Cooking 101: 5 Common Cooking Methods Every Student Should Master

saute tomatoesHave you ever come across a recipe, but had no clue what the cooking terms mean? Many college students love to eat but don’t know how to cook. This is pretty typical. You made the transition from eating home cooked dinners to eating in the dining hall or getting restaurant take out. At some point, it is time to start learning to cook. These 5 cooking terms will get you in the kitchen in no time!

Boil: One of the most common cooking methods, many recipes call for ingredients to be boiled. Boiling occurs when water reaches 212 degrees. Heat is generally set high in order to reach the boiling temperature as quick as possible. In the first stages before boiling, small bubbles form on the bottom of the pot before they make their way to the surface. A full or rolling boil is reached when bubbles are rapidly forming and breaking on the surface of the water. Covering the pot and shaking a little salt into the water helps the liquid come to a boil more quickly. Boiling is commonly used when cooking pasta, corn on the cob and other vegetables.

Simmer: To keep the food just below the boiling point, but with smaller and less frequent bubbles is know as simmering. The main difference between boiling and simmering is the temperature used. A lower temperature is required to simmer. The best way to reach the simmering point is to bring the liquid to a boil, then immediately turning down the heat. This method is often used for rice, soups, stews and chili.

Roast: This method is technically defined as cooking at a high temperature, uncovered, in dry heat. Roasting is done by placing food on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and putting it in a hot oven. Commonly roasted food items include meats, poultry and vegetables.

Sear: Searing is done to brown meat quickly by cooking over a high heat in order to get a caramelized crust on the food. To sear, a pan is first heated on the stove over a very high heat. Adding water or any other liquid will keep the pan from reaching the high temperature needed, so make sure the pan is dry. Once the pan is heated, the food, generally meat, fish or poultry, is placed on the pan and left in place to form a caramelized crust. The food is flipped to form a crust on both sides.

Sauté or Stir-Fry: These two terms are the same. In order to sauté, ingredients are cooked quickly in a hot pan or wok on the stove using a small amount of cooking oil, spray or fat. Make sure you choose a big enough pan to allow the ingredients to fit in a single layer across the bottom of the pan. Ingredients are tossed or flipped frequently to ensure even, thorough cooking. Commonly sautéed foods include vegetables, small pieces of meat, poultry, fish and tofu.

Cooking can be an adventure, both good and bad. Don’t let a lack of knowledge keep you from experimenting with food. Start with basic recipes and don’t try something too complicated in the beginning. Like any new skill, cooking takes practice, patience and perseverance.

Photo Credit: FBM

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