Online Class: Cooking and Baking 101
Many people grow up watching their mothers or fathers cook; they may see them read recipes, combine ingredients, and use sauté pans. These same people often take for granted the ability to get into the kitchen and know what to do.
Having an inborn ability to cook isn't guaranteed. Studies show that having a good role model in the kitchen is one of the best ways to learn how to cook and bake. However, maybe you never had the opportunity to watch someone cook. Perhaps you never had enough time to really apply yourself to the task. Maybe you're just scared of not knowing what to do.
The good news is, it's never too late to start, no matter what your background may be. The most important thing to take with you into the kitchen is a basic understanding of what to do and how to do it.
What is Cooking?
Cooking can be loosely defined as any action in your kitchen that gets you from point A) a pile of ingredients to point B) a meal. It is the act of assembling ingredients and/or applying heat to ingredients for human consumption. This means that cooking can be as simple as assembling vegetables to make a salad or as complicated as combining a number of different ingredients on a stovetop over a period of three hours.
"Cooking" is actually an umbrella term for a number of tasks and activities. It's kind of like when you think of the word "clothes." When you get dressed in the morning, the word "clothes" really means quite a few things; undergarments, shirts, shorts, pants, dresses, and socks all fall under the category, even though it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to wear them all at once. In the same way, you can cook using a variety of different methods. You don't necessarily use them all at once, but each of them still counts as cooking.
There are ten basic types of cooking:
Roasting is done when you cook food using dry heat. In the historical sense, this includes placing a large piece of meat on a stick and putting it over flames. In the more modern sense, this includes putting things in your oven. Meat and vegetables are the most commonly roasted food items.
Broiling is also typically done in an oven. However, the heat comes from the top of the oven, rather than the bottom. You can broil anything from a toasted cheese sandwich to fish.
Grilling is when you cook food directly over a heat source. It includes outdoor grilling (on a barbeque) as well as indoor grilling. For example, when you cook a steak in this way, you place it directly on the grill above the charcoal or flames.
Food is fried when it is cooked in some sort of fat (like lard, butter, or oil). It can be done in an oven, a fryer, or a pan. Fried foods are usually higher in calories and fat than food cooked in other ways.
This occurs when the food is placed in boiling water. Many vegetables are cooked this way, although meat and noodles are also commonly boiled.
Simmering is a slow form of cooking. Food is not brought to a boiling point , instead being allowed to warm over a long period of time. It can be done in a pan, the oven, or a slow-cooker.
Steaming is done by using the hot vapors of boiling water to cook foods; the food usually never touches the actual water. This is the best way to keep all the vitamins and nutrients in your food intact.
This modern cooking type uses the microwave to warm or cook food. Because of their versatility, microwaves can actually be used to perform a number of different cooking types. For example, you can boil, steam, or even defrost things in the microwave.
This type of cooking uses no direct heat. It calls for the combination of uncooked or pre-cooked ingredients. Salads, sandwiches, and even more complex meals can be made this way.
What is Baking?
As we mentioned before, baking is really just one of the ten types of cooking. It almost always centers on a different set of ingredients, skills, and utensils than cooking in the traditional sense.
Consider it this way: when most people think of baking, they conjure up images of sweets and bread-like foods that are made of batter or dough, put in the oven, and cooked. Things like bread, cakes, cookies, and pastries fall into this category. If we stick to this idea of baking, there are a few common ingredients that will arise time and time again. If you find yourself faced with a recipe containing these ingredients and calling for oven time, it's a pretty safe bet that you will be baking.
- Flour (either wheat or white)
- Fat (oil, butter, margarine, shortening, lard)
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
There's a saying among chefs and cooks everywhere: "Baking is a science, cooking is an art." This saying came about because baking is a pretty precise process, whereas cooking can take on a flair all its own. When you are cooking, it's fairly easy to make substitutions or to throw in a little extra of your favorite ingredient so that the outcome is personalized for your tastes. However, when baking, each ingredient serves a specific purpose (for example, baking powder releases the right amount of carbon dioxide into the batter to allow bread or cake to rise). Making a small error or alteration can completely change the outcome of the dish.
Baking is also considered a science because of the chemical reactions that take place during the cooking process. When something is put into an oven, you may notice that it gets nice and crispy around the edges (this is true for breads and pastries as well as casseroles or meat). This process is known as caramelization . It occurs when the sugars in the food react to the other ingredients and heat to change the molecular makeup of the food (therefore adding new flavors to the dish). You can experience this firsthand when you roast a marshmallow over a campfire – yes, the marshmallow gets black and crispy, but it also takes on a whole different flavor and smell.
Baking is almost always done with dry heat in the oven. As the outside of the food becomes crispy and carmelized, the cooking process internalizes. The moisture of the food gets "locked in," allowing the ingredients to do their work without drying out or overcooking. This is not to say that food left in an oven won't eventually dry out or overcook – it simply means that it takes longer to do in an oven than in any other type of cooking.
Historically, before modern-day ovens were available, baking was done over a fire or in hot ashes. In fact, bread baking can actually be dated back to the Stone Age. In some cultures today, baking without the use of an oven is still fairly common.
Lesson One: Cooking vs. Baking: A Brief OverviewIn this lesson, you will learn what it means to be in the kitchen. You will learn the basic fundamentals of cooking and baking, and what you will need to know before you really get started.
Lesson Two: Kitchen EquipmentIn this lesson, you will learn what equipment and utensils are commonly found in the kitchen. You will learn what you need to get started and what you can add to your collection as you go.
Lesson Three: Cooking TermsIn this lesson, you will learn what words and terms are unique to the field of cooking.
Lesson Four: Baking TermsIn this lesson, you will learn what words and terms are unique to the field of baking.
Lesson Five: Fresh IngredientsIn this lesson, you will learn basic information about the fruits, vegetables, and herbs found in most modern recipes.
Lesson Six: Pantry EssentialsIn this lesson, you will learn what cooking and baking items are an essential part of a well-stocked pantry.
Lesson Seven: Using Cooking RecipesIn this lesson, you will learn how to read and utilize recipes as the groundwork for becoming proficient as a cook.
Lesson Eight: Using Baking RecipesIn this lesson, you will learn how baking recipes differ from cooking recipes.
Lesson Nine: Expanding RecipesIn this lesson, you will learn all about incorporating recipes into your daily cooking and baking routines.
Lesson Ten: Meal PlanningIn this lesson, you will learn how to plan in advance for your meals. You will learn how to handle large parties as well as smaller meals for one or two.
Lesson Eleven: Safety in the KitchenIn this lesson, you will learn how to keep your kitchen a safe and clean place.
- Describe kitchen equipment needed.
- Define cooking terms.
- Define baking terms.
- Summarize the use of fresh ingredients.
- Describe the essential stockings of a pantry.
- Demonstrate usage of cooking recipes.
- Demonstrate usage of baking recipes.
- Summarize techniques used to expand recipes.
- Summarize safety techniques in the kitchen.
- Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.
Additional Course Information
- Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
- Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
- Verify Your Certificate with a Unique Serial Number Online
- View and Share Your Certificate Online or Download/Print as PDF
- Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
- "It was an excellent course and I learned a lot. It was very helpful and I was able to apply it to my own personal cooking and baking." -- Donna W.
- "I found the videos with the woman cooking extremely helpful and informative. I copied some of the recipes she shared. I also enjoyed the fun recipes in the course. The instructor was very prompt at marking assignments etc." -- Jan M.
- "The instructor was engaged and provided feedback. She was available to offer assistance when needed." -- Colette E.
- "I liked watching the cooking videos, it's like watching the cooking channel." -- Julie J.
- "The instructor always got back to my promptly, and I really appreciated that." -- Karen G.
- "There was a lot of termonology I did not understand when reading recipes and the course helped me figure out what everything meant." -- Karen G.
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