Back to Basics: Cooking Terms & Kitchen Essentials

Whether following a recipe from a cookbook, leaving no step out to make sure that Curried Chicken comes out how the pictures of the glossy pages suggest.  Squinting your eyes to figure out the scribbles on that old piece of paper that represent the measurements & method to your Aunt’s Apple Pie.  Or just freely expressing yourself using the ingredients stocked in your kitchen – EVERYONE can cook awesome tasting food for themselves at home.  But before doing so it’s important to have the basic tools and understand the terms used in those recipes to carry out the goal.

There is a lot of articles, TV show segments and blogs that give advice on what your kitchen should look like to achieve tasty food.  And it feels amazing to add another shiny ‘gidgety-gadgety’ item to your countertop that promises dinner in less time or a healthier alternative.  But for my single life cooking readers starting your journey of cooking at home, I suggest you hold off on that purchase until you are familiar with simple cooking methods and you are comfortable using everyday kitchen tools.

I found it necessary to compile a listing of cooking terms and basic kitchen essentials that many colleagues and friends ask about from time to time.  Plus, this information has made my early years and time spent today in the kitchen relaxed and enjoyable and it should be the same for you!

Notes

If you are a seasoned home cook, treat this as a reiteration for this post is geared to readers wanting to be more active in creation of food at home for themselves.

Most of the kitchen essential items that I own were bought either online or on-sale (y’all know I rarely buy full-priced items).

I do not think you need tons of gadgets to create good food at home but having the knowledge of the cooking method and good basic tools will do the trick.

Cooking Terms

Bake: To cook in the oven.  E.g. baked breads or cakes.

Beat: To mix ingredients together using a fast, circular movement with a fork, whisk or mixer.  This method is used in making whipped cream or scrambled eggs.

Boil: To use liquid that gets hot enough to cook food.  E.g. boiled pasta or boiled yucca.

Brown: To cook over high heat until the surface of the food browns or darkens.  This method is used to make stewed chicken.

Cooking fat: E.g. olive oil, butter, ghee and coconut oil.

Chop: To cut in small pieces, like chopped onions.

Dice: To cut into small cubes, like diced potatoes.

Fold: To gently blend light ingredients (placed at the top) into heavier ones (placed at the bottom) by lifting from underneath with a spoon or spatula to the top.

Grease: To lightly coat with oil, butter or cooking spray so food don’t stick to cooking surfaces, this step is imperative in baking.

Infuse: To soak or steep a substance in hot liquid to extract the flavor of the substance being immersed in the liquid.  E.g. lavender infused maple syrup

Knead: To mix pliable dough by stretching, folding and pushing to form gluten in the flour.

Marinate: To soak food in a liquid or dry rub to tenderize or add flavor to it.  Green seasoning is used as a marinade, added to meats and left overnight to add flavor.

Mice en place: Set in place.  To prep your ingredients and have them ready before you start cooking.

Mince: To cut into very small pieces, like minced ginger.

Preheat: To turn the oven on ahead of time at the desired temperature for at least 15 minutes.

Roast: To cook with dry heat like an oven or grill.

Sauté: To cook quickly on high heat with little fat. (See Cooking Fat)

Steam: To cook food over steam without coming into direct contact with water.  This method is used to steam vegetables and steam pork dumplings.

Toss: To combine ingredients by lightly mixing.

Kitchen Essentials

Bakeware – Optional, if you don’t intend on baking cupcakes or pies anytime soon but you should get a baking sheet to roast potatoes on and a cooling rack to place things like fried chicken on after they come out the fryer to start off with.

Cookware – Good pots and pans are a great investment and can last generations but if you can’t afford the whole set at once a sauté pan, a medium saucepan and a stock pot will work.  I use a stainless steel cookware set at home.

Colander – Used to drain ramen noodles, pasta and blanched vegetables.

Cutting Boards – Wooden cutting boards are great to use but you can also invest in plastic cutting boards and dedicate one each for meats and produce.

Knives – Good knives can be costly but to prep food with a knife that fits your hand well and is sharp gives you the confidence and assist in eliminating the wastage of ingredients.  A pairing knife and a utility knife are acceptable to start off with until you can purchase more and get comfortable using other knives.

Measuring Cups – My Grammies and Ma used Pyrex brand measuring cups in their kitchens to measure liquids and I continued the tradition in mine.

Measuring Spoons – Used to measure dry ingredients in Cups and Tbsp. measurements.

Mixing Bowls – For mixing or to house marinated meats, mixing bowls are a must have.  You can get good mixing bowl sets at a discounted price at Amazon.

Tools – A vegetable peeler, can opener, spatula, micro plane, ice cream scoop, cooking spoons and a pair of tongs are what you’ll use most times in meal preparation.

Side towels, Pot holders and oven mitts – I’m used to having a trust worthy side towel on stand by for everything I do in the kitchen but you should be safe and get protection that suits your needs.

For a complete listing of cooking terms, check out Good HouseKeeping’s Ditcionary of Cooking Terms

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