Cooking terms you need to understand
Sometimes it can seem like cook books talk another language. Chefs love throwing around words like sauté, sweat and reduce as if everyone knows what they’re talking about, and if you’re just starting out in the kitchen it can be a pain to have to look it up every time somebody throws up a word you don’t understand.

So to help you out, here are some definitions of words for cooking techniques you’ll hear thrown around a lot in healthy recipes, as well as a rough guide on how to do them.
At first glance sautéing may just look like frying, but there are some important but subtle differences in play. The trick is to use very hot fat, and to keep the food from sticking to the pan by making it “jump”- the name even comes from the French word for jump, “sauter”.

To sauté your food, heat your pan over a medium or low heat for one minute, then add the oil (how much oil will vary depending on the recipe you use). Heat the oil for another minute then add the food that you intend to sauté.

Make sure you’re using a big pan so that the food will have plenty of room to move around- there are plenty of specialist skillets and sautéing pans, but to be honest a straight forward frying pan will do the job.

Stir the food regularly, shaking the pan so that the food doesn't stick to the bottom. Most vegetables will be properly sautéed within five to seven minutes, but you can test the food by poking it with your spatula to see how easily it breaks.

Finally drain off the oil, then get rid of any excess by removing the pan from the heat and pouring the ingredients onto a clean kitchen towel. Another option is to leave the food in the pan and start preparing a sauce around it.
Just as it might look like sautéing means “frying”, at first glance deglazing looks a lot like “rinsing your pan out”. It means splashing some cold liquid into a hot pan to pick up all those lovely flavoursome brown bits stuck to the bottom.

In fact, you've probably deglazed many times before. When you add some turkey stock to some onions you've just sautéed, when you pour water into a roasting pan so you can make gravy, or when you've splashed some wine into a pan you've just been roasting pork in.

The trick is to do it just right. The first question to ask yourself is what liquid you’re going to use. Red or white wines are the most popular for this, but meat, fish or vegetable stock, broth, vinegar, fruit juice or other boozes such as beer or cognac will do the trick just as well. You could even use water, although why you would use water with some many exciting flavours available is beyond us.

Once you've picked your liquid, make sure that all the bits on the bottom of the pan you’re going to deglaze are browned, not blackened. Pour off most of the fat in the pan, then put it on a high heat. If you’re using a non-alcoholic liquid, you can add it at this point, but if you’re using an alcoholic drink you should take the pan off the heat first so you don’t end up burning your eyebrows off. The liquid will start to boil almost immediately, taking the brown bits with it. At this point, use a spatula to scrape along the bottom of the pan, bringing up all the brown bits. When you've scraped up as much of the brown bits as you can, turn down the heat.

This resulting mixture can make for the beginnings of a fantastic sauce.
“Reducing” quite simply means boiling the liquid out of a dish. Cooks use it to concentrate a dish's flavours or make thicker sauces. It's a great technique for sauces, gravies, stocks and syrups.

To reduce a liquid pour it into a pan with a large surface area (as this will give the water molecules more room to move around). Place the pan over a medium to high heat and bring it to the boil Continue to boil the liquid, uncovered, until it has reduced by the amount specified in the recipe that you are using, usually by about half. While the liquid boils keep stirring it to stop it scorching or sticking to the pan.

Unless the reduced liquid is high in sugar you can store it in the freezer. A sugary liquid is best stored in an airtight container in the fridge. If the liquid contains meat products of any kind, it has to be frozen and boiled before you use it.
This is possibly the least appetising sounding word you'll see in a recipe, but it's also surprisingly accurate. It's a way of gently heating chopped vegetables in a little oil or butter, frequently stirring it so that any liquid that comes out in evaporated. The end result is tender, almost translucent vegetables that are great for stews.

To sweat your veg, dice or chop your vegetables. Heat your pan over a medium low heat, then when it's hot, add no more than a couple of tablespoons of oil and swirl it around until it coats the bottom. Leave the oil for a few second to heat, then add the chopped vegetables and a pinch of salt (this will help draw the moisture out of the vegetables).

Adjust the heat until you can just about hear the vegetables gently sizzling. Stir it regularly, so as it avoids browning. Within five or ten minutes the vegetables should softened and translucent, and ready for the next stage of cooking.


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Cooking terms you need to understand