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Old 05-19-2009, 09:39 AM   #1
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Cooking Basics

I started a thread like this before, but didn't follow up with it. The idea of this thread is to provide a sound understanding of basic terms and techniques used in cooking. Hopefully, we can all join together to create a comprehensive list of terms and techniques to enhance everyone's cooking knowledge and skills.

The format I will take is to give a term, its definition, and the technique for using or making it. All are invited to add to the list. We can do this a little at a time. Have fun with it.

a blanc - French term meaning "in white". It is used to describe various sauces, and meats that are not browned during the cooking process.

Acidulated Water - water to which lemon juice or vinager has been added to halt browning of raw potato, apples, pears, etc.

Aspic - The jelly-like substance that is a product of disolving collagen in hot liquid. Usually, aspic is formed when a rich meat broth is chilled. The collagen in the liquid comes from the bone marrow, and connecting tissues of meat. Aspics are used as flavor elements, and to mold various dishes. To obtain a simple, and flavorful beef aspic - Brown 1 pound of ground beef in a covered pan, trapping all juices. When the meat is cooked through, pour off the juices and chill. The fat will float to the top and harden. It is a simple matter to remove the hardened fat and obtain the aspic that has formed below it. The aspic can then be added to gravies, or used to make a gravy. It can also be frozen until enough has been made to sue as a mold, like jellow, with meat and veggies added to make intersting meals. Aspic can also be added to meat turrines, and when again chilled, turned out of the turine to make a home-made sandwich loaf, with the jelled aspic holding the meat particles in place.

I had a wonderful apetizer at a gathering where the host had used unflavored gelatine, along with clam juice and shreeded crab meat to make a delicious mold that you dipped into with crackers. It was dramatic to look at, and tasted fabulous.

Gleatine used for fruit flavored deserts such as Jello is a close cousin to an aspic, as it is obtained from boiled animal parts such as knuckles, bones, and bone joints which are boiled to disolve the collagen from the cartillage.

Acidify - to create an acidic environment with wich to change the PH level of a food or liquid. Acidic ingredients are used for many purposes, such as in pickling, preserving, as a sour element in recipes, and to react with alkali substance to leaven flour based products.
Example - Three bean salad is a combination of cooked beans that can range from kindey to waxed beans. After the beans are completely cooked, they are mixed together with chopped celery, or celery seed, sliced onion, sugar, sometimes garlic, sometimes dill, sugar, and vinager to create a sweet & tangy flavor that comes from mainly from the acidic vinager (sour flavor) and sugar (sweet) But you must be careful with htis dish as the acid will cauce the beans to firm up if they are not completely cooked through.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North


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Check out my blog for the friendliest cooking instruction on the net. Go ahead. You know you want to.- http://gwnorthsfamilycookin.wordpress.com/
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Old 08-13-2009, 01:32 PM   #2
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a handful of helpful meat cooking techniques. I appologize most are common knowledge among the viewers of the forum, but I'd love to see this turn into a fully fleshed out list of basic and advanced terms:

Braising: This is the process of taking a piece of meat and searing ALL SIDES of it in a very hot skillet. After the sides are seared, you place the meat in a dutch oven or similar container that holds a liquid, where the meat is finally cooked. You can braise in water, broth, sauces, or cream. An oven or a slow cooker are popular final destinations for braising. The key to braising is to make sure the meat is not fully immersed in liquid. The liquid lays underneath to add flavor.

Stewing: Identical to braising except for two steps: you fully immerse the meat in liquid for cooking, and you generally cut up the meat into smaller sizes prior to searing. Although some chefs omit the searing process, it is still reccomended to sear meat prior to stewing.

Fricassee: this is a stewing process normally reserved for white meat, meaning poultry, pork, or rabbit. The meat is stewed in gravy, and cream is typically added later.

Grilling: This is a method of cooking over open flame or coals, where a grill is the only boundary between the meat and the heat. This provides a fast, high temperature dry cooking enviroment that allows the Maillard reaction to take place (meaning roasty colored good tasting food), with those nifty racing stripes provided from the grill! Also flavors imparted from the cooking process, such as charcoal or smoked woods go into the meat.

Broiling: almost identical to Grilling as a high temperature is used, although its normally above the meat, not below, and is confined to your oven. You'll get all the benefits of the Maillard reaction, but the taste won't reflect that of grilling...meaning no good smokey eats from charcoal and wood additives. Although if you grill with propane, you're essentially broiling already, but with a bottom heat source. :P

Roasting: although this used to mean rotiserie back in the day, we normally refer to roasting as putting meat in an over without a large amount of liquid, and allowing dry heat to cook the meats. The meat is basted periodically with the liquid that is provided at the bottom of the pan, to keep the meat from drying out. The temperature for roasting is less than that of broiling or grilling, but still makes use of the Maillard reaction for browing.

tartare: this is the act of taking a meat which is relatively safe to eat raw (such as beef or scallops) while fresh, and obtained from a reputable source, and cutting it fine and serving raw. Ground beef and thinly cut steak, seasoned, are traditional forms or Tartare. Generally a raw egg is served on top. I personally don't reccomend this dish unless I raise the chickens that lay the eggs myself. :P

Pan Frying: this form of frying for meats allows the use of minimal oil, which is healthier than some other forms of cooking. The process provides more browning, and requires meat to be flipped at least once for proper cooking. Getting the pan to the right temperature and KEEPING IT THERE is essential to good frying, as well as knowing what temperature to keep it at for the type of meat you are cooking. Generally speaking, you want to cook slower to allow the center to cook, so you aren't stuck with a charred outside and a raw inside.

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Old 08-27-2009, 06:55 AM   #3
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I noticed that sauteing was not listed, likely because it is the easiest technique to learn when you are younger. I have noticed, however, that many people make mistakes in sauteing, namely:

Overcrowding a pan
Too low of too high of heat
Too little or too much oil
For those that don't understand my username, watch Ratatouille and you will understand that it is not intended to be an attack, but instead, the fact that anyone with a drive to cook can do so.
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:39 AM   #4
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I am glad you are putting this information out especially for new cooks. As a adjunct instructor and a full time chef I am constantly being asked about the basic cooking techniques ie dry/moist heat methods.
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Old 08-27-2009, 10:20 AM   #5
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pin it ;o)
LiGruess cara ~~~ Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"
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Old 08-27-2009, 12:36 PM   #6
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This is really great! Thanks for sharing this with us
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Old 08-29-2009, 12:08 PM   #7
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Poach - to delicately cook in low temperature liquid, with just enough heat to cook the food without allowing the liquid to boil. Fish, fruits, and eggs are popular foods to poach. Usually, the liquid is seasoned so that the foods poached in them pick up intended flavors.

Simmer - to allow a soup or sauce to cook at a low temperature, usually at a low boil (liquid bubble gently). The lower cooking temperature allows the food soup or sauce to cook without the risk of burning to the pan bottom. Stirring every so often is still recommended.

Kabob - a method of grilling where the food is cut into bite-sized chunks and skewered, seasoned, and cooked over open flame. any fruits, vegetables, and meats can be placed on a kabob as long as they are firm enough to stay on the skewer through the cooking process. Popular items include pineapple, most meats, onion chunks, peppers, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, etc.

Grilled flavor - contrary to popular belief, the typical grilled flavor is not a product of high heat. Rather, it is caused by food juices and fat dripping down onto a heat source, lava rock or steel plates on a gas grill, charcoal or wood in a charcoal grill. When the juices hit the heat source, they quickly burn and create smoke. The smoke particles deposit onto the meat and other food surfaces and flavor whatever is being cooked in that smokey environment. To get stronger grilled flavor, cover the grill to trap the smoke. To reduce the grilled flavor, keep the lid open. To reduce it more still, place the food on aluminum foil over the heat source to prevent food juices from dripping onto the heat source. So, when you see the TV commercial extolling the virtues of the stove-top grill pan, and how it creates that grilled flavor by making those pretty stripes, you know that the commercial is playing to ignorance. The stripes aren't the flavor creators, the smoke is, and unless you have a commercial air removal system above your stove, don't try to get it in the house.

Baste - to pour a flavored liquid over roasting or grilling foods. Again, there is much misinformation about what basting does and doesn't do. It is a popular belief that basting makes meat more juicy. This just isn't true. The outside layer of meat, especially foods with a skin such as turkey or whole chickens, becomes a barrier to liquid absorption when it is heated. What basting does do is deposit particles of flavor molecules from accumulated pan juices, or basting sauces onto the outer surface of the food being cooked. The flavor molecules stick to the food surface as the liquid evaporates from the skin. When you baste the next time, more flavor molecules are added. This happens each time you baste the meat. Basting does create a flavorfull skin, but also increases the cooking time as the oven or barbecue is cooled each time you open it to baste the food.

Lardoon - slivers of fat placed into slits made in turkey, chicken, and large meat roasts. The fat may come in the form of smokey bacon, or fat that has been trimmed from a ham, or even a steak. ON the grill, as the meat cooks, some the fat will permeate the meat, making it more juicy, succulent, and add flavor. Some of the fat will drip from the skin onto the heat source and create smoke. In the oven, the lardoons will again permeat the meat, and roll accross the skin to self-baste the meat.

Knead - the act of folding and pressing, especially four-based doughs, too both homogenize ingredients, and deveop gluten for breads, and rolls. Some products such as taffy, pastillage, fondant, and gumpaste can also be kneaded, again to equally distribite ingredients and collorings throughout the product. Typically, the product to be kneaded, is folded from the edge to the center, and pushed downward with the heel of the hands. The product is turned 45 degrees on its central axis, and again folded and pressed. This action is repeated until the desired puurpose is achieved.

Clarify - to remove particulate matter from a liquid. Examples, butter is heated until it liquifies, and is then skimmed of all foam and butter solids to form what we call clarified butter, and Indians (from India) call Ghee. broths are clarified by making an egg and vegetable raft that attracts particulates to it from the boiling liquid. The end result is called a consume'. Pressed fruit is often placed in a strainer and allowed to drip its clarified liquid into a container to make clear jellies that contain all of the fruit flavor, but none of the fruit.

Steam - verb - To heat food in steam from boiling water until it is cooked. STeaming retains more of the natural nutritional value of most foods, helps keep the natural food colors more intact, and adds little or no unwanted flavors to that food. Steaming is often a superior way to cook vegetables. It can also be used with meats where no browning is desired. Fish, hot-dogs, ribs, and other meats are often steamed. The ribs are then subject ot other cooking methods depending on the cook and the desired results. Some pudding and custards are steamed. Poaced eggs made in a poaching pan are cooked by both the heat action of steam, and are poachedin the butter that lies in the botom of the poaching cups.

En Papillote - a French cooking method that envelops the food in a parchment paper enclosure. The food steams in its own juices and fats, and is served in the paper envelop. It has a dramatic look and is popular at high-end restaurants. The technique is simple and can be found on many sites on the internet.

Sous-Vide (pronounced soo-vide)- to slowly cook food in a vacuum sealed plastic bag. The food is cooked at very low temperatures of many hours (160 degrees for ten or more hours), resulting in very flavorful, succulent, and tender food. Meats come out amazingly tender when cooked sous-vide. Also, since there is no where for any seasonings or juices to go, any food cooked this way will be characterized by rich flavor. The only downside is that meats are gray and unappetizing to look at and so should be sauced to add color and visual appeal.

That's all for today kids.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
“No amount of success outside the home can compensate for failure within the home…"

Check out my blog for the friendliest cooking instruction on the net. Go ahead. You know you want to.- http://gwnorthsfamilycookin.wordpress.com/
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Old 09-13-2009, 08:39 AM   #8
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to add on a bit about sous-vide, the vacuum sealed meats are cooked via poaching at around 140 degrees. Also to comment about poaching in general...if you maintain your water at the desired internal temp of your meats, you can safely cook with reduced fear of overcooking your dish. So for example, if your shrimp needs to be cooked to 165, set the water temp to 165 and let it go at it. When the internal temp of the shrimp meets the water temp, its done. and you can safely leave it in the water for a half hour or an hour without any ill effects. just make sure the water is over 140 degrees to prevent bacterial infection.

Stir-fry: this is the act of cooking vegetables at high temperature without covering. the key is to keep the contents of your pan constantly moving, so the high temperature does not have the opportunity to burn/stick your food to the pan. so STIR your FRYing veggies!

Sweating: Cooking aromatics in oil at a high temperature, to release flavor and prepare aromatic veggies for incorporation into the rest of the dish. This is found primarily with onions and garlic. you always start by putting your oil in the pan, then cook your onions/garlic for a short time to tender them and get all those great flavors flowing.

Aromatics? This term refers to veggies that add flavor to a dish by releasing their strong oils by cooking. onions and garlic are classic aromatics.
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Old 01-24-2010, 08:52 PM   #9
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Blanch: To plunge food (usually vegetables and fruits) into boiling water briefly, then into ice water to stop the cooking process. Blanching is used to firm the flesh, to loosen skins (as with peaches and tomatoes) and to heighten and set color and flavor.
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Old 01-27-2010, 11:34 PM   #10
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Goodweed of the North,

this is a good idea, but i think to make it actually easily useful, you might try to ask around on the board and see if there is a tech weenie (not used in a perjorative sense) that could advise as to how to get all the terms grouped together alphabetically. otherwise, people will either have to view each page looking for the term they want or, if they do a search, sift through a bunch of other posts.

maybe people could reply with quote or copy the original post into their reply and insert their new term in the correct place or something.

sorry i don't have any real advice; i'm rather computer challenged myself!


let me make sure that wine's ok before i use it.
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