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Cooking Tips, Terms, and Definitions

Updated on November 2, 2013

Learn Your Way Around the Kitchen

If you're trying to learn your way around the kitchen, you've come to the right place. And if you're an excellent cook who tends to forget things, you've also come to the right place. This is everything I've learned from cookbooks, magazines and my dear old Gram. (Well, not everything. But enough to get you started.)

cooking weights & measurement tools
cooking weights & measurement tools

Weights & Measurements

  • Dash = less than 1/8 tsp
  • 1/2 Tbsp = 1 1/2 tsp
  • 1 Tbsp = 3 tsp
  • 1/8 cup = 2 Tbsp
  • 1/4 cup = 4 Tbsp
  • 1/3 cup = 5 Tbsp plus 1 tsp
  • 1/2 cup = 8 Tbsp
  • 3/4 cup = 12 Tbsp
  • 1 cup = 16 Tbsp
  • 1 pint = 2 cups or 16 oz
  • 1 quart = 4 cups or 2 pints or 32 oz
  • 1 gallon = 16 cups or 4 quarts or 8 pints or 128 oz

Cooking terms and methods. Dicing
Cooking terms and methods. Dicing

Cooking Terms and Methods

  • blanch -to cook fruits and vegetables in boiling water, and then plunge them into cold water.
  • cut in -combining solid cold fat(butter) with dry ingredients(flour). Results in small coarse pieces.
  • deglaze -adding liquid(water, broth, wine...) to a pan to loosen browned food particles. This makes a base for gravy and sauce.
  • dice -to cut food into small uniform square pieces.
  • fold -to gently incorporate one food into another
  • julienne -the process of cutting food into long thin uniform strips
  • mince -to cut food into very fine pieces (garlic)
  • plump -to soak food in a warm liquid, allowing it to swell (dried fruit)
  • puree -grinding or mashing food until completely smooth
  • saute -cooking foods quickly over direct heat using a little butter or oil. Stir constantly to keep from sticking.
  • scald -to heat milk just below boiling point. Little bubbles should form around edge of pan.
  • steep -soaking a dry ingredient in hot liquid so it's color and flavor are infused into the liquid.
  • whip -to incorporate air into a mix by rapidly beating

General Substitutions

if you don't have ---- you can use

  • 1 cup buttermilk ---- 1 Tbsp vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup. let sit 5 minutes.
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch ---- 2 Tbsp all purpose flour or 2 tsp arrowroot
  • 1 whole egg ---- 2 egg yolks and 1 tsp cold water
  • 1 small clove of garlic ---- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup whole milk ---- 1 cup skim milk & 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup tomato sauce ---- 1/2 cup tomato paste & 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp vinegar ---- 2 tsp lemon juice

These books might come in handy

Cooking Essentials (Cooking Arts Collection)
Cooking Essentials (Cooking Arts Collection)

This is the book that taught me how to cook, so it's the one I have to recommend. It's the best cookbook you could ever own, no matter what your skill level in the kitchen.


Substitutions for baking only

  • if you don't have
  • ----
  • you can use

  • 1 package active dry yeast ---- 1 cake compressed yeast
  • 1 tsp baking powder ---- 1/2 tsp baking soda & 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate ---- 3 Tbsp cocoa & 1 Tbsp shortening
  • 3 oz semisweet baking chocolate ---- 3 oz semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar ---- 1/2 cup granulated sugar & 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 cup cake flour ---- 1 cup minus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream ---- 3/4 cup whole milk & 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup honey ---- 1 1/4 cup sugar & 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sweetened whipped cream ---- 4 1/2 oz thawed frozen whipped topping

food measure
food measure

This Equals That

  • almonds(slivered) 4 oz = 1 cup
  • apples 1 medium = 1 cup sliced
  • bananas 1 medium mashed = 1/3 cup
  • beans 1 cup = 6 1/2 oz
  • 1 lb = 2 1/2 cups
  • butter 2 cups = 1 lb or 4 sticks
  • 1/2 cup = 1 stick or 8 Tbsp
  • cheese 1 cup shredded = 4 oz
  • chocolate 6 oz chips = 1 cup
  • cocoa(unsweetened) 8 oz = 2 cups
  • coconut(flaked) 3 1/2 oz = 1 1/3 cup
  • cream cheese 3 oz = 6 Tbsp
  • 8 oz = 1 cup
  • flour all purpose 1 lb = 3 1/2 - 4 cups
  • wheat 1 lb = 3 3/4 - 4 cups
  • honey 16 oz = 1 1/3 cup
  • lemons 1 medium = 1-3 Tbsp juice & 2-3 tsp grated peel
  • marshmallows 1 cup = 16 large or 160 miniature
  • milk evaporated 5 oz can = 2/3 cup
  • 12 oz can = 1 2/3 cup
  • sweet condensed 14 oz can = 1 1/4 cup
  • oranges 1 medium = 6-8 Tbsp juice & 2-3 tsp grated peel
  • pecans, shelled 1 lb = 4 cups halved or 3 1/2 - 4 cups chopped
  • raisins 1 lb = 2 3/4 - 3 cups
  • rice, long grain 1 cup = 7 oz
  • 1 lb = 2 1/4 cup
  • shortening 1 lb = 2 1/2 cup
  • sugar granulated 1 lb = 2 1/2 cups
  • brown 1 lb = 2 1/4 cups
  • powdered 1 lb = 3 3/4 - 4 cups unsifted
  • walnuts, chopped 1/2 oz = 1 cup

This Weeks Big Tip

Before you knead your dough, put down a piece of wax paper and sprinkle the flour on top of that. It makes clean up a breeze!

cooking meat thermometer
cooking meat thermometer

How to Know When it's Done

  • casseroles until hot and bubbly. until cheese melts
  • beef(roast,steak) medium-145* well done-160*
  • beef(ground) 160*
  • lamb medium-145* well done-160*
  • pork well done (ALWAYS!) 165*-170*
  • chicken/turkey whole bird-until thigh is 180*

    cut up-until chicken is no longer pink in center

    until breast is 170*

  • fish until it flakes with a fork
  • shrimp until pink and opaque
  • sauce until slightly thickened
  • soup until you can stir and it immediately boils again
  • stew until meat and veggies are tender
  • vegetables until crisp tender

    until tender

    until browned

utensil tips. soaking skewers
utensil tips. soaking skewers

Utensil Tips

  • skewer prep Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes before using. After skewering food, wrap both ends in tin foil to keep from charring.
  • crockpot cleanup Always use a Reynolds crockpot bag. It makes clean up way easier.
  • frosting bag Use a ziplock baggie. Snip off a corner and put an icing tip through the hole. It should be snug about halfway through. Fill bag, squeeze the air out and seal. When you squeeze the bag, the frosting will come out the tip.
  • homemade springform Turn your pan upside down. Shape tin foil to the outside of the pan. Leave an extra 3 inches on each side for handles. Turn pan over and place tin foil in it.
  • easy unmolding To easily unmold jello dishes, line the bowl with plastic wrap before filling. When Jello is set completely, invert onto a plate and remove saran wrap

flatten chicken
flatten chicken

Food Tips

  • flatten chicken wrap each boneless, skinnless chicken breast loosely in plastic wrap. Pound with something hard and smooth until it's uniformly 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick.
  • cutting spinach leaves Wash and gently pull stems off. Stack 10 - 15 leaves. Roll them up and cut into strips with a sharp knife.
  • testing dough to see if your dough has doubled it's size, press your fingertip in 1/2". If the indentation remains, the dough's ready.
  • cutting potatoes to keep potatoes from turning brown during the peeling/cutting process, keep them in cold water
  • frosting a cake Start by sealing in the crumbs with a very thin layer of frosting. Find something else to do for about an hour. Then come back and add the rest of the frosting.
  • tomato products To cut down the acidity when cooking with tomato products, add a little brown sugar. You don't need to do this for 'prepackaged prepared' products like spaghetti sauce
  • cutting fruit To keep cut up apples from turning brown, put them in cold water with a little lemon juice added to it. For bananas, cut in half and dip the open ends in lemon juice. They'll stay good for hours.

homemade noodles
homemade noodles

Easy cooking

How to make

  • boiled eggs Place room temperature eggs in a pan. Cover with hot tap water. Bring water to a boil. Let boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Drain boiling water and immediately place eggs in ice water or very cold water.
  • homemade noodles Beat the yolks of 6 eggs. Slowly add flour until it forms a dough you can work with. Knead 4-5 times on a lightly floured surface. Roll out until paper thin. Cut into thin strips with a pizza cutter. Add to soup.
  • homemade icing Fix amounts depending on how much you need. Put 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a bowl. Add milk 1 tsp at a time and mix. Add tiny amounts of milk while stirring until it's the consistence you want. For a little flavoring, add some vanilla or cocoa.

Utensil of the Week - Updated weekly

This weeks utensil is a pancake shaper. You can use these to make the cutest pancakes for your spouse and kids! They also do double duty by working as egg shapers too!

Photos and text; © 2008-2013 Catherine Taylor. All Rights Reserved

Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Is there anything else you'd like to see here? Let me know.

Do you need a recipe? Ask away.

Do you have a kitchen tip to share? Write it here.

Any questions?

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    Post Comment
    • Jadelynx-HP profile image

      Tracey Boyer 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for sharing, I learned a few things :)

    • spider-girl profile image


      8 years ago

      Great useful lens!

    • burgessvillian profile image


      8 years ago

      I like to cook and now I know what some of the directions mean. Thanks for posting this lens.

    • Brookelorren LM profile image

      Brookelorren LM 

      8 years ago

      Good job. This is a really useful reference.

    • Lynne-Modranski profile image

      Lynne Modranski 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Fave!!! Great Job!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      8 years ago from New Zealand

      This is Awesome! Really useful tips here. I am posting it out on facebook :)

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 

      8 years ago

      Good solid lens. I love cooking, so I will find this handy, thanks, thumbs up :)

    • Othercatt profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @LisaAuch1: My Gram was a sprinkler. She would sprinkle a little of this and sprinkle a little of that. I'll tell you what, I'll never be able to sprinkle like her.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 

      8 years ago from Scotland

      I used to love how my gran baked - with a bit of this and a bit of that, I thought she was so cool, now with your "this equals that" I'm off to practice!


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