What does season, simmer and sauté mean?

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What does season, simmer and saute mean?

Ever read a recipe, got all excited by the picture, but then had no idea what the actual method meant? Over time you build up knowledge of what the words mean, but at the beginning some recipes sound like they’re written in a different language. If you want the knowledge but are happy to skip the mistakes, and don’t know what season, sauté and simmer mean, then read on.

 

What does season mean?

Why it’s called seasoning I don’t know, but basically to season your food means to add salt and pepper. A complicated word for a simple concept, hey?

Why is it important?

Seasoning is important because it takes your food from just being ok, to being good, or awesome. In general, many foods are bland (like vegetables) but with a bit of salt and pepper they taste better.

A classic example is a can of tomatoes. By themselves they are very boring, but add a bit of salt and pepper and they taste better. Of course adding basil and garlic makes it taste better again, but without the salt the dish is just squashed garlicky tomatoes and not a beautifully tasty pasta sauce.

Over seasoning is a problem, especially with salt. Too much salt is not good for us and it makes our food inedible. Like everything, moderation is the key here.

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Season just means to add salt and pepper.

 

What does sauté mean?

Sauté is not an ingredient but rather a cooking technique. Sautéing really just means to fry your food in a pan on the stove, but it’s a French word (and doesn’t sauté sound so much sexier than frying?).

It’s about high heat and quick cooking, much like stir-frying is. And often there’s not too much oil needed.

Why is it important?

Sautéing is an important technique to learn because it makes up one of the most important fundamentals of cooking. Being able to fry food in a pan on the stove will help you to cook heaps of meals, like steaks, stir-fries, eggs and many others (like this sundried tomato chicken recipe I tried the other night – yum!).

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Saute means frying in a pan on the stove at a high heat.

 

What does simmer mean?

Simmering is also a cooking technique. But this time it’s slow, low heat cooking. Often simmering refers to boiling something – for instance where you boil water but drop it to a simmer. It’s often used at the end of meals to finish them off, especially recipes like soups, sauces and curries.

Why is it important?

As I wrote about in my post on the commonest mistake beginners make, finishing cooking on a low heat can make the difference between a good dish and a bad one.

Take the use of cream as an example. If you add cream to a curry that’s cooking at high heat the cream will split. This means you get little white blobs in your dish rather than having a smooth sauce. Simmering the dish then adding the cream means you don’t run the risk of split cream and you end up with a beautiful curry or soup (and one that looks way more appetising).

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Simmer a curry or casserole on a low heat until its done.

 

So the next time you see a recipe that tells you to season, simmer or sauté you won’t have to skip it. You can now launch into cooking the recipe fully aware of what you need to do. Hopefully it means you’ll become a better chef, and cooking will get easier.

 

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