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Cooking History and Cooking Methods

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Cooking History and Cooking Methods


There is no clear archeological evidence when food was first cooked.
Most anthropologists believe that cooking fires began only about 250,000 years ago, when hearths started appearing.
Phylogenetic analysis by Chris Organ and Richard Wrangham suggests that cooking may have been invented as far back as 1.8 million to 2.3 million years ago. Other researchers believe that cooking was invented as recently as 40,000 or 10,000 years ago.
Evidence of fire is inconclusive, as wildfires started by lightning-strikes are still common in East Africa and other wild areas, and it is difficult to determine when fire was first used for cooking, as opposed to just being used for warmth or for keeping predators away.
Wrangham proposed cooking was instrumental in human evolution, as it reduced the time required for foraging and led to an increase in brain size.
He estimates the percentage decrease in gut size of early humans directly correlates to the increase in brain size. Most other anthropologists, however, oppose Wrangham, stating that archeological evidence suggests that cooking fires began in earnest only about 250,000 years ago, when ancient hearths, earth ovens, burnt animal bones, and flint appear across Europe and the Middle East.
Two million years ago, the only sign of fire is burnt earth with human remains, which most other anthropologists consider to be mere coincidence rather than evidence of intentional fire.
The mainstream view among anthropologists is that the increases in human brain size occurred well before the advent of cooking, due to a shift away from the consumption of nuts and berries to the consumption of meat.
Food has become a part of material culture, and cuisine is much more than a substance. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, food was a classic marker in Europe. However, in the nineteenth century, cuisine became a defining symbol of national identity. The discovery of the New World represented a major turning point in the history of food because of the movement of foods from and to Europe, such as potatoes, tomatoes, corn, yams, and beans. Food in America consisted of traditions that were adapted from England, but up until the end of this century, the presence of new ingredients along with the contact between diverse ethnic groups influenced experimentation. Industrialization was also a turning point that changed how food affected the nation.


The basic Cooking methods are the follow:


1) Boiling, in essence, is cooking food submerged in liquid at a temperature above 160C. Because this is such a high temperature for most foods, very few items are ever boiled, namely slow-cooking vegetables, such as onions and potatoes. Most foods if cooked submerged in liquid will cook at a simmer, to prevent the breaking down of proteins and starches which will alter the taste and texture of the food.
2) Poaching is an incredibly versatile cooking method; just about everything from fruits to meats can be cooked using this technique. Poaching is merely simmering food in liquid until it is cooked through. As with baking, the density of the food will determine the cooking duration time; fish is cooked for a short amount of time in liquid that is gradually heated, while denser meats cook longer starting with a cold liquid. The key to poaching meats and proteins is to make sure that your stove temperature is not too high, as this will cause the meat to break down, resulting in a greasy meal. Because eggs cook quickly, the liquid is first brought to a boil then turned off. Then, the eggs are added and covered until cooked to the desired doneness.
3) Roasting, although also a method of cooking food in an oven is different than baking in that it refers to exposing food to dry, hot air. This is achieved by cooking food in a convection oven or at the highest setting possible for a short amount of time to brown the outside of the food, then turning down the oven to finish cooking through the food without over-browning. Foods that are often roasted are meats, such as turkey, and vegetables. Just as with baking, it is important to adjust the temperature of your oven and cooking duration according to the size of the food. A roast turkey, for example will cook for a longer time at a lower temperature than a duck or other small bird, which at the same temperature would dry out before browning.
4) Sauté is a method of cooking that requires that you use an appropriate amount of oil in the pan that allows for even cooking, while heating your pan to the correct temperature. If you cook foods at too low of a temperature, the water that is released will not evaporate and your food will not brown properly. Ideally, the water released from the food should evaporate on contact with the pan, which will allow for proper browning and produce the best texture and flavor. Sauté does not require a large amount of oil. Adding too much oil to the pan is a common mistake that many cooks make; this will result in either a crispy or soggy meal, depending on the temperature of your pan.
5) Steaming generally refers to cooking food set over (but not touching) boiling water and placing a lid or cover over the food. This allows the heat and moisture to remain within the pot while cooking. If done properly, this is a wonderful cooking method for cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as it allows for lighter cooking without leaching out a large amount of nutrients. It is often the case that harsher cooking methods for these vegetables will turn them a grey color, but steaming keeps their vibrant green color intact. While a pot with a fitted steam basket is ideal for steaming, you can also use a colander or strainer, provided it fits in the pot, with a lid.
6) Dry-heat cooking, heat is transferred to food via air, fat, metal, or radiation. These cooking methods generally use higher temperatures than moist heat cooking methods because air, fat, and metal can be heated to temperatures much higher than the boiling point of water.
7) Braise is a cooking method that involves browning food (poultry or red meat) in fat or oil, then cooking it slowly, over low heat, in a small amount of liquid. A tight lid is used and the cooking can be done either on the stove or in the oven. This method is particularly good for tough cuts of meat, since it tenderizes the meat and breaks down connective tissue. Braising can be done effectively in a slow-cooker.

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