all of the bones removed so only the flesh remains. To fillet is to cut the meat, chicken, or fish from the bones.
Flake: To gently break into small thin pieces, usually with the tines of a fork. Commonly refers to the texture of cooked fish which flakes easily.
Flambé: To drench food in brandy or liqueur and ignite with a match. The food bursts into a dramatic, flaming display while the alcohol burns off.
Flute: To make decorative indentations around the edge of pastry. See Crimp.
Fold: To gently incorporate one mixture with another through repeated, gentle turning-over motions by lifting from underneath without beating or stirring. A rubber spatula is generally used.
Fricassee: To cook food, usually chicken, by browning in butter, and then gently cooking with vegetables, all of which are covered in liquid. This results in a thick stew, often flavored with wine.
Fry: To cook foods in, but not submerged in, hot fat in a skillet over high heat until browned and very crispy. Oil with a high smoke point is ideal for this method of cooking. The thicker the food, the more oil you will need. Preheat the oil in the skillet to a high heat, and then add the food, such as battered chicken pieces, breaded pounded meat, chicken cutlets, breaded fish, or breaded vegetables. The outside cooks at once, preventing the food from absorbing too much oil. Once the food is cooked on one side, gently turn it with tongs or a spatula to the other side, taking care not to splash the hot oil on yourself. When the food is done, remove it with a spatula and transfer to paper towels to absorb any excess oil. This method works best with less delicate foods often dipped in batter or breaded first, such as breaded pork chops or thick fish fillets.
Garnish: To add fresh herbs, edible flowers, fruits, or small vegetables to a completed dish to enhance the flavor or the look.
Glaze: To coat the surface of a food with a thin liquid mixture to give it a smooth, glossy finish. Savories are usually brushed with egg before baking to create a rich, golden-brown finish. Sweet pastries can be brushed with water or milk, and then sprinkled with sugar to give them a crackly sweet finish. Meat, such as ham, often is glazed with a coating of mustard and syrup or brown sugar applied after the ham is partially cooked to achieve a sweet, browned crust.
Grate: To rub a solid food, such as cheese, vegetables, citrus skins, nutmeg, or chocolate, against the coarse, serrated holes of a grater to create shreds of food. These shreds will range in size according to size of the holes in the grater. A food processor can be used for this purpose as well, especially if you have a large quantity of food to prepare. A box grater offers four different sized grating surfaces from a fine zest-like grate to large slices.
Gratin: A food, most often potatoes or green vegetables, topped with grated cheese or bread crumbs, drizzled with oil or dotted with butter and baked in a shallow gratin dish until the inside is soft and the top is browned and slightly crunchy.
Grease: To rub a light coat of fat, usually butter or oil, on the inside of a baking dish to prevent sticking while the food cooks.
Grease and dust: A baking pan is dusted with flour after greasing it to prevent batter from sticking to the pan while baking. Smear a light coat of fat, usually butter or oil, on the inside bottom and sides of the baking pan. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour and shake the pan back and forth so that flour scatters over the sides and bottom of the pan, allowing a fine dusting of flour to adhere to the grease. Gently tap the pan against your hand to loosen any clumps. Discard the flour that does not stick.
Grill: To cook food on a rack over a very intense heat created by charcoal, gas, or wood to brown the outside of the food and seal in moisture. Grilling can be done under intense heat, as in broiling, or on a very hot surface (iron works best). When this is done on the stove-top it is usually called "searing."
Hull: To ready berries, usually strawberries, for use by plucking out the stem and leaves.
Husk: To pull back and remove the leaves covering an ear of corn. It is best to also remove the silk strands found between the leaves and the ear of corn.
Julienne: To cut food, usually vegetables, into narrow, matchstick sized strips, often of a uniform length.
Knead: To work dough on a lightly floured surface until it is elastic and smooth. The dough is pushed with the heels of the hands. The sides are folded toward the center, and then the dough is pushed out and worked again with a gentle but firm downward and outward motion. This is repeated for the length of time specified in the recipe instructions. Kneading develops the gluten in the flour so it will hold its shape when rising.
Leaven: To add a leavening agent, such as yeast, baking powder, or baking soda. This causes the mixture to rise while baking and lightens the texture of the finished product.
Line: To cover the bottom of a baking dish or pan with parchment or waxed paper before adding food to prevent sticking.
Marinate: To soak foods, usually meats and poultry, in a marinade in order to tenderize it and add flavor. A marinade is made with a combination of vinegar, citrus juice, wine, oil, and seasonings such as garlic or herbs. Marinating times vary from 20 minutes to a few days. Do not allow foods to sit in marinades made with citrus for longer than an hour as the citrus actually begins to "cook" the food. Dry marinades are a mix of spices and herbs and are usually called a rub.
Mash: To crush cooked foods, usually root vegetables, using a fork, potato masher, or electric mixer. Butter and milk often are added to create a smooth, creamy consistency. Other flavors such as roasted garlic, gorgonzola cheese, or fresh minced herbs can be added.
Meringue: Egg whites and sugar beaten until stiff and slowly baked. Used as a topping for pie or to create dessert shells.
Mince: To cut or chop into teeny tiny pieces, a common preparation for garlic and herbs.
Mirepoix: The base aromatics for most traditional French cooking, pronounced mihr-PWAH. This mixture of diced carrots, onions, and celery sautéed in butter is used to season sauces, soups, and stews. A cornerstone of Cajun cooking, commonly referred to as the holy trinity, contains only onion, celery, and bell pepper.
Mise-En-Place: Translated, "to put in place" and pronounced MEEZahn-plahs. It means to have all ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking. This is useful when cooking a recipe with many components, such as a stir-fry.
Mix: To stir ingredients together.
Pan-grilling: To cook foods, meat, or vegetables in a skillet over medium-high to high heat. This will brown the outside, sealing in moisture and juices, while cooking or melting the inside to the desired doneness. Food should be turned at least once to ensure even cooking.
Parboil: To partially cook a food in boiling or simmering water or broth. Similar to blanching, but the cooking time is longer.
Pare: To remove unwanted skins or rinds from fruits or vegetables with a small knife.
Peeling: To remove the skins from fruits or vegetables. For thick-skinned foods such as avocados or oranges, use a small knife. For thin-skinned vegetables such as carrots or potatoes, use a vegetable peeler.
Pinch: A measuring term referring to a very small, approximate amount of a dry ingredient, usually salt, pepper, or a spice that can be held between the tips of the thumb and forefinger.
Pit: To remove the seed from whole fruits or olives by cutting around the sides and pulling the seed away from the flesh.
Poach: To cook food gently in simmering liquid so that the food retains its shape. Poaching is suitable for fish fillets, steak, chicken, vegetables, and eggs. The poaching liquids, such as wine, can impart flavor as well as absorb some of the flavors from the food being poached. This is ideal for creating a sauce. Fruit poaches well because it is tenderized by the slow simmering, but the fruit retains its shape and the flavored cooking liquid makes a nice sauce. Poached eggs are a healthy option because there isn’t any fat involved in the cooking process. It is best to start food in warm liquid and slowly bring to a simmer.
Pound: To flatten or tenderize meat or chicken breasts between sheets of waxed paper with a heavy mallet to achieve a uniform thickness. Don’t have a mallet? Improvise by using the bottom of a heavy skillet or the bottom of a beer bottle.
Preheat: To heat the oven to a specified temperature before adding the foods. Most recipes require preheating of the oven. The recipe will direct a cool oven if it should not be preheated.
Puree: To mash food, force it through a food mill, or process in a food processor or blender until it is smooth.
Reconstitute: To restore dried, condensed, or concentrated foods to their original state by adding, or soaking in, liquid.
Reduce: To thicken or concentrate a liquid, such as a sauce, stock, or wine, by rapidly boiling until evaporation decreases the original volume, thickening the liquid, and intensifying the flavor.
Render: To melt a solid animal fat over low heat, or to cook a piece of meat over low heat, until all fat melts away.
Roast: To cook, uncovered, by free-circulating dry heat in an oven. This is the same as baking but is used in reference to meats, poultry, vegetables, or fish. Large cuts of meat or poultry, vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, beets, fennel, onions, eggplant, squash, garlic, and turnips, or a combination of meats and vegetables, are best suited for roasting. Place food(s) in a shallow roasting pan to allow the air to circulate and brown the food surfaces. Often meat is put into a very hot oven for a short period of time to seal in juices, and then the oven temperature is lowered to complete the cooking. The drippings collected in the bottom of the pan can be used to make a gravy or sauce to serve with the meat. A roast also refers to a cut of meat cooked by this method.
Roux: A mixture of melted fat or butter and flour, stirred constantly for a few minutes over low heat to remove the raw starch taste. Cooked until bubbly, the roux creates a base for thickening sauces and gravies.
Sauté: This is the French word meaning "to jump" which refers to moving the food around in the pan while cooking, either by stirring or shaking the pan. This method of sautéing is most often used to brown aromatic vegetables such as onions and garlic. The food is cooked quickly in a small amount of fat over high heat until lightly browned. A mixture of half olive oil and half butter is ideal for this method of cooking because the oil allows the butter to reach a high temperature without burning while still adding flavor. Thin, tender pieces of meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables are added to the hot fat and cooked on one side. The high heat seals the food keeping it moist and tender. The food is then turned and cooked on the other side until done. This process usually takes 5–10 minutes. The food is removed to a warming plate and a small amount of liquid such as wine or stock may be added to the pan to deglaze the pan and make a sauce.
Scald: To heat milk to just below the boiling point when tiny bubbles appear around the inside edge of the pan. This reduces the cooking time and adds flavor when making custards.
Score: To make thin cuts on the surface of foods before cooking. This helps to reduce the fat during cooking and the food cooks faster. Scoring also can be done for decoration, ease of cutting after cooking, or to help tenderize the food.
Sear: To brown the surface of meats quickly on all sides over high heat in a hot oven or under a broiler. This browns the meat and seals in the juices. Meat should not be turned until the underside is well browned to prevent sticking.
Season: To flavor foods with herbs, spices, salt, or pepper. To "adjust seasonings" is to taste during or after cooking and add needed seasonings.
Shred: To tear, cut, grate, or slice food into thin strips. Also refers to pulling apart very tender cooked meats with a fork.
Sift: To pass a dry ingredient, usually flour, through a sifter to eliminate lumps and to incorporate air, which lightens the texture. This also combines several ingredients that are passed through the sifter at the same time.
Simmer: To bring liquid, by itself or with other ingredients, to the point just below boiling over low heat. Gentle streams of small bubbles rise slowly, bursting before reaching the surface. A simmer is easy to maintain. If the liquid starts boiling, then the heat is too high and should be reduced. Simmering is a method of cooking where food, such as eggs, vegetables, fruit, meats, poultry, or fish, is placed in water, either cool or already simmering, and cooked for the amount of time specified in the recipe.
Skim: To remove fat, foam, or scum from the top surface of a liquid with a spoon or bulb baster. Hold a spoon parallel to the surface to be skimmed. Tip the spoon at a slight angle and dip the side edge of the spoon just under the surface of the fat or foam that floats on the top to the surface. Drag the spoon toward you until it is full of fat or foam. Discard and repeat.
Slice: To draw a knife down through a food making vertical cuts at a right angle to the cutting board. Slices can be cut at the desired thickness.
Sliver: To cut foods into thin strips.
Smoke point: The stage at which heated fat or oil begins to emit smoke, harsh odors, and impart a bitter burnt flavor to foods. Oils or fats with a high smoke point are better suited for deep-fat and shallow-pan frying. Oils with a high smoke point (441°–450°F) include corn, grapeseed, safflower, and peanut, which has the highest smoke point. Canola oil falls in the middle with a smoke point of 400°F. Butter (350°F) and olive oil (375°F) have a low smoke point and are not suited for frying. Butter added to an oil with a higher smoke point is ideal for sautéing because the butter adds flavor to the oil and protects the food from burning.
Snip: To cut herbs into small pieces with scissors.
Steam: To cook food, usually vegetables, on a rack or in a basket placed above a boiling liquid in a covered pan. There is no immersion in water, so most nutrients are retained, making this a very healthy method of cooking. A one- or two-tiered metal steamer placed into a covered saucepan will cook two or more vegetables at a time. The firmer vegetable should go into the bottom tier where the steam is hotter and more intense. The tender vegetable would go in the top tier, where the steam is slightly cooler. Collapsible wire steamers fit inside any sized pan. Fill a pan with a few inches of water, ensuring it is below the level of the steamer basket. Place the steamer into the pan, bring the water to a boil, add the vegetables to the basket, cover the pan, and steam for a determined amount of time or until vegetables are fork tender.
Steep: To place food in a liquid to soak for a given amount of time in order to infuse the liquid with flavor, such as tea leaves in hot water. This also can be to soften and infuse the food with the flavor of the liquids as with couscous in broth.
Stew: To cook meats (usually tougher cuts) and vegetables slowly in a covered pan that includes a simmering liquid, either on the stove top or in the oven. Meat, chicken, and/or vegetables are cut into small pieces and cooked in a large amount of liquid over a low heat for a long period of time, thickening the liquid as it reduces. Also refers to a completed dish cooked in this manner.
Stir: To blend a mixture together by gently moving it around and into itself with a spoon in a circular motion. Stirring is done to move foods around while cooking and to cool foods after cooking. Stirring is not the same as beating.
Stir-fry: To quickly sauté a combination of meat and/or vegetables in a hot skillet or wok. Cut the meats and vegetables into strips of approximately the same size so that they will cook evenly. Make sure all ingredients are prepared before you start as this is a very fast process. Heat a small amount of oil in the pan to a very high temperature that is below the smoking point. Stir-fry food in small quantities, taking care not to crowd the pan. If food is crowded, it will steam not fry. Sauté quickly while stirring constantly in a minimal amount of fat or liquid to a desired doneness. Food should be crisp, but tender and vivid in color. Seasonings and flavorings such as soy sauce, ginger, cilantro, garlic, and sesame oil may be added while cooking. Also refers to a completed dish cooked in this manner.
Stock: The strained liquid that results from the long, slow simmering of vegetables, meat, fish, and other seasonings in water. Browning bones and vegetables before adding to the cooking liquid produces a brown stock rich in flavor.
Strain: To pass or force a liquid mixture through a colander, sieve, or cheesecloth to remove solid particles. Food may be forced through a strainer with the back of a wooden spoon.
Stuff: To fill a food cavity of meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, pasta, bread, or fruits with another food. The stuffing is usually a mixture of foods such as bread, rice, cheese and vegetables, fruit and nuts, or cooked meats.
Sweat: To cook foods, usually vegetables, over low heat in a small amount of fat to draw out juices, to soften the food, and to develop flavor.
Temper: To moderate the temperature of a hot ingredient before gradually adding it to a cold mixture, or moderating the temperature of a cold ingredient before adding to a hot mixture. This reduces the possibility of the mixture separating or curdling. This is done by stirring a small amount of the cold ingredient into the hot mixture to reduce its heat. The moderate ingredient can now be combined successfully with the colder ingredient.
Tent: To loosely cover meat or poultry with aluminum foil.
Tests for doneness: To ascertain if a food is done. Different tests are used for different foods.
Toast: To brown, under or over a dry heat source such as an oven or toaster. Seeds, nuts, or spices may be toasted in the oven or in a skillet.
Toss: To mix ingredients, such as salad or pasta, lightly but quickly by lifting and turning with two large forks or spoons.
Truss: To secure poultry or meat with skewers or string after pulling into the desired shape. Trussing helps food to retain its shape during cooking. If poultry is stuffed, use skewers to close the cavity and lace together with twine to secure and keep stuffing inside.
Whip: To beat a lighter mixture, such as egg whites or whipping cream, with a wire whisk or electric mixer to incorporate air. This lightens and increases volume. Use a large bowl and move the wire whisk quickly and vigorously in a circular motion. If whipping cream, the best outcome results from using a chilled bowl and a chilled whisk or mixer beater. If whipping eggs, the best outcome results from using eggs at room temperature.
Whisk: To whip, beat, emulsify, or blend with a wire whisk until blended and smooth. Also refers to the looped, wire-handled utensil used to perform this task.
Zest: The outer peel of citrus fruit, not including any of the bitter white pith just under the surface. The peel is grated and used as a flavoring.