Cooking Terms and Techniques for Absolute Beginners

Overhead view woman cutting tomatoes on cutting board
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Simmer:

Simmering means that you are heating a liquid to a temperature that is close to a boil, but not hot enough to create bubbles. I simmer foods on a 3 or 4 temperature setting on an electric stove. You still need to stir occasionally when simmering as food may still stick to the bottom.

Saute:

To saute is to cook in oil over heat. An example of sauteing would be to saute an onion in olive oil.

Marinate:

To marinate is to take food and soak it in a mixture of spices, oil, and possibly vinegar to make it more tender and flavorful.

You can generally marinate food for a half hour to days depending on the dish.

Mince:

You may hear the word mince a lot with garlic. Mincing is chopping something into very tiny pieces. Think onions on McDonals's hamburgers.

Julienne:

Julienne is such a fancy word for a simple cut. Julienne means to cut something into long strips. This can be done with many vegetables like carrots. Make it easy on yourself and buy a julienne peeler, a little gadget that makes perfect julienne strips.

Chop:

This is a very basic cooking technique. To chop is to cut into small pieces. The pieces don't have to be uniform or exactly the same.

Dice:

To dice is like to chop, but the pieces are smaller.

Slice:

Slicing is when you cut completely through an object. Think of slicing cheese, or bread. Same principle goes for veggies, meat, and fruit.

Brown:

To brown a meat means to cook until brown. You may brown the sides of a roast on the stovetop before cooking in a crockpot or oven.

So, you have learned how to boil water and make rice...:

These very basic cooking terms will take you to the next level of cooking. Knowing the basics can really make a difference in your kitchen creations.