Preparation of meals using heat or fire is an activity that is very unique to humans. Many scientists believe that cooking played a crucial part in the human evolution. Anthropologist believe that cooking started around 25, 000 years ago, furthermore, the advent of agriculture, transportation and trade between civilization in several regions offered cooks many new ingredients. Inventions and technology development, like pottery for boiling water, greatly improved cooking practices. Nowadays, modern cooks use advanced scientific methods in preparation.
Cooking is a craft or practice of making food by using fire or heat, and even cold, for consumption. Cooking styles and ingredients differ widely in many parts of the world, because of the different environment, economic, and traditions. The cook themselves also vary in terms of skill and approach to cooking. Cooking can also result from chemical reactions even without the use of heat. The most famous method is the Ceviche, a dish from South America where fish is cooked with lemon or lime juice. Sushi also uses the same chemical reaction between the fish and the acidic materials of rice with vinegar.
A lot of the cooking ingredients are from living things. Vegetables, grains, fruits, and nuts, herbs and spices are all from plants. Meat, eggs, and dairy products are from animals. Mushrooms and yeast used in baking are from many kinds of fungi. Minerals such as salt, and water, and even beverages are used in cooking. Ingredients also contain naturally occurring amounts of molecules such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Cooking involves several methods; many have been around since ancient times. The various methods manipulate different levels of heat and moisture and differ in cooking time. The chosen method greatly affects the finished product; also there are methods and techniques that are more appropriate to a certain type of recipe. Some of the most common hot cooking methods are:
- Roasting – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RoastingBarbecuing, Grilling/Broiling, Rotisserie, Searing
- Baking – Baking Blind, Flashbaking
- Boiling – Blanching, Braising, Coddling, Double steaming, Infusion, Poaching, Pressure cooking, Simmering, Smothering, Steaming, Steeping, Stewing, Vacuum flask cooking
- Frying – Fry, Deep frying, Hot salt frying, Hot sand frying, Pan frying, Pressure frying, Sautéing, Stir frying
When heat is involved in making the food, it can eliminate or inactivate organisms that are potentially harmful to humans, like viruses and bacteria, and parasites like tapeworms. When food is uncooked or not prepared properly may cause illnesses like food poisoning. The disinfecting effect of cooking depends on temperature, time spent of cooking and the technique involved. There are still some bacteria that can survive cooking, such as the Clostridium botulinum or Bacillus cereus, which can regenerate after the food has cooled down. Reheating the food more than once in not recommended since it will allow the bacteria to multiply in hazardous levels.
Food handling, storage, and preparation are just some of the few things to consider in terms of safety. Some of the good practices for safety are washing the hands and surfaces, and avoiding cross contamination. Food prepared in plastic chopping boards are less likely to store bacteria that those in wooden ones. Washing and sanitizing cutting boards are highly encouraged, especially after slicing raw meat, seafood and poultry.