Basic Food Preparation Skills

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Understanding the basics of food preparation means acquiring some important skills in the kitchen. In this lesson, you'll learn more about some basic food preparation skills that will help at home or in a commercial kitchen.

Culinary Career Skills

After struggling to find a career path that interested him, Tony thinks he's finally found his calling. Following a semester of studying culinary arts at his vocational school, he has decided he might want to pursue a career in the food service industry. But, being relatively new to culinary arts, he decides he needs to brush up on the basics over the summer to determine if it's really a good fit for him.

He sets up a meeting with a friend, Will, already working in the industry. Will shares some information about basic food preparation skills that will come in handy for Tony. Let's take a look at what he came up with.

Food Preparation Basics

Spending time in the kitchen requires a mix of practical skills for cooks and bakers, from weighing and measuring liquids and solids to properly using equipment such as a microwave, oven or food processor. Here are some key skills important in the culinary world.

Weighing and Measuring

Achieving the right weights and measurements of both liquid and dry ingredients can make or break a recipe. Solids such as flour or sugar are often weighed using a kitchen scale, while liquids such as milk or oil are measured in measuring cups or measuring spoons. Proper weighing and measuring are vital for achieving success with recipes, both in cooking and baking.

Knife Skills

Most workers in the culinary arts will tell you that proper knife skills are important for properly slicing and dicing food while being safe to avoid injury. The two most common ways to hold food while using a knife are the bridge hold, where you place your empty hand over the hand holding the knife to form a ''bridge'' above the cutting process, and the claw grip, which requires you to make a claw shape with your empty hand for holding food while cutting with the other.

Peeling and Grating

Many times, dishes will require fruits or vegetables that need to be peeled or grated before being introduced into the recipe. Apples are traditionally peeled for an apple pie. Cheese may need to be grated (or shredded) to melt properly in a recipe. A box grater can be sat on a countertop and held at the top with one hand while the other hand grips the vegetable, for example, and rakes it downward over the sharp openings on the surface of the grater.

Setting Time and Temperature

Unless you want your food to be under- or over-cooked, understanding the right temperature and length of time to prepare a dish is a crucial food prep skill. It can also help you determine which foods to prepare first. For example, potatoes will take a longer time to cook than most steaks. Time and temperature are also important in determining whether food has been cooked to a proper temperature that makes it safe for diners to eat.

Food Safety

Before most food preparation skills can be put into place, it's important that a cook grasp the importance of food safety. This includes proper hand-washing and using clean work surfaces and tools such as knives and cutting boards. This step can help prevent contamination that can make those consuming your food ill.

Sifting

Sifting is a basic preparation skill that incorporates straining or processing a food product through a sieve. Sifting flour, for example, can remove lumps from the mixture and make it easier to mix with other dry ingredients.

Marinating

The idea of marinating is allowing meat or other foods to sit in a mixture of sauces and/or spices to impart more flavor into what you're preparing to cook. It also can help make meat more tender for cooking.

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