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Feb 8, 2013 10:27 PM

What does "crisp-tender" mean?

I was given a recipe for what I was told was FANTASTIC vegetarian chili. It looked good (made with sweet potatoes and black beans), so I decided to make it for dinner.

The first instruction confused me, though. The recipe called for the sweet potato to be cut into 1/2" cubes, and an onion to be finely chopped. These two ingredients were to be put into a dutch oven with a small amount of olive oil and cooked over medium-high heat until "crisp-tender."

I've never encountered cooking instructions that call for vegetables to be cooked to "crisp-tender." I was unsure what that even meant. I know about sweating onions, about sauteing onions until translucent, about sauteing onions until they take on color, but I don't know what "crisp-tender" is.

Can anyone explain this? Is this a proper cooking instruction?

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  1. I would surmise it simply means to brown or caramelize the outside surface area of the sweet potato and not over cook, but until the in.side is soft and you can pierce with a knfe tip

    1. maybe the same thing as fresh frozen?


      1. Picture picking it up and snapping it with your fingers. You can snap a slice of raw potato but if you bite into it, I wouldn't call it tender.

        So, it's a stage where it'll still snap when you, well, snap it, easier to bite into than raw, but not fully cooked to completely tender.

        1. i think it means what it says - crisp yet tender. crisp on the outside but tender inside.

          1. It is an odd term, now that you mention it. I've think I've seen it used mostly for blanching vegetables, where it seems to make more sense, to me anyway. Also seems more appropriate to describe certain vegetables like green beans or broccoli, as opposed to a potato or sweet potato. A green bean or piece of broccoli will go limp before turning mushy, so you have that extra stage, say than with a piece of sweet potato which will go from "crisp-tender" straight to mushy. All this to say I think the recipe writer wanted the cook to get the sweet potato a little tender without letting the edges get soft. The end product would have pieces of sweet potato with defined edges and a clearer broth, whereas taking it to a softer stage would give you mushy pieces of sweet potato and a perhaps overly thick liquid base. Just my 2 cents.