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Glossary: "A" terms

ABS plastic
Named for its three main derivations, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a tough, relatively rigid polymer often used in kitchen tools and countertop appliance housings (as well as crash helmets). Particular qualities vary from manufacturer to manufacturer depending on the component proportions, but ABS is generally one of the sturdier and more impact-resistant plastics found in kitchen gear; it’s relatively more impervious to stains and odors but not to certain solvents which contain sulfuric and nitric acids.

 

Acidic (foods)
Acidity and alkalinity are terms used to characterize a given substance’s chemical reaction, specifically with regard to hydrogen, when introduced into a solution. Exact levels of acidity or alkalinity are denoted by the pH scale, with values from 1 to 14. The pH levels of the foods we eat affect health insofar as they support or impede the body’s natural chemical processes which maintain good health. In kitchenware, several types of metal used to make pots and pans and tools, particularly aluminum and carbon steel, will react to acidic foods, discolor or even rust. The former is not impervious to discoloration caused by some alkaline foods, as well. Almost all vegetables, most fruits and most dairy foods are alkaline; lemons, tomatoes, wine, coffee, sugar, most grain foods, all meat, poultry, eggs and seafood are acid foods.

 

Acrylic
A strong polymer plastic used to make kitchen tools, and, as an enamel, to treat the non-cooking surfaces of metal cookware, enabling the bonding of a variety of finishes.

 

Activated carbon
Commonly known as "charcoal"; the extremely porous material, derived by heating wood or other organic substances in the absence of oxygen, and used in water purification filters, for its super-absorbent characteristics. Common applications are filters for pitchers, faucets, coffee machines and refrigerators.

 

Aerate
To incorporate air into a substance or, most common in food preparation, a mixture. Whisks, mixers of various types, and blenders perform this function, producing a lighter, fluffier result.

 

Alkaline (foods)
Alkalinity and acidity are terms used to characterize a given substance’s chemical reaction, specifically with regard to hydrogen, when introduced into a solution. Exact levels of acidity or alkalinity are denoted by the pH scale, with values from 1 to 14. The pH levels of the foods we eat affect health insofar as they support or impede the body’s natural chemical processes which maintain good health. In kitchenware, several types of metal used to make pots and pans and tools, particularly aluminum and carbon steel, will react to acidic foods, discolor or even rust. The former is not impervious to discoloration caused by some alkaline foods.Almost all vegetables, most fruits and most dairy foods are alkaline; lemons, tomatoes, wine, coffee, sugar, most grain foods, all meat, poultry, eggs and seafood are acid foods.

 

Alligator Slicer
Originally a brand name, now used generically for a small group of countertop, hand-operated slicers, used to slice and dice hard fruits and vegetables. An effective way to avoid irritating vapors from sliced onions, the whole food is placed between open plastic “jaws” (resembling an alligator’s); while the food is held stationary by the bottom jaw, the top one, containing a grid of stainless steel cutting blades is pressed down through the food, leaving the processed slices on top of the tool. There are a few different models available, typically measuring about 13”long and selling for around $25.

 

Alloy
A substance composed of two or more metals, or of a metal or metals with a nonmetal, intimately mixed, as by fusion or electrodeposition. Sometimes, in kitchenware, a less costly metal mixed with a more valuable one.

 

Aluminum foil
Paper-thin foil (typically .02 mm) made from aluminum, sold in rolls and used in food storage. This material was introduced, and began to replace tin foil, in 1910.

 

Angel food pan
A round cake baking pan, typically of aluminum and 10” in diameter, with high sides and a hollow cylindrical center. Also called a tube pan.

 

Anodize
An electrochemical process applied to metal to increase the thickness and density of the natural oxide film on the surface, which increases resistance to corrosion and wear.

 

Apple corer
A utensil, usually straight and about 9” long, with a handle and a cylindrical head with a toothed cutting edge, used to remove the core of an apple while leaving the surrounding fruit intact.

 

Asparagus cooker
A tall pot, typically with a 3-qt. capacity, or similarly shaped basket insert used to hold asparagus spears upright. The ends are often submerged in a few inches of water and boiled, while the tips are steamed more slowly, at the top.

 

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Updated: February 25, 2008

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