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17 Basic Cooking Methods and Terms, Defined

Veggies&Oil_400This crash course for novice home cooks will help you feel more comfortable following recipes. From Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat

What’s the difference between baking and broiling? Frying and sautéing? In very simple terms, from one of my go‑to favorite cooking bibles, Le Cordon Bleu’s Professional Cooking, 4th ed. (1999), we can review some basics:

• Chop: cut into irregularly shaped pieces

• Crush: use the side of the chef’s knife to press or smash, as in a clove of garlic

• Dice: cut into even, small, square-shaped pieces

• Mince: cut into very small pieces

• Boil: Cook in a rapidly bubbling liquid. Think soft-boiled, six-minute eggs.

• Simmer: Cook in a gently simmering liquid. As in: what your soup does for an hour while you’re setting the table, making a salad, doing the laundry, and . . . there I go, multitasking you to a tee.

• Poach: Cook in a small amount of hot liquid that is not bubbling. Delicate, white fish is quite lovely cooked this way.

• Blanch: Partially cook an item very briefly in boiling water. Asparagus takes quite nicely to this method.

• Steam: Cook foods by exposing them to direct steam, such as your large pot with the steamer basket (colander) that fits inside. Fill the pot with only an inch or two of water (to barely reach the bottom of the colander). Once the water comes to a boil, add vegetables and place lid on top to cover. A great choice for any veggie!

• Braise: Cook covered in a small amount of liquid after a preliminary browning. An excellent choice for tougher cuts of meat.

• Roast or bake: Cook by surrounding the food with hot air as in the oven. “Roast” often applies to meats and poultry but can refer to veggies while “bake” typically applies to veggies, fish, and sometimes poultry.

• Broil: Cook with radiant heat from above. Sometimes used just to finish or brown a dish for a few minutes at the end of cooking.

• Grill: Cook directly over a heat source, such as an outdoor barbecue. Not just for meats, this is a great option for summer fruits, too.

• Sauté: Cook quickly in a small amount of fat. Spinach and garlic in olive oil come to mind.

• Pan-fry: Cook in a moderate amount of fat in a pan over medium heat. Skin-on salmon with salt-free blackening spice is amazing prepared this way.

• Reduce: Cook by simmering or boiling until the volume decreases; often used to render a more concentrated, thicker product. An invaluable technique to practice, as you’ll no longer be using fillers to thicken anything.

• Rest: Removing from the heat and tenting with foil, which allows liquid that would have escaped if you’d simply cut right in to be reabsorbed back into the food, allowing for a juicier end product. Doing this after roasting a whole chicken, for example, allows you to break it down with a butter knife before serving!


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