Culinary Terms

If you find a term missing, let me know in the comments and I will add it.

AL DENTE: Italian term used to describe pasta that is just cooked through but there is still a slight resistance to the bite.

AU GRATIN: Food that has been sprinkled with butter, bread crumbs, and sometimes cheese, and browned under the broiler.

BAKE: To cook in an oven at a constant temperature

BAIN MARIEA water bath used to cook delicate foods like custards.  It insulates the food from the hot oven making it cook more evenly with less of a likelihood of overcooking.

BARBECUE:  Usually used generally to refer to grilling done outdoors or over an open charcoal or wood fire. More specifically, barbecue refers to long, slow cooking over wood or charcoal including liberal basting with a savory/vinegary or sweet sauce.

BASTE: To brush or drizzle foods during cooking with pan drippings or special sauce to add flavor and prevent drying.

BATTER: A mixture containing flour and liquid that is thin enough to pour.

BEAT: To mix ingredients together using a fast, circular movement with a spoon, fork, whisk or mixer to make the mixture smooth and light by adding air.

BISQUE: A pureed soup that is usually heavily seasoned. It’s classically made with a broth of crustaceans, but now it can refer to any thick, rich, pureed soup.

BLANCH: To dip in rapidly boiling water for 10sec to a minute so the color of vegetables sets or to make some fruits easier to peel.

BLEND: To gently mix two or more ingredients thoroughly.

BOIL: To heat a liquid until bubbles break continually on the surface which is a phase change from liquid to gas.

BOUILLON: A simple broth made from meat and/or vegetables. Bouillon cubes are small cubes of dehydrated stock that contain broth, meat, solid fats and way too much salt.

BRAISE: To cook in a small amount of liquid over low heat on the stovetop or oven

BROWNTo cook over medium or high heat until surface of food browns (the Maillard reaction) or darkens, sometimes called searing.

BROIL: To cook under a high, direct heat. Older ovens have a “catch” that holds the oven door open so the element stays on.  If the door is closed on those ovens, the oven reaches temperature and the element shuts off so you are baking/roasting instead of broiling.

CARAMELIZE: To melt sugar which turns it brown and gives it a more complex taste.

CHIFFONADE: The process of rolling leafy green vegetables together and cutting into long, thin strips much like ribbons of cloth. Julienne of leafy vegetables and herbs.

CHOP: To cut foods into pieces with a sharp knife.

CLARIFY: To separate and remove solids from a liquid so it is clear.

CONSOMME: A clear broth.

CREAM: To soften a fat, especially butter, by beating it until it is smooth and fluffy. Butter or shortening and sugar are often creamed together.

CUBE: To cut into small squares

CURE: To preserve meats by drying and salting and/or smoking.

DEGLAZETo dissolve the thin glaze of juices and brown bits on the surface of a pan in which food has been fried, sautéed or roasted. To do this, add liquid and stir and scrape over high heat, dissolving the flavorful solids into the liquid to use as a sauce base. (French – Déglacer)

DEGREASE: To remove fat from the surface of stews, soups, or stock. If you chill it the refrigerator, the fat will harden and be easy to remove.

DICETo cut food in small cubes of uniform size and shape.

DISSOLVE: When a dry substance is mixed into a liquid and becomes part of the liquid.

DRAIN: To remove all the liquid using a colander, strainer, or by pressing a plate against the food while tilting the container. CAUTION – read your recipe because the next step might be “while reserving 1/2 C of the liquid”.

DREDGE: To roll usually a piece of meat in or coat with flour or other fine substance.

DRIZZLE: To sprinkle drops of liquid or sauce over food in a casual manner.

DRY TOAST: To cook spices or grains in a pan with no fat or water until they start to brown, pop and smell wonderful.

DUST: To sprinkle food with dry ingredients, usually using a strainer.

FILLET: As a verb, to remove the bones from meat or fish. As a noun, a fillet (or filet) is the piece of flesh after it has been boned.

FLAKE: To break lightly into small pieces.

FLAMBÉ: To set a liquor on fire to burn off some of the alcohol and leave the essential flavors. Crepes Suzette started the flambe craze.

FOLD: To incorporate a delicate substance, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites, into another substance without losing volume. Cut down through mixture with spoon or whisk; go across the bottom of the bowl, up and over, in a circular motion so the mixture on the bottom of the bowl is now on top. The process is repeated gently, while slowing rotating the bowl, until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.

FOND: The brown bits left in the pan after browning or sauteing

FRICASSÉE: A white-sauce braised stew that often contains poultry or rabbit.

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 make it prettier and to provide complimentary flavors. Parsley, lemon slices, raw vegetables, chopped chives, and other herbs are all forms of garnishes.

GLAZE: To baste with a sugary mixture and cook until it thickens on the product. Also, to cover with a thin, glossy icing.

GRATE: To rub on a device having a surface covered with holes edged by slightly raised cutting edges, that separates the food in various sizes of bits or shreds. Used for cheese, vegetables, and other foods

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.

GREASE: To lightly coat with oil, butter, margarine, or non-stick spray so food does not stick to the pan when cooking or baking

GRILL:  To cook on a grill over intense heat.

GRIND: To process solids by hand or mechanically to reduce them to tiny particles.

HORS D’OEUVRE: Bite-sized appetizer.

JULIENNE: To slice vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into matchstick-like strips.

JUS: Juices that occur naturally from cooking. Au jus is French for served in its own juices.

KNEAD: To work dough with the palms of the hands by folding and pressing to develop the gluten in the flour and make it smooth. Can be done in a mixer too

LUKEWARM: Neither cool nor warm; approximately body temperature.

MACERATE: To soften by soaking in a liquid. Used went soaking dried or fresh fruits in liquor, syrup or vinegar.

MARINATE: To flavor and moisten pieces of meat, poultry, seafood or vegetable by soaking them in a liquid mixture of seasonings, oil and vinegar known as a marinade. Discard the marinade after use.  If you wish to serve it make sure you have boiled it well to kill any bacteria. (safer to discard). You could also reserve some of the unused marinade for later service. Dry marinade mixtures composed of salt, pepper, herbs or spices may also be rubbed onto meat, poultry or seafood before cooking.

MASH: To squash food with a fork, spoon, or masher

MINCETo cut into very small pieces, smaller than chopped or diced pieces

MIREPOIX: Usually a combination of celery, onions, and carrots that have been sauteed together and work as the base for soups and stews.

MIX: To stir ingredients together with a spoon, fork, or electric mixer until well combined

MEUNIERE: Dredged with flour and sautéed in butter. Cutlets or fish fillets are sometimes cooked this way.

MINCE: To cut or chop food into extremely small pieces.

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. Basically, the same as sauteing.

PANADE: A thick mixture of flour, butter, and milk that is used as a base for dishes like soufflés and eclairs

PARBOIL: To boil until partially cooked usually a bit longer than blanching. 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 or vinegar.

PINCH:  A pinch is the tiny amount you can hold between your thumb and forefinger, about 1/16th of a teaspoon.

PIT: To remove pits from fruits.

PLANKED: Cooked on a thick hardwood plank, usually cedar.

PLUMP: To soak dried fruits in liquid until they swell sometimes called macerate when done with an alcohol.

POACH: To cook very gently in hot liquid kept just below the boiling point.

PRE-HEAT: To turn the oven on ahead of time so that it is at the desired temperature when needed (usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes). Important for baking.

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.

RAGOUT: A stew.

REDUCE: To boil down to concentrate the flavors.

RECIPEASE: Making a recipe easier by following my tips and techniques

REFRESH: To run cold water over food that has been blanched or 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. In most ovens, it is the same as bake.  If there is a roast setting on your oven, it probably means the top and bottom elements come on to keep the oven at temperature.

ROUX: Melted butter and flour cooked together and used to thicken sauces, soups, and gravies.

SAUTÉ: To quickly cook and/or brown food in a shallow pan over direct heat in a small amount of butter, oil or other fat.

SCALD: To cook to a temperature just below the boiling point, usually a dairy product.

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. Usually in a diamond pattern of the diagonal.

SEAR: To brown very quickly by intense heat. You lose juices but develop flavor.

SEIZE:  The sad occasion when even the tiniest bit of water gets on melted chocolate and causes the dry solids to clump, turning your beautifully fluid melted chocolate into a thick, dull mess. Adding more liquid will turn it smooth again, but then it might not work in the recipe. Ask me.

SHRED: To cut or tear into small, long, narrow pieces.

SIFT: To put one or more dry ingredients through a sieve or sifter in order to aerate, mix and remove any lumps.

SIMMER: To cook slowly in liquid over low heat so the surface of the liquid shimmers or bubbles just begin to break the surface.

SKIM: To remove impurities, scum or fat, from the surface of a liquid during cooking, thereby resulting in a clear, cleaner-tasting final product. Also in regards to milk, free of fat. (french-Dépouiller)

SPATCHCOCK: To butterfly poultry by removing the backbone and flattening. Makes the item cook more evenly.

STEAM: To cook in steam in a 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, enough to make the steam but not enough to have the food directly in the water.

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, steam or by chemical means.

STEW: To simmer slowly in liquid for a long time.

STIR: To mix ingredients in a circular motion until well blended or of uniform consistency.

STIR FRY -To quickly cook small pieces of food in oil over high heat while constantly stirring the food until it is crisply tender (usually done with a wok)

SWEAT:  To cook veggies until they start to release their juices, which look like little beads of sweat

TOSS: To combine ingredients with a lifting motion usually referring to a salad.

TRUSSTo secure poultry with string or skewers, to hold its shape while cooking.

UMAMI: The 5th taste which is savory, meaty deliciousness

WHIP: To beat rapidly to incorporate air and produce expansion, as in heavy cream or egg whites.


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