Cooking versus Heating

Hello, I’m in a discussion with someone and the argument is this: for food that is raw pre-seasoned/prepared, if someone takes it home, are the cooking or simply heating the food? My stance is that out are cooking the food, regardless of if you did or did not put the ingredients together, or if you purchased it pre-seasoned. The other stance is that because you don’t follow a recipe, put any of the ingredients together, or season the food yourself, you’re not cooking. You’re simply heating or heating up the raw food. That doesn’t make sense to me because when cooking, you’re specifically doing so to denature the protein in the meat and raise the internal temperature to a certain degree that will kill off bacteria. There are different dictionary definitions for “cooking” so I would like others’ opinions. Please let me know. Thanks!!

  • Posted by: Denise
  • December 1, 2018


Smaug December 2, 2018
You're talking about two different usages for the same word. To cook (ie to heat in such a way as to alter it fundamentally (an on the fly definition, could probably be done better) and to prepare food from raw ingredients. They are not exclusive of each other; either usage is quite proper. Few words in English do limit themselves to one meaning.
Smaug December 2, 2018
As an example- the word "raw" as used above could mean either uncooked or raw in the sense of raw materials. For the record, I meant the second.
PieceOfLayerCake December 2, 2018
Cooking to me is taking one set of edible ingredients and transforming it into something different....that may include heating it or not. Ceviche, for instance, isn't heated, but is still cooked through the process of acidulation (probably not the technical term for the process). While I think cooking aspects of a salad is fantastic, its obviously not necessary...and still I think putting together a life-changing salad is one of the heights of cooking. Sashimi and some forms of sushi is definitely cooking in my opinion...not to mention high art.

I suppose it does come down to opinion and grey area. I personally don't think getting pre-prepared food and putting it on the table is cooking....but getting pre-prepared ingredients and transforming it absolutely is. I honestly have a hard time considering ONLY applying heat to an edible, cooking (think TV dinner)....but I suppose if we're talking official definition: if one applies heat to food to make it safe/palatable for consumption, it's cooking, regardless of if its complex or.....microwave.
Nancy December 1, 2018
:) you're both right....
On the one hand, heating raw food so it is transformed is indeed cooking.
OTOH, the creative act of cooking involves thinking, selecting ingredients, using or adapting or making a recipe, preparing them, heating & serving them in pleasing, hunger-satisfying, more than buy a prepared meal or, say, a kit.
On the third hand, both approaches get credit for feeding people...however the ingredients come together, cost, space, heat, fuel, serving.
Denise December 2, 2018
Hi Nancy,

Thank you for your input! I do understand that the preparation and mixture of ingredients is part of cooking, however I don’t agree that if one does not prepare the food themselves, then they are “not cooking”. For example, if you were to take a raw, unseasoned piece of chicken breast, do absolutely nothing to it, and just pop it in the oven until it’s done, what would be the end result? A heated chicken breast? Or a cooked chicken breast. The other person’s argument is that if the preparation is not done by you, then you are not cooking food, simply heating.

For another example: Let’s say it’s Super Bowl Sunday and someone purchased raw, pre-seasoned ribs and grill it. That, I believe, is still considered cooking. I don’t think anyone would be too happy if they were told, “Well you didn’t cook these ribs; you only heated them up on a grill.”

Including sautéing, braising or roasting, broiling, stewing, etc. even if the raw items were not prepared by you. I understand your point that cooking includes preparation, however it’s not the only way that someone can cook food. I’d also like to mention that I believe this only applies to raw food and not pre-cooked food that you could microwave or reheat.
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