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Nigerian Cooking 101: Cooking Terms You Should Know (I)

The culinary art, like most disciplines, has terms associated with it. Beginners who want to learn the art of cooking must first familiarize themselves with these terms. I have compiled about thirty common cooking terms and their meanings.

While you can easily tell the foods associated with some of these terms from their definition, you may not be able to tell others. So, I have taken the liberty of  giving examples of some foods that require the use of some of these terms for easy comprehension.

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Having said that, all these terms will not be explained today. I have divided this topic into two parts; the first part is obviously our topic for today. I’ll bring you the second part of this segment next week. So, let’s go learn a few cooking terms.

Bake– To cook food in an oven using dry heat. Cakes, meat pies, and cookies are some examples of food that require baking.

Barbecue– To cook food by grilling it over wood or charcoal fire. Usually some sort of marinade or sauce is brushed on the food while cooking. You’ll find barbecued chicken and fish at most hangout spots in Nigeria.

Batter– An uncooked mixture of flour, liquid and other ingredients that is thin enough to be poured or dropped from a spoon. Cake or pancake mixture is referred to as a batter.

Beat– To stir rapidly in circular motion to make a smooth mixture using a whisk, spoon or mixer. Some recipes require you to beat eggs before use.

Blanch– To partially cook foods like fruits and vegetables by plunging into boiling water briefly and then into cold water to stop the cooking process.

Blend– To mix two or more ingredients until smooth using a blender, food processor or mixer. You can blend onions, tomatoes and pepper and make stew with it.

Boil– To cook in bubbling water that has reached 212 degrees Fahrenheit. One way to cook egg or yam is by boiling.

Deep fry -To cook food by completely immersing it in hot oil. Nigerian puff puff and buns are some examples  of deep fried snacks.

Dough– A mixture of flour or meal and a liquid that is stiff enough to be rolled or kneaded. Bread or fish roll mixture is referred to as a dough because they usually require kneading.

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Dress– To coat food with a sauce or to clean food like fish, poultry or game for cooking. Salad, for instance, is dressed with mayonnaise or salad cream.

Fry– To cook food in hot oil or fat using a shallow pan. Bacon, sausage, eggs are some examples of food that are cooked by frying.

Grate– To run food against a serrated surface to produce shredded or fine bits. If whole nutmeg is one of the ingredients that you want to use in cooking, then you have to grate it first.

Grease– To rub the interior surface of a cooking pan or dish with oil or butter to prevent food from sticking to it. When we bake, for instance, we grease the baking pan with butter before pouring the cake batter into it.

Knead– The process of mixing dough by hand or with a mixer. After mixing ingredients for Nigerian bread, or meat pie, you knead the dough to make the bread or pie light, fluffy and chewy.

Marinate– To soak or coat food in seasoned liquid  for a  period of time. This allows the food to absorb the flavours in the liquid. In Nigerian cooking,  meat, fish or chicken are usually allowed to marinate after seasoning.

We’ll stop here for today. Please, acquaint yourself with these terms and watch out for part two edition of this segment.


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Featured image source: Dreams Time

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Obiamaka Angela Udevi

Udevi, Obiamaka Angela holds a Master of Arts degree in History & International Studies. She's a freelance writer with a passion for food and healthy living. She can be contacted through her email address,

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