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cooking, the process of using heat to prepare foods for consumption.

Many common cooking methods involve the use of oil. Frying is cooking in hot oil; sautéing is cooking in a small amount of oil; stir-frying is a Chinese technique of frying quickly in small amounts of oil in a wok; deep frying is completely submerging the food in large amounts of fat. As cooks become more health conscious, preparing foods in oil has become less desirable. With the advent of nonstick cookware, sautéing can be done at lower heats using vegetable broth and fruit juices instead of oil.

Stewing refers to cooking slowly in a small amount of liquid in a closed container. Slow stewing tenderizes tough cuts of meat and allows flavors to mingle. Another slow-cooking method is braising, in which meat is first browned, then cooked slowly in a small amount of liquid in a covered pan. Poaching is cooking food in liquid below the boiling point, steaming is cooking food that has been placed above boiling water. Sous vide (so͞o vēd) refers to preparing food in vacuum-sealed plastic bags to infuse it with seasonings and then slowly poaching it in the bag at a very low heat. Sous vide is sometimes used in conjunction with other techniques, and sometimes food is vacuum-sealed to alter it and not cooked.

Roasting means baking in hot dry air, generally in an oven. Baking refers to cooking in an oven and differs from roasting mainly in its reference to the type of food cooked—for example, one bakes a cake, but roasts a chicken. Broiling means to cook by direct exposure to heat, while barbecueing means cooking marinated food by grilling.

Dining with others is one of the most common and frequent social activities. It can involve a family dinner, a meal with friends, or form part of a ceremony or celebration, such as a wedding or holiday. In the United States, cooking has been influenced by the variety of regional and immigrant cuisines and customs (see diet). After World War II, cooking and dining in the United States took on aspects of an art form and wine grew in popularity. More and more people studied cooking in schools, watched how-to programs on television, and read specialty magazines and cookbooks. In fact, cookbooks as a group outsell any other kind of book except for religious works. Standard cookbooks include Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1896) and Irma Rombauer's Joy of Cooking (1931), both of which have gone a number of subsequent editions.

See also nutrition.


See H. McGee, On Food and Cooking (1984, rev. ed. 2004); J. Horn, Cooking A to Z (1988); S. Gershoff, The Tufts University Guide to Total Nutrition (1990); P. P. Bober, Art, Culture and Cuisine: Ancient and Medieval Gastronomy (1997); S. Pinkard, A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650–1800 (2008); The Joy of Cooking (75th anniversary ed. 2006); N. Myhrvold et al., Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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