Cooking or recipes is the art, technology, and craft of preparing food for consumption with or without the use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, from grilling food over an open fire to using electric stoves, to baking in various types of ovens, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions and trends. The ways or types of cooking also depend on the skill and type of training an individual cook has. Cooking is done both by people in their own dwellings and by professional cooks and chefs in restaurants and other food establishments. Cooking can also occur through chemical reactions without the presence of heat, such as in ceviche, a traditional South American dish where fish is cooked with the acids in lemon or lime juice.
Preparing food with heat or fire is an activity unique to humans. It may have started around 2 million years ago, though archaeological evidence for it reaches no more than 1 million years ago.
The expansion of agriculture, commerce, trade, and transportation between civilizations in different regions offered cooks many new ingredients. New inventions and technologies, such as the invention of pottery for holding and boiling water, expanded cooking techniques. Some modern cooks apply advanced scientific techniques to food preparation to further enhance the flavor of the dish served.
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Modern recipes and cooking advice
With the advent of the printing press in the 16th and 17th centuries, numerous books were written on how to manage households and prepare food. In Holland and England, competition grew between the noble families as to who could prepare the most lavish banquet. By the 1660s, cookery progressed to an art form and good cooks were in demand. Many families published their own books detailing their recipes in competition with their rivals. Many of these books have been translated and are available online.
By the 19th century, the Victorian preoccupation for domestic respectability brought about the emergence of cookery writing in its modern form. Although eclipsed in fame and regard by Isabella Beeton, the first modern cookery writer and compiler of recipes for the home was Eliza Acton. Her pioneering cookbook, Modern recipes for Private Families published in 1845, was aimed at the domestic reader rather than the professional cook or chef. This was immensely influential, establishing the format for modern writing about recipes. It introduced the now-universal practice of listing the ingredients and suggested cooking times with each recipe. It included the first recipe for Brussels sprouts. Contemporary chef Delia Smith called Acton “the best writer of recipes in the English language.” Modern Cookery long survived Acton, remaining in print until 1914 and available more recently in facsimile.
Types of fat include vegetable oils, animal products such as butter and lard, as well as fats from grains, including corn and flax oils. Fats are used in a number of ways in cooking and baking. To prepare stir-fries, grilled cheese or pancakes, the pan or griddle is often coated with food or oil. Fast food is also used as an ingredient in baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and pies. Fats can reach temperatures higher than the boiling point of water and are often used to conduct high heat to other ingredients, such as in frying, deep frying or sautéing. Fats are used to adding flavor to food (e.g., butter or bacon fat), prevent food from sticking to pans and create a desirable texture.