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Glossary of Cooking Terms



Calorie - A unit of heat used to measure food energy. Also written as kcalorie, kcal or Cal. , it is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius. Calories are obtained from alcohol, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Of the four, fats and alcohol have a higher caloric density than proteins and carbohydrates.

Calorie free - A food containing less than 5 calories per serving.

Capsaicin - The compound found in the placental ribs of a chili. Responsible for the heat of the chili causing watery eyes, a runny nose, sweating and burning. It has been found not only to stimulate pain receptors in the digestive tract, but to block some as well - allowing people to become accustomed to hotter and hotter dishes.

Caramelize - To heat sugar or sugar water slowly so that the mixture turns a rich caramel brown.

Carbon steel - An alloy of carbon and iron that is used to make knife blades. This material sharpens, corrodes and discolors easily. See more on cooking equipment here.

Carve - to slice meat or poultry into serving size pieces. Before you carve a roast of any kind, let it stand for 15 minutes to ensure juiciness and give the meat or bird time to finish cooking.

Cast irons - One of the oldest materials used for cooking, cast iron provides extremely even heating that is especially useful for long cooking times. Once a cast iron pan is seasoned, a natural nonstick surface is created that can be used to cook anything from delicate items such as eggs to hearty stews.

Center Cut - Term used to indicate the interior portion of different cuts of meat after removing outer edges or ends to create a more desirable portion that may be more uniform in appearance.

Chef - A title of respect for a culinary professional. Called 'Sifu' in Chinese restaurants.

Chop Suey - Chop suey consists of small pieces of meat, chicken or shrimp stir-fried with celery, onions, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, mushrooms and/or other vegetables, and served over rice, usually with soy sauce. Chop suey is not Chinese, and the dish does not exist in China . It is a Chinese American dish which originated in the mid to late 19th century, either with Chinese laborers working on the U.S. transcontinental railroad, Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, or Chinese ambassador Li Hung Chang's cooks, while he was visiting New York. Created to suit American tastes or simply utilizing available ingredients, the name is based on a Chinese (Cantonese) term for 'odds and ends' or 'miscellany'.

Chill - To cool a food by refrigeration until it is uniformly cold or thickened at temperatures ranging from 30°F to 40°F.

Chinese skimmer - A utensil with a long handle attached to a wire mesh bowl; used to remove food from a hot liquid. Learn the various cooking utensils used in Chinese cooking here.

Chinese spatula - A metal spatula with curved edges to fit the Chinese spatulacontours of a wok. Click to see more Chinese cooking equipment.

Cholesterol - A fatty alcohol necessary for human metabolism. Less than 225 milligrams per 100 cubic centimeters of blood is a low level, 226 milligrams to 259 milligrams is in the middle range, and a high level is 260 milligrams or greater. There is well-established belief that high levels of serum cholesterol can lead to an increased incidence of heart and vascular disease. A high intake of saturated fats will raise the serum level. Polyunsaturated fats do not increase the serum level.

Cholesterol free - A food containing fewer than 2 milligrams of cholesterol and 2 grams or fewer of saturated fat.

Chop - (v.) To cut into small pieces with a knife or other bladed instrument where the final size of the product does not require consistency. (n.) The term for a fabricated cut of meat including part of the rib.

Chopping board - A flat surface made of wood or acrylic used for cutting, chopping or slicing foods.

Chop suey - Chop suey is not an authentic Chinese dish and is considered typical American Chinese cuisine. It is a stir fry of mixed vegetables such as bok choy, bamboo shoots, snow peas, water chestnuts, green pepper, celery and mushrooms with bits of meat.

Chow - Chinese term for sautéing; also known as stir-fry.

Chow Mein - Yellow noodles made from wheat flour and possibly with egg, packed in cakes or bundles. Traditionally served with the Chinese-American dish of poultry, shrimp and/or meat, vegetables and other ingredients. Chow mein is Chinese for fried noodles. For a big list of ingredients used in Chinese cuisine, click here.

Clarify – to clear a liquid of solid particles.

Cleaver -A heavy, versatile knife with a large rectangular blade; used Chinese Cleaverfor cutting through bone, chopping and trimming. The flat edge can be used to crush herbs and garlic. Also known as a butcher's or Chinese cleaver. See the rest of Chinese kitchen appliances here.

Coddle - to cook food in simmering water for a very short time. This technique is used primarily to warm foods.

Cold Mixing - Cold-mixed dishes are the nearest to American salad dishes. But usually Chinese parboil or scald the material, since raw vege­tables in China are often not in sufficiently safe condition to eat. Various combinations of sauces of soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, and sugar are used. The best oil is sesame oil, for which you will have to substitute salad oil.

Condiment - Seasoning or flavoring mixture used to accompany foods.

Conduction - In cooking, the method of heat transfer in which heat is transmitted to food from a pot or pan, oven walls or racks.

Consommé - (1) A clear, highly seasoned meat broth used to make other dishes. (2) Soup made with clear beef stock base, vegetables, meat and seasonings.

Consistency - The term used to describe the thickness or texture of a mixture such as batter or dough

Convection - Heat transmitted through the circulation of air, water or fat from a warmer source to a cooler one.

Convection Oven - An oven (gas or electric) equipped with a fan that provides constant circulation of hot air around food. This process cooks more evenly and up to 25 percent faster than conventional ovens.

Crush - To break into small pieces by using pressure; or, in the case of herbs, to severely bruise to release the aromatic flavoring agents.

Curd - (1) The semisolid part of coagulated milk (whey is the liquid portion); used to make cheese. (2) A creamy spread made from juice (usually citrus, such as lemon), sugar, butter and egg yolks; the ingredients are cooked together until the mixture becomes thick. Curd continues to thicken as it cools and is used as a topping for baked goods and breads. Lemon curd (and other flavors) can be found in gourmet markets and supermarkets. (3) The edible flower head of various members of the cabbage family such as broccoli and cauliflower.

Cut and Fold - Is a method of mixing flour into a beaten mixture to avoid losing air already beaten in.The motion of the spoon is similar to that used in beating but the action is carried out very slowly and gently with the spoon being occasionally passed down through the middle of the mixture.

Cuts of beef

Butchering techniques and the names and shapes of cuts differ from area to area, but one point of agreement is that the best (and most expensive) cuts come from the back half of the animal, especially from the fleshy hindquarters (the loin, sirloin and round). Always look for meat that’s bright red, with tiny flecks of fat in the flesh and a small amount of fat around the edges. Avoid meat that has dark spots or discolored brownish streaks.

Tenderloin - the most tender cut. The tenderloin, or fillet, is the strip of flesh inside the rib cage that runs parallel to the spine. T-bone steaks are the end of the sirloin and a piece of the tenderloin.

Rump - part of the round; rump roast and steaks with tough tendons that should be removed with a sharp knife. Steaks from this section are usually juicy and can be cooked with dry heat methods. Rump roasts are usually cooked using moist heat.

Rib - consists of ribs 6-12 and a portion of the backbone. Cuts include rib roast, blade, short ribs, rib-eye roast and rib-eye steaks.

Round (topside or silverside in Britain) - meat cut from the hind leg; divided into top round, eye of round and bottom round; may be cut into steaks, but mostly used for boneless roasts. These cuts are usually fairly tender and flavorful. Top round is very lean and good for pot-roasting.

Flank - the area beneath the loin and behind the short plate. The meat has a coarse texture and plenty of fat; flavorful but tough. Flank steak is often used for London broil. Skirt steak also comes from this region.

Sirloin tip; top sirloin (top rump or thick flank in Britain ) - boneless cut from the top round; makes excellent pot roast or can be cubed for stews.

Brisket - the animal's breast section between the foreshank and short plate; boneless, tough but flavorful.

Chuck (bladebone in Britain ) - the shoulder area including ribs 1-5 and some of the backbone; juicy and flavorful. Chuck is used for cubed steak, chuck roast and ground beef.

Foreshank - the animal's foreleg; good for stews but requires long, slow cooking.

Savory Chinese recipes for beef.

Cuts of lamb - Lambs are usually slaughtered before they are a year old. Milk-fed lamb is slaughtered before it is weaned, producing very tender, pure white, but somewhat bland-tasting meat. Always choose the leanest pieces of lamb, avoiding those with fat that looks crumbly or discolored.

Leg - the back leg of the animal; a succulent piece that can be roasted on the bone or boned and rolled. It can also be butterfly cut and grilled. The leg may be divided into the shank half and the sirloin half; the sirloin half can be further cut into chops, or the upper part may be cut into a separate piece for roasting, on or off the bone.

Loin - A single-loin roast may come on the bone or boned and rolled. Two unseparated loins make a saddle roast. The loin may also be divided into chops with a small T-shaped bone.

Ribs - Rack of lamb (or rib roast) and rib chops come from this section. Two identical racks of lamb joined at both ends with stuffing inside make the elegant crown roast of lamb. Rib chops tend to be a bit less juicy than those cut from the loin.

Shoulder - provides juicy roasts that can be boned, stuffed and tied; blade and arm chops are good for braising. Ground lamb usually comes from this section.

Breast - thin, fatty cuts which benefit from slow cooking.

Shank - the foreleg; flavorful, but requires long, slow cooking to make it tender.

Neck - very bony, fatty cut used mainly for broths and stews.

Cuts of Pork - All cuts of pork can be satisfactorily roasted, as the pig does not develop much tough muscle or connective tissue. It is extremely important to cook all cuts thoroughly. Pork should have a pale, pinkish-cream color, although shoulder sections may be slightly darker than the rib or loin. Look for meat that’s marbled or grainy looking.

Leg - Often boned and divided into the shank or leg end and the butt end or top leg (called fillet in Britain ). Boned, rolled shank is easier to cook evenly; however, when cooking shank on the bone, you can protect the thinner bony section by wrapping it in aluminum foil halfway through the cooking process. Leave the meatier end exposed to full heat. Cook the butt end, boneless or not, as a roast. Or slice into ¼- to 1-inch thick cutlets and prepare as steak. The butt end can also be cut into cubes for kebabs.

Loin - The tender, delicate meat from this section is excellent boned, stuffed, rolled and roasted. The fleshy sirloin is usually cut into thick chops (called sirloin or butterfly chops), or thick sirloin cutlets. Rib or loin chops can be pan-fried, broiled or braised. Back ribs also come from this section (baby back ribs are simply from younger animals and are smaller). Country-style ribs are the thick, meaty ribs from the shoulder end of the loin.

Spareribs - From the lower section of the rib cage; usually sold in slabs and prepared by barbecuing. Very bony with little meat.

Tenderloin - Usually sold vacuum-packed in plastic; lean and very tender. Whole tenderloin can be roasted or grilled. Tenderloin has a delicate flavor.

Shoulder - Often called Boston butt; picnic ham, blade roasts and steaks come from this section. The rich meat can be roasted or ground for sausage. Steaks are particularly good for barbecuing over charcoal.

Side - Also called the belly; this section provides bacon and other fatty meat that is usually cured.

An array of mouth watering Chinese recipes for pork here.




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Last Modified: 11/28/11.