Cooking is the process of preparing food by applying heat. Cooks select and combine ingredients using a wide range of tools and methods. In the process, the flavor, texture, appearance, and chemical properties of the ingredients can change. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training.
Preparing food with heat or fire is an activity unique to human beings, and some scientists believe the advent of cooking played an important role in human evolution. Most anthropologists believe that cooking fires first developed around 250,000 years ago. The development of agriculture and trade across civilizations offered cooks many new ingredients. New inventions and technologies, such as pottery for holding and boiling water, expanded cooking techniques. Some modern cooks apply advanced scientific techniques to food preparation.