Is someone you know just starting out on his or her own? Help them understand basic cooking terms and techniques via “Kitchen Techniques 101.”
Sauté literally means “jump quick.” It is cooking done over high heat in a small amount of oil. Sauté veggies to bring out the flavor or sear meat for a nice, brown crust before roasting in the oven.
Simmering is cooking food gently in a liquid and is best done on low-BTU burners or regular burners on their low settings. Tiny bubbles should break the surface of the liquid.
Frying is cooking in hot fat or oil over medium to high heat. Pan-frying uses a half-inch to an inch of oil to partially cover food. Deep-frying submerges food in oil.
Boiling means heating liquids until bubbles rapidly break on the surface. Look for speed boil options like those found on Kenmore electric cooktops.
Blanching is plunging food briefly into boiling water, then putting food in cold water to stop the cooking. Blanching is ideal for locking color into produce or loosening the skins on fruits and vegetables.
Broiling is cooking directly under the heat source, which usually means at the top of the oven. It’s ideal for browning crème brulee or giving casseroles a delicious golden crust.
Blackening generally means cooking in a red-hot cast-iron skillet. Meats are often cooked in a spice crust until very crispy.
Braising is browning in fat and then cooking in a tightly covered Dutch oven over a long period of time. It’s ideal for tough cuts of meat.
Deglazing uses liquid to remove the delicious crusty bits left in the pan after searing meat. This is best achieved using wine, broth or stock.
Is it done?
Because ranges and ovens vary based on age and model, personal taste is the best way to judge when food is ready.
- Roasted asparagus is done when the skin blisters.
- Fish should be cooked 10 minutes per inch of thickness and is done when congealed white fat comes out of the fillet. When you think fish is done, put a knife in the center of the fillet for a few seconds. Take it out and touch it; if it’s warm to the touch, it’s done.
- Cakes will start to crack on top and pull away from the sides of the pan when they are done.
- Chicken is done when juices run clear, legs move easily and skin can be pulled away from the meat.
- Pasta needs to cook longer if the inside appears white when a strand is broken in half.
- Holes will appear in the surface of a pot of rice when it’s ready.
Now or later? When to clean up
Try to wash dishes between each course so utensils are ready for the next dish. Keep a paper bag or garbage bowl nearby while prepping to save trips to the garbage can.
Loading dishes into the dishwasher as you go keeps the sink free to rinse vegetables or fill pots with water. If your dishwasher is an older model, you can try adding dish soap and water to a heavily soiled dish and bringing it to a boil. Turn off the burner and let it soak overnight. It should clean easily the next morning.
Use sparkling water or club soda to remove wine from carpets and linens. Pour some on a clean towel and gently blot the stain until you’ve picked up as much as you can. Follow up with a more thorough cleaning after guests have gone.
Try out your new kitchen techniques with this recipe:
Do you have any tips to share with beginners?