Q:

What does "steep" mean in cooking?

A:

The word "steep" has several definitions, but when it comes to the kitchen, "steeping" something mans to permit dry ingredients to soak inside a liquid until that liquid tastes like the dry ingredient. One of the most popular examples of steeping involves using a tea bag to turn hot water into tea. The essence of the tea bag emerges through the bag, changing the color of the water and giving it a brand new flavor.

Another food that goes through steeping is corn as an early part of the milling process. After harvest, corn kernels go through cleaning before being steeped in hot water that reaches a temperature of about 120 F for between 30 and 40 hours. This process more than doubles the volume of the corn while tripling its moisture content. This weakens the bonds of gluten, releasing the starch inside. After that, the corn goes through grinding to break off any germs and other unwanted elements. The steep water, in which the corn has soaked, ends up in animal feeds because of the nutrients that remain from the steeping process. The process of brewing beer also begins with steeping grain, making steeping one of the more popular steps for converting grains and crops into a more amenable state for processing.


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