Common Terminology for Healthy Cooking

Hands opening cook book with bell peppers, carrots and pot in background

To broil or to boil: that is the question!

Knowing common cooking terms can improve your healthy cooking skills and turn anyone into a home chef!

Bake - To cook by dry heart, usually in the oven. When you bake, food cooks slowly with gentle heat, causing the natural moisture to evaporate slowly.

Basting - To brush or spoon liquid, like water, over food during roasting, this adds flavor and prevents drying out.

Beat - To smooth a mixture by briskly whipping or stirring it up with a spoon, fork, wire whisk, rotary beater or electric mixer.

Blanch - To boil briefly. After 30 seconds in boiling water, plunge the vegetable or other food or into ice water to stop the cooking – great for green beans, asparagus, and broccoli.

Blend - To mix two or more ingredients together to make sure they are equally distributed throughout the mixture.

Boil - To cook food in heated water or other liquid, like broths, that is bubbling continually.

Braise - To cook food slowly using heat from an oven or stovetop with a little bit of liquid which is usually water or broth. Braising can be used to tenderize meat.

Broil - To cook food directly under the heat source. Many ovens have a broil setting.

Broth or Stock - A flavorful liquid made by gently cooking poultry, seafood or vegetables (and/or their by-products, such as bones and trimming) often with herbs, in liquid (usually water).

Brown - A quick sauté, pan/oven broiling, or grilling method to enhance flavor, texture or eye appeal.

Chop - To cut into irregular pieces. Coarsely chopped are bite-sized pieces. Finely chopped are smaller.

Coat - To evenly cover food with flour, crumbs or a batter.

Combine - To blend two or more ingredients into a single mixture.

Dash - A measure approximately equal to 1/16 teaspoon.

Dice - To cut into cubes or square shapes. Fine dice=1/8-inch. Small dice=1/4-inch. Medium dice=1/2-inch.

Marinate - To coat or immerse foods in a liquid or dry rub, to add flavor before cooking and eating.

Mash - To beat or press a food to remove lumps and make a smooth mixture.

Mince - To cut food into tiny irregular pieces. The smallest form of chopped.

Mix - To beat or stir two or more foods together until they are thoroughly combined.

Puree - To mash or sieve food into a thick liquid.

Reduce - To cook liquids down so that some of the water evaporates often causing the remaining mixture to thicken.

Roast - To cook uncovered in the oven.

Sauté - To cook food quickly in a small amount of oil in a skillet or frying pan over direct heat.

Season - To enhance the flavor of foods by adding ingredients like: pepper, oregano, basil, cinnamon and a variety of other herbs, spices, condiments and vinegars.

Shred - To cut or tear into long narrow strips, either by hand or by using a grater or food processor.

Simmer - A very low boil that cooks food in a liquid at a low enough temperature so that small bubbles begin to break the surface and around the edge of the pot.

Steam - To cook over boiling water in a covered pan, this method keeps foods' shape, texture and nutritional value intact better than methods such as boiling. Best to use a wire basket for this.

Stir-Fry - The fast cooking of small pieces of meat and vegetables over very high heat with continual and rapid stirring.

Toss - To thoroughly combine several ingredients by mixing lightly.

Vinaigrette - Refers to any sauce made with vinegar, oil and seasonings.

Whisk - To mix or fluff by beating; also refers to the utensil used for this action.

Zest (noun) - The thin brightly colored outer part of the rind of citrus fruits. They contain volatile oils used as a flavoring. Can be grated or in strips.

Zest (verb) - The act of removing the outer part of citrus fruits using a paring knife, grater, microplane or “zester.”


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