The Ultimate Cooking Techniques Quiz

By: Torrance Grey
Image: ansonmiao/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Cooking: Who isn't afraid that their skills in the kitchen don't measure up? No matter what else you might be aces at, from playing the cello to rebuilding a carburetor, if you're all thumbs in the kitchen, you probably feel a little inadequate. Certainly, you don't want to make a mess of a meal you're preparing for friends. 

But, maybe, that's not you. What if you're completely confident in your culinary skills? Well, then, maybe it's time to see if that confidence is justified! We've got a quiz that can help, with no messy egg-breaking or dish washing afterward. We'll test your knowledge of cooking methods -- indoor and outdoor, recent or time-honored. Do you know what the more common synonym for "fricassee" is? Or what liquid fruits and vegetables are pickled in? How about the difference between "grilling" and "barbecuing"? OK, we won't argue about that last one too much ... we don't want to start a fight! People feel strongly about the right and wrong names for things in the kitchen, just like they do about the "right" and "wrong" way to make recipes and prepare foods. We're not just looking at barbecue-loving Southerners here, but also at the French, who have pretty rigid rules about cooking, too. 

So take off your apron, put on your thinking cap, and try our quiz. Don't worry -- we won't reveal your score to Gordon Ramsay!

"Al dente," meaning "to the tooth," comes from which language?

When you cook pasta "al dente," you boil it until it still has a slight resistance to the bite, or tooth. It's considered ideal for pasta, though some people prefer the completely soft noodle that British and American cooking favored for a long time.

"Moppin' and soppin' " refer to techniques in what cooking style?

In barbecue, you'll often have a "moppin'" sauce and a "soppin'" sauce. The first is applied to the meat while it's still over the fire. The second is applied after the meat is removed from the grill, or even put on the plate for dipping.

What's the difference between barbecuing and grilling?

Grilling and barbecue are closely related -- both mean cooking food over an open flame. Usually, the food in question is meat. But where "grilling" crosses the line to "barbecue" is not something that's easily defined.

Which of these techniques keeps meat from drying out while cooking?

Basting means to spoon liquids over meat during the cooking process. Sometimes the liquid is the pan juice from directly underneath; other times, it's a sauce made on the side. Basting can be done with a special applicator with a squeeze bulb at the end to draw pan drippings into it. Fancy!

Stirring something so energetically that air is introduced into the substance is called _____.

The most common liquid to get this treatment is heavy cream. When you add powdered sugar to cream and whip it vigorously, it becomes whipped cream. No, really -- it didn't always come out of a spray can!

Which of these instruments makes whipping cream much easier?

You can whip liquids with a fork. But the bulbous shape and thin threads of a wire whisk get a maximum amount of air into the cream, which is what gives it its lift and fluffiness.

Which of these would a "ricer" make?

A ricer is a press that's used to puree or nearly liquefy foods that have been boiled until they are very soft. Potatoes are a common choice.

Before baking, cakes start out as what?

Batter is a liquid (or at least, a fluid) but with enough flour in it that it will eventually become a solid. Other pastries start as a solid raw material, called dough.

Which of these processes, often done to eggs, is a step down from whipping?

You're probably familiar with the kitchen tool called an "eggbeater." When an electric eggbeater is on its highest speeds, it's no longer beating, but whipping.

When a food has been dunked in boiling water and removed quickly, it has been _____.

When people "blanch," it means their faces go a bit pale with shock or disgust. When vegetables (it's almost always vegetables) are blanched, they can lose a bit of color, hence the name.

Broiling can be viewed as the opposite of which technique?

In broiling, you put meat under, not over, a high heat source. In this case, the heat source is in the oven, though. Like grilling, broiling will cook the food through, given enough time, but can burn the surface if you're not careful.

True or false: Searing locks the juices of a meat inside.

This is a common myth about the cooking of meat. Searing might make a pleasantly crisp exterior, but it won't keep all the juices in. If you look closely, you can see that some moisture is still escaping.

Caramelizing acts on what component of a food?

The sugar doesn't have to be refined or added sugar. For example, onions caramelize beautifully. The natural sugars inside turn gradually brown and sweet with low-heat cooking.

Which of these would get "boned"?

To "bone" something is actually to "de-bone" it. With salmon, the tiny pinbones can easily be removed with the same kind of tweezers you'd use to pluck your eyebrows. Just be sure they're dedicated for kitchen use, not doing double duty.

Which of these might get "clarified"?

Clarifying is the process of heating a semi-fluid until its solids separate from the liquids. The solids are then skimmed off and the liquid allowed to cool. In butter, this leaves a clear, pure product Indians call "ghee."

To ____ a meat is to preserve it by drying and salting.

Cured meats are the kind that can be sold and stored at room temperature, like salami. However, some of the preservatives now used in curing don't get high marks from health advocates, who say they should be eaten sparingly.

Which of these is the least exact measurement?

Fun fact: It was Julia Child who was credited with popularizing exact measurements in recipes. Before the 20th century, many recipes called for "a pinch" or "a dash" of something, and even terms like "a cup" weren't agreed on in terms of volume. That's changed now, but the "pinch" survives, being a relatively agreed-on amount.

If you are "dicing" a vegetable, what will it look like when you're done?

To dice properly, use a large chop knife and rest the flat of your hand on the upper, blunt side. Then use brisk back-and-forth motions, followed by sideways motions, to get the desired effect.

To coat a food in flour is called what?

Fun fact: Fiction writers have had some fun using this term metaphorically. In "Red Dragon," Thomas Harris describes Francis Dolarhyde's old-fashioned grandmother as "dredged in face powder," an indelible visual.

Which of these meats would get "trussed"?

"Trussing" or "lacing" is a technique done when meats are stuffed. This most commonly happens to poultry -- think of a Thanksgiving turkey -- but can be done with other meats, on occasion.

How does stewing differ from soup-making?

Most often, meats are stewed, meaning that they're simmered for a long time, to make them tender. Nowadays, you'll see vegetarian stews in cookbooks, but this has more to do with the heartiness of the end product. They don't usually require lengthy simmering.

True or false: A curry doesn't always require coconut milk.

Curries are common to the Eastern equatorial countries like India and North Africa. But there's a tradition of "jungle curry," which has the seasonings of a curry, but in a thinner broth.

What does the "Maillard reaction" cause?

Meats turn brown via the Maillard reaction, which changes the amino acids inside, as caramelization does with sugars. The 212-degree heat of boiling water isn't adequate to cause this, which is why boiled or steamed foods stay pale.

Cutting shallow, thin grooves in a food is called _______.

There are several reasons a cook might do this. It can allow marinade to enter a meat, release juices, or simply add to a dish's attractiveness.

Which of these might have a "lattice"?

A lattice crust is one in which strips of crust go across the pie, at right angles to each other. It's pretty, and also allows for plenty of ventilation.

What is the difference between frying and sauteing?

Sauteing (or "sauteeing") is a French word for frying with minimal oil. It tends to be healthier, for that reason. Nowadays, many people will only call the foods they fry "sauteed," no matter how much oil or butter they used. It sounds better!

Which of these gets "rendered"?

Many fats are a solid at room temperature, The application of heat makes them slowly liquefy, and then they can be either drained off or used in a sauce.

What are fruits and vegetables pickled in?

This is more commonly called "brine." It can have other flavoring ingredients, but the important one is salt, which has a preservative quality.

What would you use a paring knife on?

To pare something is to remove its outer layer -- peeling, essentially. Paring knives can be used for other small cutting jobs, but that's what the name means, at least.

A "dry marinade" is usually called what?

A rub is a mixture of salt and seasoning that is rubbed (hence the name) over the surface of meat. The flavor then sinks in, just as it does with a liquid marinade.

To cut vegetables into long, thin strips is to ______ them.

The most common vegetable to be julienned is the potato. Of course, we don't call this "julienned fried potatoes." We just call them "French fries."

Which of these dishes gets flambeed?

To flambe something is to drench it in alcohol and set it alight. It's very impressive done at tableside, as if often the case with desserts like Bananas Foster.

Which of these is a synonym for "braise"?

Both cooking methods refer to cooking meat slowly in a closed contained in an oven. "Braise" is more common nowadays, but the latter term survives in the name "Chicken Fricassee."

Which of these is NOT commonly thought of as a cooking term?

Steeping is immersing a substance in hot water, to draw out its flavor and (sometimes) psychoactive subtances. It's done with coffee and tea, but not food. The similar process in food is called "infusing."

What is "carryover cooking"?

When you're learning to roast large cuts of meat, you have to learn to account for this. A pork loin cooked entirely through in the oven might be overcooked by the time it's sliced, because of carryover.

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