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Culinary Lingo 101

If you’re looking to cook healthier meals at home, it’s important to learn some common culinary terms.

By understanding what these terms mean, you’ll be able to follow recipes more accurately and make healthier choices when cooking.

Here are 11 common culinary terms and what they mean:

  1. Bake: To cook food, covered or uncovered, by surrounding it with dry heat in an oven. When baking, try substituting whole-grain flour (a nutrient-rich ingredient) for all-purpose flour.
  2. Blanch: To scald vegetables in boiling water for a short time. It’s typically followed by quickly cooling the veggies in an ice bath (water and ice) and then removing them to drain.
  3. Boil: A moist-heat cooking method where food is cooked while submerged in water.
  4. Grill: To cook food with heat directly or indirectly over hot coals or other heat sources (i.e., gas, wood). Avoid charring your food, which occurs when it turns black.
  5. Pan broil: To cook food uncovered in a preheated, nonstick skillet without added fat or water. It produces a beautifully colored protein such as steak, chicken with skin, etc.
  6. Poach: A moist-heat cooking method where food is cooked gently in usually a fragrant liquid, just below boiling. This method is for cooking proteins without drying them out.
  7. Sauté: A dry-heat cooking method where food is cooked quickly in a small amount of fat, stirring as you cook until lightly browned or softened.
  8. Simmer: A moist-heat cooking method where food is cooked in a hot liquid that is bubbling but not boiling. This method is used to tenderize and retain some moisture.
  9. Steam : A moist-heat cooking method where food is cooked by steam heat from boiling water below it (not in the water). Steaming your food will help it retain nutrients.
  10. Stir-fry: To cook pieces of meat, poultry, seafood, tofu or vegetables in a small amount of oil, over very high heat, quickly tossing and or stirring continuously.
  11. Sweat: To soften vegetables over moderate heat, and generally in oil or fat, until they become soft, translucent and lose volume as water evaporates during cooking.

Learning these common culinary terms will help you cook delicious and nutritious meals at home without adding unnecessary fats and oils that might cause health problems in the future.

Give them a try the next time you’re in the kitchen!

For more nutrition tips, register for one of our Cooking Matters classes.

Visit tanner.org/cookingmatters to sign up today!

Downing is the nutrition program coordinator and a national board-certified health coach at Tanner Health System. A “Georgia peach” raised in Maryland, Gail returned home to do her undergraduate work and certifications. At Tanner, she teaches the Food as Medicine classes for Carroll, Heard and Haralson counties. She also helps coordinate Tanner’s West Georgia Regional Food System Collaborative, which is part of the Get Healthy, Live Well Coalition, a multi-sector community coalition working to increase access to healthy food, increase physical activity, reduce chronic disease risks and eliminate nicotine use in west Georgia.

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