Glossary of Cooking Terms

You’ll often find my recipes peppered with what may appear to the novice cook to be esoteric cooking terms.  In an attempt to offer some clarity – and to nudge you along your way to becoming a bona fide foodie geek – here is a list of commonly used cooking terms. 

AL DENTE Italian term used to describe pasta that is cooked until it offers a slight resistance to the bite.
Serving a meal au jus means to pour the natural juices from the meat onto the plate just before serving. A gravy can also be made au jus by using the natural juices in the gravy’s recipe.
BAKE  To cook by dry heat, usually in the oven.
BARBECUE Refers to grilling done outdoors or over an open charcoal or wood fire. More specifically, barbecue refers to long, slow direct- heat cooking, including liberal basting with a barbecue sauce.
BASTE To moisten foods during cooking with pan drippings or special sauce to add flavor and prevent drying.
BATTER A mixture containing flour and liquid, thin enough to pour.
BEAT To mix rapidly in order to make a mixture smooth and light by incorporating as much air as possible
BLANCH To immerse in rapidly boiling water and allow to cook slightly.
BLEND To incorporate two or more ingredients thoroughly.
BOIL To heat a liquid until bubbles break continually on the surface.
Braising is a technique used to cook tough cuts of meat. The meat is first seared quickly over high heat, and then simmered in liquid in a covered pot until done.
BROIL To cook on a grill under strong, direct heat.
CANAPÉ Small pieces of toast, pastry or bread, typically topped with a savory filling. They are most often served with cocktails
CARAMELIZE To heat sugar in order to turn it brown and give it a sweetened taste.
CHEMISER To chemiser a dish means literally, to dress it. This means wrapping an ingredient or dish in parchment or wax paper.
CHOP To cut solids into pieces with a sharp knife or other chopping device.
CLARIFY To separate and remove solids from a liquid, thus making it clear.
Butter that has been slowly heated, usually over a double boiler, and had the deposits of milk skimmed off the top and the water evaporated out. It is fairly clear (although still yellow) and has a higher smoke piont (350°F, 177°C) than non-clarified butter so it is preferred by professional chefs.
CREAM To soften a fat, especially butter, by beating it at room temperature. Butter and sugar are often creamed together, making a smooth, soft paste.
CURE To preserve meats by drying and salting and/or smoking.
CUT IN To cut the fat into the flour with two knives, or a pastry blender, until it is distributed in small particles throughout the mixture.
DEGLAZE To dissolve the thin glaze of juices and brown bits on the surface of a pan in which food has been fried, sauteed or roasted. To do this, add liquid and stir over high heat, thereby adding flavor to the liquid for use as a sauce.
DEGREASE To remove fat from the surface of stews, soups, or stock. Usually cooled in the refrigerator so that fat hardens and is easily removed.
DICE To cut food in small cubes of uniform size and shape.
DISSOLVE To cause a dry substance to pass into solution in a liquid.
DOT To place small amounts of butter, nuts, etc., over the surface of the food.
DREDGE To sprinkle or coat with flour or other fine substance.
DRIZZLE To stream a liquid lightly over food in a casual manner.
DUST To sprinkle food with dry ingredients. Use a strainer or a jar with a perforated cover, or try the good, old-fashioned way of shaking things together in a paper bag.
ECUMER To ecumer is to skim the foam or skin from the top of a dish.
EMULSION A mixture of 2 or more unblendable liquids, or when fat molecules bond to water molecules. Common emulsions include mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce and viniagrettes. Egg yolks contain chemicals known as emulsifiers, which is why eggs are commonly used for emulsions.
A meal which is en croûte has been wrapped in pastry and then baked.
EN PAPILLOTE Something cooked en papillote has been wrapped in greased parchment paper.
FILLET To remove the bones from meat or fish. A fillet (or filet) is the piece of flesh after it has been boned.
FLAKE To break lightly into small pieces.
FLAMBE To flame foods by dousing in some form of potable alcohol and setting alight.
FOLD To incorporate a delicate substance, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites, into another substance without releasing air bubbles. Cut down through mixture with spoon, whisk, or fork; go across bottom of bowl, up and over, close to surface. The process is repeated, while slowing rotating the bowl, until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.
FRICASSEE A method of cooking meat in which the meat is cut up, sauteed, braised and served in its own sauce.
FRY To cook in hot fat. To cook in a fat is called pan-frying or sauteing; to cook in a one-to-two inch layer of hot fat is called shallow-fat frying; to cook in a deep layer of hot fat is called deep-fat frying.
GARNISH To decorate a dish both to enhance its appearance and to provide a flavorful foil. Parsley, lemon slices, raw vegetables, chopped chives, and other herbs are all forms of garnishes.
GLAZE To cook with a thin sugar syrup cooked to crack stage; mixture may be thickened slightly. Also, to cover with a thin, glossy icing.
GRATE To rub on a grater that separates the food in various sizes of bits or shreds.
GRATIN From the French word for “crust.” Term used to describe any oven-baked dish usually cooked in a shallow oval gratin dish on which a golden brown crust of bread crumbs, cheese or creamy sauce is formed.
GRILL To cook on a grill over intense heat.
GRIND To process solid ingredients by hand or mechanically to reduce them to tiny particles.
A container full of water and a good amount of ice used to immediately cool food after cooking; it stops the cooking process. Applications: asparagus, roasted red peppers, shrimp.
JULIENNE To cut vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into thin strips.
KNEAD To work and press dough with the palms of the hands or mechanically, to develop the gluten in the flour.
LUKEWARM Neither cool nor warm; approximately body temperature.
MARINATE To flavor and moisturize pieces of meat, poultry, seafood or vegetable by soaking them in or brushing them with a liquid mixture of seasonings known as a marinade. Dry marinade mixtures composed of salt, pepper, herbs or spices may also be rubbed into meat, poultry or seafood. Generally, the longer something marinates, the more tender and flavourful it will become.
MICROPLANE (A.K.A. Rasp) A fine grater that is used for the grating of various food items such as nutmeg, garlic, cheese, or citrus fruit.
MINCE To cut or chop food into extremely small pieces.
MIX To combine ingredients usually by stirring.
PAN-BROIL To cook uncovered in a hot fry pan, pouring off fat as it accumulates.
PAN-FRY To cook in small amounts of fat.
PARBOIL To boil until partially cooked; to blanch. Usually this procedure is followed by final cooking in a seasoned sauce.
PARE To remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable.
PEEL  To remove the peels from vegetables or fruits.
PICKLE To preserve meats, vegetables, and fruits in brine.
PINCH A pinch is the trifling amount you can hold between your thumb and forefinger.
PIT To remove pits from fruits
PLANKED Cooked on a thick hardwood plank.
PLUMP To soak dried fruits in liquid until they swell.
POACH To cook very gently in hot liquid kept just below the boiling point.
PUREE To mash foods until perfectly smooth by hand, by rubbing through a sieve or food mill, or by whirling in a blender or food processor to produce a smooth, silk-like texture.
REDUCE To boil down to reduce the volume.
REFRESH To run cold water over food that has been parboiled, to stop the cooking process quickly.
RENDER To make solid fat into liquid by melting it slowly.
ROAST To cook by dry heat in an oven.
ROUX A mixture of flour and fat, that is slowly cooked over low heat. It is used to thicken mixtures such as soups and sauces.
SATAY A dish of southeast Asia and Indonesia consisting of strips of marinated meat, poultry, or seafood grilled on skewers and dipped in peanut sauce. Traditionally grilled or barbecued over a wood or charcoal fire, then served with various spicy seasoning
SAUTE  To cook and/or brown food in a small amount of hot fat. To sauté a dish is to cook it very quickly over direct heat while continuously moving the food to prevent burning.
SCALD To bring to a temperature just below the boiling point.
SCALLOP To bake a food, usually in a casserole, with sauce or other liquid. Crumbs often are sprinkled over.
SCORE To cut narrow grooves or gashes partway through the outer surface of food.
SEAR To brown very quickly by intense heat. This method increases shrinkage but develops flavor and improves appearance.
SHRED To cut or tear in small, long, narrow pieces.
SIFT To put one or more dry ingredients through a sieve or sifter.
SIMMER To cook slowly in liquid over low heat at a temperature of about 180°. The surface of the liquid should be barely moving, broken from time to time by slowly rising bubbles.
SKIM To remove impurities, whether scum or fat, from the surface of a liquid during cooking, thereby resulting in a clear, cleaner-tasting final produce.
SMOKE POINT The point at which oil or fat used in cooking begins to burn or smoke.
STEAM To cook in steam in a pressure cooker, deep well cooker, double boiler, or a steamer made by fitting a rack in a kettle with a tight cover. A small amount of boiling water is used, more water being added during steaming process, if necessary.
STEEP To extract color, flavor, or other qualities from a substance by leaving it in water just below the boiling point.
STERILIZE To destroy micro organisms by boiling, dry heat, or steam.
STEW To simmer slowly in a small amount of liquid for a long time.
STIR To mix ingredients with a circular motion until well blended or of uniform consistency.
TEMPER The process of slowing heating a liquid so that it does not curdle or cook when added to a hot sauce or butter. Used most often with eggs and chocolate. Chocolate is tempered so that it is stable when cooling for coatings or candies. With eggs, you often use this technique when making creme brulee or hollandaise sauce.
TOSS To combine ingredients with a lifting motion.
TRUSS To secure poultry with string or skewers, to hold its shape while cooking.
WHIP To beat rapidly to incorporate air and produce expansion, as in heavy cream or egg whites.

One thought on “Glossary of Cooking Terms

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