Cooking Materials: Ingredients, Fats, Oils, Raising Agents, Liquids, Flavourings and Seasonings, Sweetenings, Thickening Agents

  • Post last modified:1 July 2023
  • Reading time:46 mins read
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Cooking Materials

Different raw materials are used in cooking to produce a complete dish. Each ingredient in a word has a unique part to play and knowledge of what each food does is necessary to understand cooking thoroughly. The materials are classified according to the part they play in making a dish. The following is the major classification of raw materials:

Foundation Ingredient

An ingredient is any substance used in the manufacture or preparation of a foodstuff and still present in the finished product, even if in an altered form. Contaminants and pollutants are not considered to be ingredients.

The foundation ingredient can be a liquid or a solid. Example: flour in bread, meat in roast, milk or stock in soups. Every dish has a foundation ingredient on which the other ingredients are based. It is necessary to know the proportions of various ingredients and also the composition of the different ingredients and the action of heat on these. Heat may not affect the whole material but only certain constituents.

Fats and Oils

Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and largely insoluble in water. Fats may be either solid or liquid at normal room temperature and melt when heated. Examples: butter, margarine, lard, suet, dripping, and hydrogenated fat.

Cooking oil is purified fat of plant or animal origin, which is liquid at room temperature. Some of the many different kinds of edible vegetable oils include olive oil, palm oil, soybean oil, canola oil, pumpkin seed oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil, argan oil, and rice bran oil. Many other kinds of vegetable oils are also used for cooking.

Fats and oils are nutritionally useful. It gives a satiety value to the dish. They also contribute characteristic palatability, qualities of flavor, and texture. They are popularly used as a medium of cooking.

Fats are solid at ordinary temperatures and melt when heated. Oils are liquids at ordinary temperatures but solidify at low temperatures.

Characteristics of Fats and Oils

Heating oil changes its characteristics. Some oils that are healthy at room temperature can become unhealthy when heated above certain temperatures. When choosing a cooking oil, it is therefore important to note the oil’s heat tolerance and to match the oil to its use in cooking. Oils that are suitable for high-temperature frying (above 280°C / 500°F) include:

  • Almond oil
  • Apricot kernel oil
  • High-oleic safflower oil or sunflower oil
  • Carotino oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Soybean oil

Oils suitable for medium-temperature frying include Carotene oil, canola oil, walnut oil, sunflower oil, and sesame oil. Unrefined oils should be restricted to temperatures below 105°C / 225°F.

Oils with lower amounts of saturated fats, and higher amounts of unsaturated (preferably monounsaturated) fats, are generally healthier.

Transfats are unsaturated fats that are not required or beneficial for health. Hydrogenation, a process that adds hydrogen atoms to fat molecules to make them more saturated, is responsible for most dietary transfats. Oils are hydrogenated to increase their melting point (for example in making margarine).

Uses of Fats and Oils

Fats and oils are used for various purposes, the major culinary part, played by them are:

  • Frying Media: Fats and oils are used as a medium of cooking i.e. pan roasting, frying, and sautéing. When fats or oils are heated, a temperature is reached at which visible fumes appear, defined as a smoke point. Fats with high smoke points are suitable for frying. The smoke point is not the same for different fats.

  • Shortenings: Fats are used in confectionery to enrich the food and to impart to them short-eating qualities. Collectively they are referred to as shortening agents. Their effect is to break down or destroy the toughness of gluten, so that food containing fat breaks off short and readily melts in the mouth instead of being hard and tough to eat.

  • Spreads: Butter and margarine are used for stretches, and their function is to add to the flavor, nutritional value, and safety value of bread.

  • Salad Dressings: Fat is used for various salad dressings. The hot animal fat dressings, which consist of bacon fat, vinegar, and seasonings are used for green hot salads. Mayonnaise used for dressing salads is an emulsion of oil, acid, egg yolk, and seasoning.

  • Tempering: Dishes such as dals, and curries are tempered. The fat or oil is heated to which cumin seed or mustard or fenugreek seeds etc are added and poured over the dals and pulses.

Rendering of Fat

Animal fat is heated and melted and this renders fat from fatty tissues. Tallow, suet, and lard are usually rendered and used for cooking. The fat is cut into small pieces and placed in a pan and put in the oven or on slow fire until the fat melts, and there are crisp brown pieces of tissue left. This should be strained through a fine cloth into a clean bowl.

Clarification of Fat

Used fat should be clarified and then used for better results in cooking. Strain the used fat and then mix double the quantity of water, in a pan and bring it to a boil. Strain again, cool, and place in a refrigerator. The fat will solidify and float on top. Lift the cake of fat, turn it upside down, and scrape off the foreign particles that have collected. Heat the fat on slow fire, till the water evaporates, and then strain and store it in a cool place.


Salt is a crystalline solid, white, pale pink, or light grey, normally obtained from sea water or rock deposits. Salt is an essential ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes. Salt helps to bring out the flavor of other ingredients. If too much is added, food becomes inedible, and too little makes food insipid. The right amount to be added is known by experience. It adds to the nutritive value of food by providing the essential mineral, sodium chloride.

Salt has physical effects on the gluten of flour. In reasonable quality, it strengthens gluten and increases its resistance to the softening effects of fermentation. Too much salt on the other hand will remove the power of gluten to hold gas. Salt also acts as a preservative; it speeds up the coagulation of eggs and lowers the freezing point.

Salt is available in three forms:

  • Table salt (fine) containing phosphate
  • Coarse or freezing salt for culinary purposes
  • Celery salt (used as an alternative to fresh celery or celery seed).

Uses of Salt

  • Salt is essential for good health.

  • Salt is used as a preservative and as a seasoning. Salting is one of the oldest popular methods of preserving ham, bacon, fish, etc.

  • Use of the correct amount of salt improves the flavor of the savory dished and when a little is added to sweet dished, it enhances the flavor.

  • It has a physical effect on the gluten of flour and strengthens gluten and increases its resistance to the softening effects of fermentation.

  • Cauliflower, when put in salted water, makes the insects come out.

  • It has a controlling effect on the activity of yeast in bakery products. It controls fermentation and hence it has a marked effect on the crumb, crust, and color of baked products.

  • Salt added to water, for cooking green vegetables, helps in color retention and enhances the taste.

Raising Agents

A raising agent (also called leavening or leaven) is a substance used in doughs and batters that causes a foaming action intended to lighten and soften the finished product.

The function of the raising agent is to puff up the food so that it spreads and rises and becomes full of holes, thus making it light and not close and heavy. The holes made by the raising agents are retained during the process of cooking. The leavening of the flour mixture is accomplished by the expansion of water vapor and carbon dioxide.

When the product is heated the air expands and part of the water vaporizes. The formation of carbon dioxide requires the presence of suitable microorganisms or chemical agents. During the first part of heating gas production is accelerated and the gas formed expands as the temperature rises.

The following are the different types of raising agents:

Biological Leaveners

Microorganisms that release carbon dioxide as part of their lifecycle can be used to leaven products. Varieties of yeast are most often used, particularly Saccharomyces species (i.e. baker’s yeast), though some recipes also rely on certain bacteria. Yeast leaves behind waste byproducts (particularly ethanol and some autolysis products) that contribute to the distinctive flavor of yeast bread. In sourdough bread, the flavor is further enhanced by various lactic or acetic acid bacteria.

Leavening with yeast is a process based on fermentation, physically changing the chemistry of the dough or batter as the yeast works. Unlike chemical leavening, which usually activates as soon as the water combines the acid and base chemicals, yeast leavening requires proofing, which allows the yeast time to reproduce and consume carbohydrates in the flour.

While not as widely used, bacterial fermentation is sometimes used, occasionally providing a drastically changed flavor profile from yeast fermentation; salt-rising bread, which uses a culture of the Clostridium perfringens bacterium, is a well-known example.

Some typical biological leaveners are:

  • beer (unpasteurized – live yeast)
  • buttermilk
  • ginger beer
  • sourdough starter
  • yeast
  • yogurt

Chemical Leaveners

Chemical leaveners are chemical mixtures or compounds that typically release carbon dioxide or other gases when they react with moisture and heat; they are almost always based on a combination of acid (usually a low molecular weight organic acid) and an alkali (though ammonia-based learners are also available, though in decreasing quantity). They usually leave behind a chemical salt. Chemical leaveners are used in quick bread and cakes, as well as cookies and numerous other applications where a long biological fermentation is impractical or undesirable.

Since the chemical expertise required to create a functional chemical leaven without leaving behind off-flavors from the chemical precursors involved, such substances are often mixed into premeasured combinations for maximum results. These are generally referred to as baking powders.

Chemical leavening agents include:

  • baking powder
  • baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • ammonium bicarbonate (hartshorn, horn salt, bakers ammonia)
  • potassium bicarbonate (potash)
  • potassium bitartrate (cream of tartar)
  • potassium carbonate (pearlash)
  • monocalcium phosphate

Mechanical Leavening

Mechanical leavening is the process of incorporating air by whisking, beating, and sieving. Creaming is the process of beating sugar crystals and solid fat (typically butter) together in a mixer. This integrates tiny air bubbles into the mixture since the sugar crystals physically cut through the structure of the fat. Creamed mixtures are usually further leavened by a chemical leavener. This is often used in cookies.

Using a whisk on certain liquids, notably cream or egg whites, can also create foams through mechanical action. This is the method employed in the making of sponge cakes, where an egg protein matrix produced by vigorous whipping provides almost all the structure of the finished product.

Other Leaveners

Steam and air are used as leavening agents when they expand upon heating. To take advantage of this style of leavening, the baking must be done at high enough temperatures to flash the water to steam, with a batter that is capable of holding the steam in until set.

  • Air as a Raising Agent: Air is incorporated by sifting flour, creaming shortening, beating eggs, or beating the mixture itself.

  • Water Vapour as a Raising Agent: Water vapor is formed in quantities sufficient to raise the mixture when liquid and flour are in equal volumes.


Cooking often involves water which is frequently present as other liquids, both added to immerse the substances being cooked (typically water, stock, or wine), and released from the foods themselves. Liquids are so important to cooking that the name of the cooking method used may be based on how the liquid is combined with the food, as in steaming, simmering, boiling, braising, and blanching. The liquid is necessary to bind dry ingredients together, to act as a cooking medium, and to thin down a gravy or sauce. Milk, water, stock, and fruit juices are the most commonly used liquids.

Water and Milk

Water and milk are used for preparing poaching liquor, soups, sauces, gravies, cakes and pastry mixtures and kneading of doughs, etc. Buttermilk is used for curries, kadi, etc.


Stock is a flavored liquid. It forms the basis of many dishes, particularly soups and sauces. Stock is prepared by simmering various ingredients in water, including some or all of the following:

  • Bones (veal, beef, and chicken bones) – The flavor of the stock comes from the cartilage and connective tissue in the bones. Connective tissue has collagen in it, which gets converted into gelatin that thickens the liquid. Stock made from bones needs to be simmered for longer than stock made from meat (often referred to as broth).

  • Mirepoix – A combination of onions, carrots, celery, and sometimes other vegetables). Often the less desirable parts of the vegetables (such as carrot skins and celery ends) are used since they will not be eaten.

  • Herbs and spices – The herbs and spices used depend on availability and local traditions. In classical cuisine, the use of a bouquet garni (or bundle of herbs) consisting of parsley, bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and possibly other herbs, is common. This is often wrapped in a cheesecloth “bag” and tied with string to make it easier to remove it once the stock is cooked.

Flavorings and Seasonings

Flavoring and seasoning are the process of adding or improving the flavor of food. Flavoring combines taste and smells such as essences, cardamon, nutmeg, thyme, etc. Seasonings include herbs, spices, and all other condiments. Examples: black pepper, basil, kosher salt, etc.

Spices and herbs give flavoring and seasoning to the dishes. To get effective results, not only should the food, please the eye, but should also flatter or stimulate the palate. The success of cooking largely depends upon the help we obtain from flavoring and seasoning. The spice we use for this purpose should be used sparingly, as well as with skill. All palates may not crave high-spiced food, yet the majority of people demand, that the food be moderately flavored with the right constituents.

To use flavoring and seasoning rightly is a great accomplishment; the dish could be spoilt by being overseasoned. Seasoning should bring out the natural flavors of the main ingredients and blend with them. Seasonings as such have little or no nutritive value but are valuable for they give variety to the dishes and have medicinal value.

Spices that have flavorings and seasonings are Garlic ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, poppy seeds, nutmeg, coriander powder, mace, pepper, fenugreek, chilies, saffron, aniseeds, turmeric, paprika, caraway seeds, allspices, sesame. Various herbs are parsley, celery, coriander leaves, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, mint, marjoram, sage, bay leaf, basil, chervil, caripatta, etc.

Important of Spices and Herbs

  • Help in digestion – From pre-historic times spices have been used. Clove oil stimulates the flow of gastric juices, garlic, aniseeds, and asafoetida are taken for indigestion and hypertension.

  • The seed for medicinal purposes – For toothache, clove oil relieves pain. Turmeric and oil are applied on swellings and hurts, and cures, as it is believed to have antiseptic qualities. Garlic and saunf help digestion and ginger added to tea helps to cure colds. Turmeric added to milk is given to a person who is in a state of shock.

  • Enhance flavor – Dishes would be inspired and bland if the spices were not added, because they give a good flavor and stimulate appetite. Monosodium Glutamate is a flavor enhancer in meat and fish dishes. Cinnamon, bay leaf, nutmeg, saffron, pepper, cloves, etc.

  • Improve appearance – Some of the spices give color to the food and improve the appearance of the dish. Turmeric, saffron, coriander leaves, poppy seeds, raratanjoi add color to the food, which makes the dish interesting.

  • Improve palatability – Salt is one of the important seasonings that enhance the taste of the food. It also brings out the flavor. The other seasonings that improve palatability are pepper, chilies, poppy seeds, coriander seeds, paprika, etc.

  • Act as preservatives – Many foods are preserved for a longer time with the help of spices. Salt is used extensively for preserving – Brine, solution. Other spices that have preservative quality are:- turmeric, cloves, mustard, ginger, and garlic. Pickling is one of the forms of preservation.


It is the process of adding sweets to the dish. When sweetening is used with other foods it enhances the combined sensations of odor and flavour of the dish produced. It also adds sweetness and is a versatile food product. Its uses in the kitchen are varied. The types of sweetenings used are sugar, jaggery and molasses, syrups, jams, honey, and fruit juices. Sweetening is available in various forms: granulated, fine-grained, powdered, and in a solution form.


Sugar is the naturally occurring nutrient that makes food taste sweet. It is a carbohydrate along with starch. Sugar as a basic food carbohydrate primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet, but also appears in fruit, honey, sorghum, sugar maple (in maple syrup), and from many other sources.

Different Types of Sugar

Sugars vary in their sweetening quality and are available in the following form-granulated sugar, castor sugar (finer than granulated and used for baking), icing sugar, preserving sugar (coarser than granulated and used for jams and jellies), and brown sugar (for color and flavor), lactose (milk sugar) cane syrup, maple syrup, treacle, honey, and golden syrup. Substitution of one sugar (castor, icing) for another in a baking formula, gives allowance for the difference in the sweetening effect.

The most obvious difference between the types of sugars used in the home is color. When the sugar has been extracted from the juice of the beet or cane plant, a strong-tasting black syrup (known as molasses) remains. When white sugar is made, the molasses are entirely removed, whereas brown sugars retain varying amounts of this natural syrup. The more molasses in brown sugar, the stickier the crystals, the darker the color, and the stronger the flavor. However, the presence of molasses does not change sugar’s nutritional value.

Uses of Sugar

Sugar is not just a sweetener; it can be used in several different ways:

  • As a preservative: at the right concentration sugar helps to stop microorganisms growing and so prevents food spoilage. For example, in jams and other preserves. This is why reduced sugar jams spoil much more quickly than traditional jams.

  • It helps to produce subtle changes in flavor. Sugar offsets the acidity and sour flavor in many foods such as mayonnaise, tomato products, and tart fruits like gooseberries and grapefruit.

  • As a bulking agent: sugar gives the characteristic texture to a variety of foods – including jams, ice cream, and cakes.

  • To raise the boiling point or lower the freezing point. This is essential in some recipes, for example making ice cream.

  • To speed up the process of fermentation (by yeast) in baking. This makes the dough rise, for example, bread and tea cakes.

  • It makes cakes light and open-textured when it is beaten with butter or eggs in a recipe.

  • A low concentration of sugar speeds the effectiveness of baker’s yeast by providing an immediate, fast cooking source of nourishment for its growth-thus hastening the leavening process.

  • The ability of sugar to crystallize gives a delightful variety in cookery.

  • Sugar gives puddings, bread, buns, and bread rolls a good flavor and the characteristic golden brown color, flavor (caramel) and tender light, and even texture.

Liquid Sweeteners

Liquid sweeteners include various syrups, honey, and molasses. Liquid sweeteners are typically less expensive than dry nutritive sweeteners. The following are some of the liquid sweeteners:

  • Barley Malt Syrup: This tastes a bit like molasses, and it’s not as sweet as sugar or honey. It’s mostly used to make beer, but it’s also used to make bread or other baked goods.

  • Blackstrap Molasses: This has a strong, bitter flavor, and it’s not very sweet. It’s sometimes used to make chili.

  • Brown Rice Syrup: Health buffs like this because it contains complex sugars, which are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. It’s about half as sweet as ordinary table sugar.

  • Coconut Syrup: Hawaiians like to pour this syrup on pancakes, but it’s also used in several mixed drinks.

  • Corn Syrup: This is a thick, sweet syrup that’s popular in America, but hard to find in other countries. Unlike other sweeteners, corn syrup doesn’t crystallize and turn grainy when it’s cold, so it’s a good choice for frostings, fudge sauces, and candies. Baked goods made with corn syrup are moister and stay fresher longer than those made with sugar.

  • Dark Corn Syrup (Dark Karo Syrup): This corn syrup has a mild molasses flavor, and it’s a common ingredient in barbecue sauce and pecan pie.

  • Orgeat (pronounced OR-zhat): This sweet almond-flavored syrup is used in many mixed drinks.

  • Maple Syrup: It is made from the sap of sugar maples; maple syrup is a traditional topping for pancakes, waffles, and French toast. It’s also used to make candies, frostings, candied yams, meat glazes, and baked beans. Lighter syrups usually have a more delicate flavor.

  • Simple Syrup (Sugar Syrup): This is a mixture of sugar and water that’s brought to a boil and simmered for about five minutes so that the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes syrupy. When it cools, it’s used to make mixed drinks, liqueurs, baked goods, sorbets, sauces, and many other things. The thickness of the syrup depends upon the ratio of sugar to water used.

Thickening Agents

Thickening agents, or thickeners, are substances that, when added to an aqueous mixture, increase its viscosity without substantially modifying its other properties, such as taste. They provide the body, increase stability, and improve suspending action. They also improve the nutritive value. Thickening agents are often food additives.

Food thickeners are frequently based on polysaccharides (starches or vegetable gums) or proteins (egg yolks, demi-glaces, or collagen). Common examples are agar, arrowroot, coconut, tamarind, curd, poppy seeds, onion taste, coriander powder, gelatin, katakuri, pectin, rehan, roux, tapioca, guar gum, locust bean gum, and xanthan gum. Flour is often used for thickening gravies, gumbos, and stews. It must be cooked thoroughly to avoid the taint of uncooked flour. Cereal grains (oatmeal, couscous, farina, etc.) are used to thicken soups.

Some of the thickening agents are discussed below:


Roux (pronounced ROO) is a thickener that’s made from equal weights of flour and fat, like butter or meat drippings. It is especially good for thickening rich, hearty stews and gravies. Some popular types of roux are:

  • White roux – Melt the butter, add the flour, and cook for a few minutes over low heat while stirring constantly.

  • Blond roux – It is made in the same manner as the white roux but it is cooked a little longer. It is finished when the flour has a blond color.

  • Brown roux – It is made in the same manner as the blond roux but it is cooked until the flour has a very distinct light brown color and nutty aroma.


Beurremanie (pronounced BARE mahn-YAY) is a flour-butter mixture. It is used to correct overly thin sauces at the last minute. To make it, blend equal weights of butter and flour are mixed and kneaded together. After whisking it into a sauce, it is cooked for no more than a minute or two, since sauces thickened with flour pick up a starchy taste after they’ve cooked for a few minutes. Beurremanie is mainly used in “a la minute” cookery.

Fresh Cream

Fresh cream is generally used to finish sauces and soups, It has also a slight thickening effect.

Egg Yolks

Egg yolks make wonderful thickeners–imparting both a rich flavor and a velvety smooth texture. We need to “temper” them by adding some of the hot liquid to the egg yolks, whisking the mixture together, and then adding it to the sauce.


Pectin (pronounced PECK-tin) is a white to light brown powder derived from the cell wall of higher terrestrial plants. It is mainly used in food as a gelling agent in jams and jellies. Some fruits like quinces, gooseberries, tart apples, and sour plums, contain enough natural pectin that they’ll thicken all by themselves into preserves. Others, like cherries and some berries, need an extra boost to firm up. Jam recipes for pectin-deficient fruit normally call for liquid or powdered pectin.

Liaison (Fresh Cream and Egg Yolks)

Liaison is a very popular thickening agent in white sauces and cream soups. A Liaison consists usually of 2/3 cream and 1/3 egg yolk (1 dl. cream and 1 egg yolk). The soup or sauce containing liaison is not allowed to boil .

Refined Flours and Starches

These are products such as arrowroot, cornflour, fecule, etc. They are diluted with water, milk, wine, or stock, then stirred into the boiling liquid and allowed to boil for a few minutes. The thickening power of these products is usually stronger than the one of ordinary flour, therefore these products are used in small quantities only.


Arrowroot has a neutral taste and thickens at a lower temperature than corn starch, and hence can be used to thicken delicate egg-based soups and sauces. It also imparts an eye-pleasing glossy look to the sauce. However, care needs to be exercised not to add arrowroot too early during the cooking process, as overheating tends to destroy its thickening property.


Bird eggs are a common food and one of the most versatile ingredients used in cooking. Chicken eggs are widely used in many types of dishes, both sweet and savory. Eggs can be pickled, hard-boiled, scrambled, fried, and refrigerated. The most common egg used today is the hen’s egg, though duck, goose, and other fowl are available in some areas.

The egg white is an excellent source of protein and riboflavin. An egg white (albumin) is fat-free and contains only 10 calories. Egg yolks contain all of the fat in an egg and are a good source of protein, iron, vitamins A and D, choline, and phosphorus. Egg yolks are high in cholesterol. The color of the yolk depends entirely on the hen’s diet. Hens fed on alfalfa, grass, and yellow corn lay eggs with lighter yolks than wheat-fed hens. The eggshell’s color is determined by the breed and has nothing to do with either taste or nutritive value.

Storage of Eggs

  • Eggs must always be refrigerated. When stored at room temperature, they lose more quality in 1 day than in a week in the refrigerator.

  • Eggs should be stored in the carton in which they came; transferring them to the egg container in the refrigerator door exposes them to odors and damage. They should always be stored large-end-up and should never be placed near odoriferous foods (such as onions) because they easily absorb odors.

  • The best flavor and cooking quality will be realized in eggs used within a week. They can, however, be refrigerated for up to a month, provided the shells are intact.

  • Leftover yolks can be covered with cold water and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 3 days. They can be frozen only with the addition of 1/8 teaspoon salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar or corn syrup per 1/4 cup egg yolks.

  • Tightly covered egg whites can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. They can be frozen as is for up to 6 months. An easy way to freeze whites is to place one in each section of an ice cube tray.

  • Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated for no more than a week. Eggs are available in other forms including powdered and frozen (whole or separated). Commercially frozen egg products are generally pasteurized and some contain stabilizing ingredients.

Egg Cookery

The basic principle of egg cooking is to use a medium to low temperature and time carefully. When eggs are cooked at too high a temperature or for too long at a low temperature, whites shrink and become tough and rubbery; yolks become tough and their surface may turn gray-green. Eggs, other than hard-cooked, should be cooked until the whites are completely coagulated and the yolks begin to thicken.

The following are the basic methods for cooking eggs:

  • Baked (also known as shirred) – For each serving, break and slip 2 eggs into a greased ramekin, shallow baking dish, or 10-ounce custard cup. Spoon 1 tablespoon half and half, light cream, or milk over eggs. Bake in preheated 325 degrees F. oven until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 12 to 18 minutes, depending on the number of servings being baked.

  • Cooked in the Shell – Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and add enough water to come at least 1 inch above the eggs. Cover and quickly bring just to boiling. Turn off the heat. If necessary, remove the pan from the burner to prevent further boiling. Let the eggs stand, covered, in the hot water, for the proper amount of time.

  • Hard-cooked – Boil the eggs in water for about 15 minutes (for large eggs). Adjust the time up or down by about 3 minutes for each size larger or smaller. To help prevent a dark surface on the yolks, immediately run cold water over the eggs or place them in ice water until completely cooled.

  • Soft-cooked – Boil the eggs for about 4 to 5 minutes depending on the desired doneness. Immediately run cold water over the eggs or place them in ice water until cool enough to handle. To serve out of the shell, break the shell through the middle with a knife. With a teaspoon, scoop the egg out of each shell half into a serving dish.

  • Fried – Egg cooked in a small amount of fat in a pan. In a 7- to 8-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Break and slip 2 eggs into the pan. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Cook slowly until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, covering with a lid, spoon butter over the eggs to baste them or turn the eggs to cook both sides.

  • Steam-basted Variation (a lower-fat version of fried eggs) Use just enough butter to grease a 7″ to 8″ omelet pan or skillet or substitute a light coating of vegetable pan spray and/or a nonstick pan. Over medium-high heat, heat the butter or the coated pan until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Break and slip the eggs into the pan. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Cook until the edges turn white, about 1 minute. Add about 1 teaspoon water for each 2 eggs. (Decrease the proportion slightly for each additional egg being fried.) Cover the pan tightly to hold in the steam. Cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard.

  • Poached (eggs cooked out of the shell in hot water, milk, broth, or other liquid) In a saucepan or deep omelet pan, bring 1 to 3 inches of water or other liquid to boiling. Reduce the heat to keep the water gently simmering. Break cold eggs, one at a time, into a custard cup or saucer or break several into a bowl. Holding the dish close to the water’s surface, slip the eggs, 1 by 1, into the water. Cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 3 to 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, lift out the eggs. Drain them in a spoon or on paper towels and trim any rough edges, if desired.

  • Scrambled (yolks and whites beaten together before cooking in a greased pan). For each serving, beat together 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of milk, and salt and pepper to taste until blended. In a 7″ to 8″ omelet pan or skillet over medium heat, heat 2 teaspoons butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Pour in the egg mixture. As the mixture begins to set, gently draw an inverted pancake turner completely across the bottom and sides of the pan, forming large soft curds. Continue until the eggs are thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Do not stir constantly.

Uses of Eggs

The eggs are used in various forms while preparing food. They are briefly discussed below:

  • Binding – A binder helps other ingredients bind together. Eggs are used to help bind together meatballs, meatloaf, and flour mixtures. When eggs are heated they coagulate, this helps stick together the ingredients they are mixed with.

  • Coating – The eggs or egg batter help to give a coat to the food items and prevent them from disintegrating and giving them a protective coating. Many of the food items, such as fish fillets, cutlets, etc, are dipped into the batter before crumbing and then fried. Eggs are also used for preparing pancake batters (eggs, flour, and milk).

  • Leavening – By beating the egg whites a foam is made up of air bubbles, surrounded by a thin elastic film of egg white. This mixture, when added to products such as sponge cakes, meringues, soufflés, etc increases the volume and the egg white film hardens.

  • Emulsifying – Eggs are the emulsifiers that give a smooth mayonnaise sauce. It is also used as an emulsifier in ice creams, cakes, cream puffs, etc.

  • Thickening – Eggs help to improve the consistency of gravies, curries, sauces, and soups. Egg liaisons used in soups and sauces help to thicken and improve the consistency. When used in custards, the heat coagulated the eggs and makes the custard firm.

  • Decoration and Garnishing – Slices, sieved, or quarters of boiled eggs are used to decorate or garnish dishes such as salads, biryanis, curries, Vienna steaks, etc.

  • Clarifying – Consommés are clarified with egg whites.
Article Reference
  • Ann Seranne (1983), The Complete Book of Egg Cookery, Collier Macmillan.

  • Tony Groves, et al (1996), Food Preparation and Cooking, Nelson Thornes.

  • Eleanor Hallam (2005), Food Technology, Nelson Thornes.

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