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  • The Chopping Blog

The "S" Words of Cooking

Crystal P.
Posted by Crystal P. on Mar 29, 2019


I remember as a child I always had one friend that liked to experiment with cursing. The scenario was always the same: my friends and I would be somewhere out of the listening ear of an adult, playing and talking about whatever the latest trend happened to be at the moment. During the course of the conversation, a curse word would spew out from the mouth of one of my friends. Almost instantly, everyone would stop, drop their jaws and widen their eyes and then seemly in unison in a sing song way say Ooohh, you said the "S" word! Then we’d look around to see if anyone heard and if not, we’d all start saying that word and any other foul mouth word we had ever heard. Looking back on this, we were probably using the words and phrases all wrong and if anyone ever did hear us they would have thought those kids have no idea what they are doing. Well, the same thing can happen in cooking.

If you use the incorrect word or don’t know when to use a particular cooking technique then it’s likely that you could feel like you have no idea what you are doing in the kitchen. But exactly what “S” words am I talking about here?

I think we can all name the curse word, but three "S" cooking words that come to my mind are sauté, sear and sweat. They are words I hear all of the time during cooking classes at The Chopping Block. So, what do those words mean? Let's turn to one of my favorite resources, the New Food Lover’s Companion Book, for the answers.


  • Sauté – to cook food quickly in a small amount of oil or other fat in a skillet or sauté’ pan over direct heat.
  • Sear – To brown meat quickly by subjecting it to a very high heat either in a skillet, under a broiler or in a very hot oven. The object of searing is to seal in the meat’s juices.
  • Sweat (to) – A technique by which ingredients, particularly vegetables are cooked in a small amount of fat over a low heat. Ingredients are covered directly with a piece of foil or parchment paper, then the pot is tightly covered. With this method, the ingredients soften without browning, and cook in their own juices. 

Going back down memory lane, think about your vocabulary lessons - once you knew the definition of a word you had to use it in a sentence or perform some practical application of the word to demonstrate your understanding, and the same applies when cooking. Now that I’ve explained the definitions of the three “S” words I need to find a recipe for practical application. I thought the simplest execution would be to make spaghetti and meatballs, plus it’s something I haven’t made for myself in a long time.

Step 1: I sliced (another "S" word!) some onions, peppers and garlic (although I generally chop garlic) for sautéing and sweating.




Step 2: Seared the meatballs.

Step 3: Made the spaghetti sauce, let it simmer and added the sautéed vegetables to the sauce.


Step 4: Boil packaged spaghetti noodles.

Step 5: Plate and eat!


As I was executing step 5, I was still in research mode when I found this article on The Spruce Eats Website all about sautéing, sweating and searing.

Are you hungry yet? Do you want to see or use the techniques discussed today in action? If so, sign up for one of our upcoming cooking classes. You might enjoy Steakhouse DIY for searing, Spring Break: A Trip to Mexico for sautéing, or Date Night: Spring Dinner Party for sweating. If you want to improve on your cutting and slicing (the other S word mentioned) then you must try our most popular class, Knife Skills.


Topics: sear, spaghetti, saute, meatballs, Cooking Techniques, sweat

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