Cooking Terms and Techniques for Absolute Beginners

Overhead view woman cutting tomatoes on cutting board
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The following are terms that any aspiring chef should not just be aware of but understand what it means to better help them work well in the kitchen.

Simmer

Simmering means that you are heating a liquid to a temperature that is close to a boil, but not hot enough to create bubbles. You still need to stir occasionally when simmering as food may still stick to the bottom.

Saute

To saute is to cook in oil overheat.

An example of sauteing would be to saute an onion in olive oil.

Marinate

To marinate is to take food and soak it in a mixture of spices, oil, and possibly vinegar to make it more tender and flavorful. You can generally marinate food for a half hour to days depending on the dish.

Mince

You may hear the word mince a lot with garlic. Mincing is chopping something into very tiny pieces. Think onions on McDonald's hamburgers.

Julienne

Julienne is such a fancy word for a simple cut. Julienne means to cut something into long strips. This can be done with many vegetables, like carrots. Make it easy on yourself and buy a julienne peeler, a little gadget that makes perfect julienne strips.

Chop

This is a very basic cooking technique. To chop is to cut into small pieces. The pieces don't have to be uniform or exactly the same.

Dice

To dice is like to chop, but the pieces are smaller.

Slice

Slicing is when you cut completely through an object.

Think of slicing cheese, or bread. The same principle goes for veggies, meat, and fruit.

Brown

To brown a meat means to cook until brown. You may brown the sides of a roast on the stovetop before cooking in a crockpot or oven.