Blanch, Poach, and Scald: Cooking Methods

Do you have a searing need for some kitchen terms? A burning desire to learn restaurant lingo? Learn this list and you'll be the toast of the kitchen!

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definitions & notes only words
  1. baste
    cover with liquid before cooking
    Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes, basting the chops with the sauce.Washington Post (Feb 18, 2020)
    Its origin is uncertain, but baste is an essential word in the kitchen. By brushing food — usually a hunk of meat or a whole bird — with fat and flavorful liquid while it cooks, the resulting dish tastes better and often has a browner, crispier exterior.
  2. blanch
    cook (vegetables) briefly
    Storage: Unfilled, blanched collard greens may be prepared up to 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.Washington Post (Feb 27, 2020)
    Blanc or blanche means "white" in French, and if you take raw almonds and plunge them briefly into boiling water, their brown skins slip right off, revealing their pale insides. So this technique of quickly boiling food — usually vegetables — became known as blanching. If someone becomes pale, as if they're about to faint, that's also called blanching.
  3. broil
    cook by exposing to strong heat in a part of an oven
    The filled squash is then sprinkled with cheese and broiled until beautifully browned.Washington Post (Feb 20, 2020)
    Broil may have come from the French brûler, to burn, but it's not clear. Whatever its origins, broiling normally involves putting food under a heat source, usually a gas or electric burner located on the ceiling of your oven. It's the best technique for getting a bubbly brown top on your mac and cheese, lasagna, or enchiladas.
  4. caramelize
    heat so as to make brown and sweet
    Try as I might, I don’t see anything among my yellow rice, pulled pork and caramelized plantains that resembles the Dominican flag.Washington Post (Feb 24, 2020)
    There's something that happens to food when it's exposed to extreme heat, but before it burns. It's called the maillard reaction, and it means that the sugars in the food — meat and vegetables have sugars, too! — begin to turn brown and become more complex and savory. This is exactly what happens to sugar when you heat it in a pan to make caramel, so this phenomenon is known as caramelizing.
  5. char
    burn to charcoal
    The runner-up is cavatelli tinted with carrots, its surface strewn with charred Brussels sprouts, toasted walnuts and Parmesan, which turns into lattice from the heat.Washington Post (Feb 26, 2020)
  6. dehydrate
    remove water from
    I add mayonnaise, celery, tarragon, white pepper and a pinch of dehydrated garlic to mine for a classic chicken salad.Washington Times (Mar 2, 2020)
    Idro- is the Greek root meaning "water." So dehydrate means "to remove water," or "to dry out."
  7. grill
    cook over a framework of metal bars used as a grate
    “Our business is one-fifth of what it was before,” Cheng said, halfheartedly flipping pink sausages on a grill.Washington Times (Mar 9, 2020)
  8. poach
    cook in a simmering liquid
    Salads — roasted beets with grilled radicchio, kale with poached pears — are all big events.Washington Post (Feb 26, 2020)
    In French, pocher means "to cook an egg — out of its shell — in water" and by an amazing coincidence that's also what it means in English. You can also poach vegetables or a piece of fish by cooking them gently in broth.
  9. render
    melt (fat or lard) in order to separate out impurities
    In a skillet, Impossible meat browns, renders fat, breaks up under a wooden spoon and cooks just like ground beef.New York Times (Mar 3, 2020)
    Render means "to give back." When you put raw animal fat in a pan and cook it gently, it liquefies, leaving solids behind to get brown and crispy. That's called rendering the fat.
  10. sear
    burn slightly and superficially so as to affect color
    It gets its color because the chicken and sausage are seared and allowed to caramelize.Washington Post (Feb 15, 2020)
  11. simmer
    boil slowly at low temperature
    While the greens simmered, I worked on the salad.Los Angeles Times (Mar 8, 2020)
  12. skim
    remove from the surface
    Kathy Y.: Probably because it’s usually made from skim milk, and it’s fresh and unfermented.Washington Post (Jan 26, 2020)
    Cream rises to the top of milk, so skim milk has the cream scooped off. When you simmer meat and vegetables together in water to make stock, it's a good idea to regularly skim the fat, foam, and other solids that float to the top using a spoon. That's how you get a beautiful, clear stock.
  13. steep
    let sit in a liquid to extract a flavor or to cleanse
    Remove from the heat, add the chamomile flowers, and let steep for 10 minutes.Salon (Mar 1, 2020)
    Steep in this sense probably comes from Old English, and refers to soaking something to soften it or extract its essence. When you drop a tea bag into boiling hot water, you're steeping it to release its flavors into the water.
  14. stew
    cook slowly and for a long time in liquid
    Her soups, stews and porridge are restaurant quality.Washington Post (Mar 5, 2020)
  15. scald
    burn with a hot liquid or steam
    In small saucepan, bring heavy cream up to a scald.Salon (Nov 23, 2019)
    Scalding refers specifically to a quick, intense, and damaging heat delivered by water or steam. A lot of recipes will call for scalded milk, where it's brought quickly up just to a boil and then allowed to cool a bit.
Created on February 22, 2020 (updated March 19, 2020)

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