I have been pretty ecstatic for quite some time to roll out my new series – The Cooking Class Files!
From the beginning, my vision for my blog has been to share our favorite recipes, which are simple to make and invite people into the kitchen to cook and experiment! Not all meals have to be difficult with 25 ingredients. Granted, I do love experimenting in the kitchen to present new flavors and twists on the classics, but sometimes the simplest and ol’ faithfuls are the most comforting.
With The Cooking Class Files, I will walk you through a different topic each week to help calm any nerves with getting into the kitchen, teach a new skill, attempt to explain the science behind baking (which I am still learning!), entertaining for a dinner party, plus so many more topics! If you have any ideas or topics that you would like me to cover, don’t be afraid to leave it in the comments or send me a message. Suggestions are more than welcome!
As with learning any new hobby, the best is to dive in head first, create a mess and use every dish possible. Oh wait, that’s not right. That is more how my kitchen looks after recipe testing.
Let’s retry this.
The best way is to start with the basics. And that is what we are going to do right here. Each week I will build upon the week before to have you running into the kitchen with the fears far behind you!
Our first lesson I thought to start with the basics….culinary terms and techniques! To make some pretty amazing dishes, it would be helpful to know some of those fancy words being thrown around on Food Network. Let’s be real…food can be pretty impressive once we move past boiling veggies and start roasting and sautéing!
We can all say thank you to my culinary school days and extensive note taking for this session…glad they are making their way around again!
1) Al Dente (al-Den-tay) – Italian word that means ‘ to the tooth’ and is a term that is used to describe the degree of doneness when cooking pasta, along with vegetables. There should be a slight resistance when bitten into, and should not be too soft or a hard center, as well.
2) Baking – A dry-heat method meaning to place food in a hot, dry air, such as an oven at temperatures of at least 300 degrees F. Food is cooked fairly evenly due to the even exposure the food has to the heat. Although similar to roasting, baking is usually at a lower temperature and applied to breads, pastries and other bakery style items.
3) Basting – way to add flavor and moisten the surface of roasting meat with pan drippings, stock, butter or some other kind of liquid. Basting in this recipe delivers one delicious bird!
4) Blanch – To cook food briefly in boiling water or fat. This technique is great for vegetables, such as broccoli, to brighten their color before adding to a dish, such as pasta salad!
5) Boil – A moist-heat cooking method that means food is cooked in liquid that has reached its highest possible temperature of 200 degrees F to 212 degrees F. Boiling will cause rapid bubbles to break the surface. In culinary school, they said it should look ‘angry’! Definitely will never forget that…
6) Braise – a moist-heat cooking method where meat or vegetables are first browned in a form of fat, usually butter or oil, then covered in a pot with a bit of cooking liquid, then cooked at a low heat for a long period of time. The low heat and long cooking time allow the food fibers to break down, which tenderizes and creates a deep flavor. Jessica at How Sweet Eats stepped up the game of braised short ribs in this recipe!! Mouth. Watering.
7) Broiling – A dry-heat method where food is placed close to the heat source, such as open flames or directly underneath the coils in the oven. This method cooks food very quickly, making it ideal for chicken, fish, and tender cuts of meat. It is also great for melting cheese quickly on top of a casserole along with adding a crisp exterior to breaded food. It is essential to preheat the broiler before adding food. In my Skinny Cajun Alfredo Skillet, broiling quickly heats up the dish while crisping up the pork for a contrast in textures that is too die for.
8) Caramelization – is a culinary phenomenon that occurs when carbohydrates like sugar are heated to temperatures of 300°F or higher, causing them to turn brown. The caramelized onions in a grilled cheese? Whole new ballpark.
9) Deep-Frying – Despite submerging food in hot oil, deep-frying is a dry-heat cooking method that requires an oil rather than water or stock to cook the food, which creates a brown exterior. To deep-fry, oil temperatures must be between 325 degrees F and 400 degrees F. If the oil is too hot, the oil will start to smoke and if the oil is too low, the oil will seep into the food causing soggy and greasy food, rather than crisp food.
The key to maintaining even oil temperature is to fry in small batches to not bring the temperature down too much as cooler food is added.
10) Dredge – To lightly coat food in flour, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, ground nuts, etc, to be pan-fried or baked. Dredging creates a flavor exterior while providing crunch. RECIPE
11) Dry-Heat Cooking – refers to any cooking technique where heat is transferred to food without using any moisture and typically involves high temperatures. When using dry-heat cooking, food is browned which develops the complex flavors and aromas that can’t be achieved through most-heat cooking techniques. Dry-heat cooking methods are sautéing, pan-frying, roasting, baking, broiling, baking and deep-frying.
12) Grilling – A dry-heat cooking method that is similar to broiling, but grilling involves heating the food from below, where broiling the heat is from above. Grilling usually is turned only once and involves some sort of grates to give that distinct ‘grill marks’. It is essential, as with sautéing, broiling and pan-frying, to preheat before. Grilled chicken for atop a salad adds a smoky flavor that is the epitome of summer!
13) Mirepoix (mihr-PWAH) – a mixture of diced celery, onions and carrots, along with herbs that is used to season soups, stews, casseroles. It is a flavor enhancement.
14) Mise en Place (MEEZ ahn plahs) – A French term meaning “set in place” It is used in kitchens to organize and arrange ingredients before cooking has started. Preparing all your measured spices, chopped veggies, meat, etc will ensure a smooth and successful recipe as you will not be running around trying to chop veggies and add them to a sautéing pan at the last minute will the oven timer is going off. It will cause you much less headaches if you are able to gather and prepare ingredients before any cooking starts.
I believe mise en place can turn cooking from a chore into an enjoyable, relaxing and rewarding activity!
15) Moist-Heat Cooking – Cooking techniques that involves cooking with any form of moisture – from water, stock, wine, or another type of liquid. Cooking temperatures are much lower than dry heat cooking, between 141 degrees F and 212 degrees F. Techniques include poaching, simmer, boiling, steaming, braising and stewing.
16) Pan Fry – A dry-heat cooking method very similar to Sautéing, but food is cooked in more fat and at a lower temperature. Pan frying is ideal for large pieces of meat that would not cook all the way through if to sauté, as it would not be on the pan very long before the exterior burns while the interior is undercooked. It is essential to preheat the pan before adding food. The crust that is created from searing and the honey is addicting in this recipe!
17) Poaching- a Moist-Heat cooking method that requires food to be submerged in liquid at a low temperature, between 160 – 180 degrees F. This is viewed as a healthy cooking method due to the fact there is no fat used to cook. Not all desserts have to be baked or drenched in chocolate (although those are delectable!) Poached pears are a healthy and sophisticated twist on a dessert!
18) Resting – to remove the meat from the cooking source before it reaches the ideal internal temperature to allow the juice of the meat redistribute. Allowing meat to rest ensures the juices will be retained and prevents overcooking.
19) Roast – A dry-heat method meaning to place food in a hot, dry air, such as an oven at temperatures of at least 300 degrees F. Food is cooked fairly evenly due to the even exposure the food has to the heat. Although similar to baking, roasting is usually at a higher temperature and applied to meats, poultry and vegetables.
20) Score – making shallow cuts into the top of the food, such as chicken, fish, or red meat to help absorb flavorings, seasonings, and marinades, along with helping to tenderize the food.
21) Sauté – to cook in a touch of fat over a very hot pan. It is key to have a very hot pan, along with not to overcrowd the food to ensure all food is able to brown the exterior evenly. Overcrowding the pan will cause the heat to dissipate the heat and causing food to steam or boil rather than sauté. It is essential to preheat the pan before adding food. Honey Lime Shrimp come together in a flash in this recipe!
22) Simmer – A moist-heat cooking method that means to cook food in liquid over a low heat; simmering will cause tiny bubbles that will just break the surface. Since the chefs in culinary school said boiling foods should look ‘angry’, simmering should look anything but!
23) Steam – A moist-heat cooking method that involves heating water to 212 degrees F, where water transforms to steam, causing the steam to cook the food. This method is ideal for delicate food items, such as seafood. And since the food is not submerged it not a liquid, there is not loss of nutrients.
24) Stewing – A moist-heat cooking method that is very similar to braising; food is partially covered and cooking in liquid then simmered at low temperature and for a long period of time. Where braising is typically done in the oven, stewing is usually on the stove top. If have to turn to anyone for a stew recipe, The Pioneer Women is it!
25) Sweat – To cook over low heat, in a bit of fat without browning. Usually done to veggies to take a bit of the bite from them, such as onions and sweating them until they are translucent, would be an example.
*Although most terms came from my notes from culinary school at The Art Institute of Kansas City, I did get a bit of help from here.*
I hope you have enjoyed this first session and are excited to learn and explore more in the kitchen! Until next time, class dismissed!