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Glossary of Cooking Terms



Saddle - A very tender cut of meat (usually lamb, veal or venison) including both of the loins in one piece.

Salt - A white granular compound (sodium chloride) used to season foods. Iodine has been added to salt labeled "iodized," and other additives are sometimes included (especially in table salt) to prevent the salt from forming clumps. Kosher salt is coarse-grained and does not contain any additives. When a recipe instructs "season to taste," it is generally referring to the use of salt.

Salting - Salting in China is about the same process as in the West, but it plays a much greater part in China . There are three reasons for this. Since there is little refrigeration or canning in most parts, perishable foods have to be salted to keep. Secondly, salted food goes a longer way in 'sending down rice' than fresh food and is therefore very economical. Last and most, many things taste better salted than fresh. For example, mus­tard green is good when fresh, but it becomes wonderful when salted. Salting is sometimes used as a pre-cooking process, some­times as a complete dish-forming process. Thus, Salted Celery Cabbage is probably the one best-liked cold dish for many people. A common variation is fresh-salting, which consists of salting fresh food for a day or two and cooking right after, for example, Chinkiang Fresh-Salted Meat

Sauté - To cook briefly over high heat with a small amount of oil. Meats that are sautéed are usually dusted with flour to provide an even amount of browning.

Scald - To heat liquids to just below the boiling point, when small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, or to plunge food into boiling water for a short period of time or pour boiling water over food.

Sea bass -This term commonly describes a number of saltwater fish on the market, many of which are not actually members of the bass family. Black sea bass is a true bass. It can vary from brown to dark gray, and has firm, moderately fatty flesh with a delicate flavor that is suitable for frying, steaming, broiling or roasting whole (the skin is also edible). White sea bass, which may be labeled in markets simply as "sea bass," is actually a member of the drum family. Chinese recipes for fish.

Sharpening steel - A long, tapered round rod, made of extremely hard, high-carbon steel or ceramic attached to a handle; used to keep a sharp edge on knives. Steels are available in a variety of sizes and should be longer than the knife to be sharpened. The blade should be drawn across the steel at a 20- to 30-degree angle several times. If the blade is dull, it should first be sharpened on a whetstone, then fine-honed on a steel. Using a steel on a knife before each use will keep the blade razor-sharp. See also whetstone.

Shortening is a solid white fat made from hydrogenated vegetable oil. Sometimes known as Crisco, which is a brand name of shortening. Butter or margarine can be substituted for shortening but your end product will have a more buttery flavor. There is also a butter flavor Crisco

Shred - To reduce a food to thin flakes and slivers by rubbing it across a shredder or cutting it from slices. Cooked meat can be shredded by pulling it apart with a fork.

Shrimp Deveiner - A special knife with a curved blade and serrated tip used to remove the intestinal vein from shrimp; the serrated edge removes the vein as the upper edge cuts the shell.

Shuck - to remove the flesh of mollusks such as clams, abalone, oysters from their shells.

Sift - To shake a powdered food - such as sugar or flour - through a fine sieve to reduce clumps and create a uniform powder.

Simmer - Cooking food below boiling temperature, at 185°F. A liquid simmers when only an occasional bubble shows on the surface. Food must be simmered are meat, fish, poultry and stews. Boiling toughens them.

Skim - (v.) To carefully scoop off the hardening surface of a liquid. For example, fat and foam can be skimmed from the surfaces of soups, stocks and gravies.

Skimmer - A long-handled metal kitchen utensil with either a perforated disk or a shallow, bowl-shaped, wire mesh. Skimmers are used to retrieve small pieces of food from hot liquids or to remove unwanted surface fat and froth from soup or stock.

Skillet - means frying pans, but the term usually refers to a frying pan with sloped sides that may or may not come with a lid. A sauté pan has a more specific meaning: a deep, straight-sided pan that usually comes with a lid. You can sauté foods in either kind of pan, but the sauté pan holds more, so it's handier for dishes that have lots of sauce, vegetables, or other ingredients.

Sliver (v.) To cut food into short, very thin pieces.

Slotted Spoon - A spoon used to remove cooked items from a liquid. The slots in the spoon allow the liquid to pass through, draining the item that is removed.

Smoke point -The temperature at which heated fat begins to break down, releasing smoke and acrid odors and giving a burned flavor to foods. Fats with higher smoke points are better suited for frying foods. Reusing fat and exposing it to air lowers the smoke point, so fat should not be used more than a couple of times. The smoke point of an individual fat is affected by processing but the following is a general range for some common fats:

Butter: 350ºF

Lard: 361ºF to 401ºF

Vegetable oils: 441ºF to 450ºF (with the exception of olive oil, which has a relatively low smoke point of about 375ºF)

Smoking - Chinese smoke fish, poultry, and tobacco, but not much meat. In smoking, foods are pre-cooked and then cured in smoke from burning wood or peanut shells.

Snip -To use kitchen scissors to cut fresh herbs into tiny pieces no larger than 1/8 inch.

Sousing - cooking food slowly in vinegar and spices

Spatula - A versatile utensil available in a variety of shapes and sizes and generally made from metal, wood or rubber. Spatulas can be used for a multitude of tasks. Those with sturdy, pliable rubber heads can be used for folding, mixing, scraping and smoothing batters. Flexible, narrow-bladed metal spatulas are perfect for spreading frosting on cakes. A spatula with a wide, metal head (also called a turner) is used for lifting, removing or turning food being cooked so the second side can brown. These spatulas may have holes or slots to allow liquids or fats to drain off the item being lifted. See Chinese spatula.

Splashing - You will know that with fried dishes, you sometimes dip the pieces in sauce. Now if before taking the fried stuff out, you splash the seasoning over it in the pan and leave it cooking for fifteen seconds, then it is called splashing. Of course you do not splash a deep-frying pan, as that would splash too much.

Spices -The seeds and skin of plants - berries, bark, fruits, unopened flowers - used to flavor foods. Unlike herbs, spices are almost always dried. See Chinese five-spice.

Stainless steel - An alloy of steel. Stainless steel will not react with foods, nor does it rust or corrode. When used in woks, stainless steel often is combined with copper or aluminum since it does not conduct heat well.

Steaming - this means simply cooking in steam, either with the food in direct contact with the steam or by having the food in the basin or other dish placed in steam or boiling water. Learn more about Chinese cooking techniques here .

Steep - To soak food or spices in a liquid to soften or tenderize, or to have the food infuse its flavors into the liquid. Steeped vegetable is a Szechuan dish popular in many provinces. The important thing is a steeping urn, earthenware with a circular trough around its neck, so that when the trough is filled with water and an upside-down bowl is placed over the trough, it makes the urn airtight. You start the urn by putting in celery cabbages, large Chinese radishes, sweet pepper, hot pepper, cabbages, salt, and cold boiled water which would fill half the urn when empty. Never use greasy utensils with which to take out things. Never wash material to be added in, but peel or cut to get the clean part.

Stewing - this means simmering food, generally meat, fish, poultry or game in a little liquid. Never let a stew boil. Only an occasional bubble should show on the surface of the liquid. Be careful not to add too much liquid. A stew should be thick, not like soup. Learn more...

Stir - To blend ingredients with a spoon using a smooth, circular motion. This does not introduce air into the mixture to the degree that beating does.

Stir-fry - A Chinese method of cooking food by chopping the ingredients into small pieces and then frying them quickly in a small amount of hot oil in a very hot wok or skillet, constantly stirring and turning the ingredients. Learn more about the unique Chinese cooking methods here. Learn more...

Stock - A well-flavored liquid made from meat, poultry, vegetables or fish and used as a foundation for soups, sauces, stews, etc. Go to Chinese soups recipes .

Strainer - A kitchen utensil made of stainless steel, tinned steel or aluminum, with a perforated or mesh bottom; used to strain liquids or semi-liquids. Strainers can also be used to sift dry ingredients such as flour. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, some with interchangeable meshes of different coarseness. High quality ones have sturdy handles and frames and may contain hooks for securing the strainer on the top of pots or bowls; also known as a sieve.




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Last Modified: 11/28/11.