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MasterChef Australia

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Culinary A to Z


A to Z of Cooking Terms

Aerate
To incorporate air into a mixture to make ingredients lighter.

Al dente
Italian term which translates as "to the teeth".  Used to indicate when food (often pasta) is cooked just perfectly and firm to the bite.

Aromatics
Or aromats: plants, such as herbs and spices, used for their flavour and fragrance.

Ban Marie
A pan placed in a larger pan containing simmering water. Used to melt chocolate or butter.

Bisque
A think rich soup of strained broth made from pureed seafood or vegetables, often finished with cream.

Blanch

Briefly adding food to boiling water before plunging it into cold water to stop the cooking process. Firms the fruit/vegetables' flesh, enhances  colour and crunch and is also used to loosen skins for removal (e.g. tomatoes).

Braise

A slow cooking process which tenderises meat by breaking down connective tissue and fibres. The food may be initially browned then tightly covered and cooked in a small amount of liquid over low heat for a long period of time. The flavours of the food are concentrated into the cooking liquid, which can then coat the food or be reabsorbed by it. Great for low impact washing up.

Caramelise

A gentle browning process involving constant stirring, which heats sugar so it liquefies into a caramel syrup of varying depth. The natural sugars of vegetables and meat can be caramelised, intensifying flavour.

Chiffonade

Fine ribbons of leafy vegetables or herbs which are created by tightly rolling them into bundles and cutting across.

Confit
A French technique where food (often meat) is been salted and cooked slowly in its own fat. Confit was originally used to preserve food in the absence of refrigeration, but now confit meats are thought of as a delicacy. This cooking method helps to keep meat moist and the flavour delicate. Confit can also refer to a preserved fruit or vegetable condiment.

Consommé

Broth or stock which has been clarified by adding a "raft" of beaten egg whites - this attracts the impurities in the broth and once removed leaves a clear liquid.

Deglaze

To add liquid to the sediment and cooking juices left in a hot pan after roasting or sautéing. This is then heated and used to make a sauce.

Emulsify

To mix together liquid ingredients that don't combine smoothly (such as oil and water) by mixing rapidly while slowly adding one of the elements. Vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, hollandaise and béchamel sauces are all emulsions.

Infuse

To add an aromatic ingredient to hot liquid to extract its flavour and impart it to the liquid.

Julienne

To slice food into thin, match-like sticks.

Macerate

To soak food, often fruit, in liquid so it softens and absorbs the flavour of the liquid (usually alcohol).

En Papillote

Baking food sealed "in parchment" paper or foil in the oven, so it steams in its own moisture and gains flavour from any herbs, spices and vegetables also in the package. 

Ragout/
Ragù
French/Italian term for a slow-cooked stew or deep, hearty meat-based sauce.

Reduce

To cook liquids so some of the water evaporates, giving a thick consistency and concentrating the flavour.

Roulade

A French technique where sliced meat or fish is rolled around stuffing. A Roulade can also be sweet e.g. rolled sponge cake.

Roux

A cooked flour and butter/fat mixture which is slowly cooked over a low heat and used to thicken sauces.

Saute

Cook food quickly in a small amount of oil in a skillet or a saute pan over direct heat

Scald

To plunge vegetables or fruit in boiling water so the skin can be removed easily or to heat milk or cream to just below boiling point.

Sear

To brown the surface of meat and fish by subjecting it to intense heat quickly, sealing in its juices and providing a crisp texture on the outside.

Simmer

To cook gently in liquid at a low heat.

Sous vide

Sous vide (French for "under vacuum") is a cooking method where food is vacuum sealed in plastic pouches, placed in water and cooked at a highly regulated, low temperature for a long length of time. Sous vide is valued for its ability to keep the original flavours of food intact.

Sweat

To cook food over a gentle heat so it releases its moisture and the juices flavour the pan and surrounding liquid.

Temper

The process of adding hot liquid to a cold or room temperature ingredient slowly and gradually, so the cooler ingredient (e.g. eggs) doesn't cook or set. The resulting tempered mixture can be added back into the hot liquid for further processes. To temper chocolate melt and heat it to a specific temperature, cool it and then warm it again. Chocolate is tempered to prevent crystals forming when the chocolate sets, to ensure the end result is shiny, streak-free and crisp.

Zest

Citrus peel made by scraping the outer skin of citrus fruits (excluding the bitter white pith covering the flesh of the fruit) which is used for flavouring. 


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