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Cooking 101: Terms from A-to-Z, Part II

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Words to cook by!

Ready to move forward in your discovery of new cooking terms? If you’ve avoided a recipe in the past because you didn’t recognize some of the terms or tools, this guide can help!

Cooking 101 Recipe book

Once you understand the basic cooking terms there's no telling where your culinary curiosity may lead you! Ready for the next lesson?

Knead – To mix dough with your hands, in a bread machine or in a mixer using a bread hook attachment. Kneading helps the dough come together. If the dough has gluten in it, kneading helps the flour become more "elastic."

Macerate – To cause something to soften and to take on the flavor of a liquid. Often, fruit are soaked, or macerated, in a liqueur, wine or syrup.

Mince – To cut into very small pieces, generally about 1/8-inch or smaller. For example, recipes often call for minced garlic or herbs. Rather than use larger pieces or slices, the garlic or herbs would be cut into very small pieces.

Proof – In baking, it's when yeast is dissolved in warm water to prove that the yeast is alive and active to make dough rise in order to bake it. It also refers to the point when dough rises or swells, just before it's ready to bake.

Purée – To purée is to prepare food into a smooth and creamy mixture by using a food processor or blender, or by pressing it through a fine sieve.

Roux – An equal mixture of flour and butter (or other fat), creamed together and used to thicken a soup or gravy. First the butter is melted, then the flour is whisked in and the mixture is gradually added to the soup or gravy.

Sear – To brown or caramelize the surface of food with high heat to create flavor. Meat is often seared to make an outside crust. You can sear using a pan, broiler, oven or grill.

Sieve – A utensil used to sift dry ingredients or to strain liquid ingredients. It is often made of metal or nylon formed into a mesh screen with small openings.

Temper – To heat and cool food carefully so that it can be prepared further, usually longer cooking. For example, eggs can be tempered with another hot liquid before it is added to a sauce. It also refers to a melting and cooling process for making fine chocolates.

Zest – The zest of citrus would be the outside, colored layer of the peel that contains aromatic oils. The peel can be grated (or "zested") and added to food to provide additional flavor. A zester is a tool with small holes on one end. By passing the zester across the peel, fine pieces are left behind.

Keep this list – and the list from Part I – handy when the mood for making a new recipe strikes!

Recipes to put new terms to use

Steamed asparagus with lemon zest
Pan seared salmon with cauliflower and pinenuts
Salmon with red wine porcini sauce
Cream sunchoke purée

More Cooking 101 articles

Terms from A-to-Z, Part I
Basic salad greens
How to make pesto
How to make perfect pasta

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