Cooking Terms

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Al dente

If you're a pasta fan this is a term you'll become very familiar with. It literally translates from Italian as 'to the tooth' and basically means cooking your pasta so it still has a little bite to it and isn't a big, soggy mess.


Eggs are the usual recipients of this technique. Hold the bowl to your chest with one hand and then beat the eggs firmly with a fork or whisk, with the other hand.


Some vegetables should be cooked very briefly and will literally be dropped into boiling water for a minute. You can also blanch tomatoes, and other vegetables and fruit, if you want to remove the skin.


Let's face it; no one's going to be put off cooking because they don't understand this term. However, pay attention to any other words as you might be asked to 'roughly' or 'finely' chop and there's a big difference!


Not the stuff you pour over apple pie - this is a culinary term that's often used in baking. You cream together the butter or margarine and sugar when making cakes.


This is when you chop ingredients into small cubes.


A sauce (marinade) is made and meat or fish are left to soak up the juices before cooking. Depending on the recipe, the food might be left to marinate for anything from a few minutes to overnight. It's always kept in the fridge.


Removing the skin from a vegetable or fruit with a vegetable peeler or knife.


This is a method that uses water or other liquid to gently cook food. The liquid is brought to a simmer and then the ingredients are added to the pan. Poached eggs are a healthy alternative to fried, and fish is kept moist and tender when it's poached in milk.


This is finer than mashing but it's basically the same process. For really creamy potatoes, you might purée them. You can use a sieve or a food processor.


This is where food is cooked briefly over a high heat, so you might sauté onions or chopped bacon.


This generally refers to salt and pepper and you'll often see this instruction in a recipe book. If it's referring to anything other than salt or pepper, it will say. Other seasonings are most likely to be spices or herbs.


Simmering is a more gently way of cooking than boiling as the water doesn't disturb the food as much.


To cut food into neat, even pieces.