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Cooking Terminology

My husband, the Chef, and I frequently have communication gaps in the kitchen. He is a stickler for the correct terminology and for me anything that goes in the oven is roasted! Unless it's a cake then it's baked. This is I believe a common misconception, so I thought I would drum up a good list a cooking terminology to maybe clear up some confusion for anyone else raised like I was.. I hope this helps!

Al dente: A term used to describe doneness. Pastas, grains and some vegetables can be cooked al dente, which, when done, feels firm and chewy.

Bake: When something is baked, there is consistent heat surrounding the entirety of the product, in an oven.

Baste: Basting is a technique with which you moisten food as it’s cooking with either fat or liquids (preferably a flavorful liquid).

Beat: Beating requires rapid mixing in order to adequately combine ingredients. It can be done with a mixer, a spoon or even a whisk.

Bias: To cut on an angle.

Blanch and shock: To cook rapidly (about a minute or less, depending on the vegetable) in boiling, salted water. Immediately transfer to bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process in its tracks.

Blind bake: To bake a pie or pastry crust part-way, without the filling before adding the filling and baking to requisite doneness. Prick the surface of the crust with a fork and/or add a sheet of parchment paper and beans or pie weights to prevent the surface of the crust from bubbling up.

Boil: To bring a liquid to 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius. You will likely use this technique most often to cook pastas and grains.

Bouquet garni: A small bundle of aromatics that’s added to stocks, broths, stews and sauces to add flavor. The bouquet garni is cooked in with the other ingredients, but removed before serving the finished dish.

Braise: A cooking technique in which the protein or vegetables are browned on each side before adding seasoned liquid halfway up the side of the main ingredient and cooked “low and slow” in the oven until tender and cooked through.

Brine: A salty, flavorful solution used for pickling, curing or tenderizing protein or vegetables.

Broil: A cooking technique that requires high, direct, dry heat. The item is typically relatively close to the heat source, but the distance itself is specified.

Broth: A flavorful liquid made with vegetables, water, herbs and (sometimes) proteins. It’s then strained prior to using in recipes.

Brunoise: A very, very small dice. Brunoise cuts typically measure 1/8 of an inch on each side of the cube.

Butterfly: To split a food item nearly in half (usually meat or fish). When you are butterflying an item, you do not cut all the way through, rather, you leave the two pieces slightly attached at one edge.

Caramelize: A technique in which sugars are cooked until liquefied and the resulting syrup ranges in color anywhere from a light golden color to a dark brown hue.

Cheesecloth: An extremely thin cotton cloth used for straining sauces, rolling proteins, holding herbs and other aromatics, and more.

Chiffonade: This knife cut results in ribbony pieces of herbs or greens. To make this cut, stack leaves (like basil) on top of each other, roll together, and slice thinly.

Cream: A technique in which fat and sugar are beaten together to make them light and fluffy. The technique incorporates air into the mixture, making the texture fluffy and smooth.

Cut in: A way to incorporate solid fat (butter, vegetable shortening, lard) into flour and salt to create a pastry crust. To do this you can use butter knives, forks, a food processor, a pastry cutter, or even your hands.

Dash: An imprecise measurement roughly equivalent to an 1/8 teaspoon.

Deglaze: The action of adding wine, water, vinegar, stock, or another liquid to a frying pan after cooking something. The liquid removes the brown bits that are stuck to the pan, which are then incorporated in a pan sauce to be served.

Dredge: To coat an item in flour, crumbs, cornmeal, or another dry ingredient prior to cooking it.

Emulsify: A technique that forces a combination of one liquid (or semiliquid) with another with which it doesn’t naturally combine. An example of things that need to be emulsified to combine are vinegar and olive oil.

Fillet: A cut of meat or fish that does not contain any bones.

Fluff: Use a fork to mix up cooked rice, quinoa, couscous or grains before serving.

Fold: A technique used for mixing sensitive ingredients such as egg whites, whipped cream, or certain batters. Bring the rubber spatula down vertically from the top of the bowl to the bottom, then turn your wrist to gently mix the contents of the bowl.

Grate: A technique that involves moving a hard food product like chocolate, nutmeg, or a hard cheese across a surface dotted with small grates, which will result in a fine pieces.

Grease: To apply a fat of any kind to a surface to prevent food from sticking.

Grill: A dry cooking method that uses a rack positioned either under or over direct heat, like with a charcoal or gas grill.

Julienne: A knife cut that produces long, thin pieces that look like matchsticks.

Knead: To handle doughs by pressing, folding, and rolling them to develop gluten strands (in yeasted breads) and make the dough more elastic.

Large dice: A knife cut that results in 3/4-inch squared pieces.

Macerate: A technique by which you set something in sugar or a flavored liquid. Tossing berries in sugar to macerate them will pull the natural juices out of the berries and make a sauce.

Marinate: The process of soaking food products in a marinade in order to flavor and tenderize them.

Medium dice: A knife cut that results in 1/2-inch squared pieces.

Microplane: A hand-held stick (or wand) grater perfect for grating cloves of garlic or pieces of ginger, hard cheeses, nutmeg, or zesting citrus fruits.

Mince: A very tiny knife cut. The resulting pieces are very fine for easy incorporation into the dish.

Mise en place: (Pronounced: Meezon Plaz) French for “everything in its place” or “put in place.” It’s a way of organizing ingredients prior to the beginning of the cooking process. If you gather your mise en place before you begin, you’ll be prepared to cook straight through without stopping — and be confident that you have everything you need.

Muddle: To gently crush or press fruit or herbs against a glass to release their flavors.

Pan-fry: A technique in which you cook large pieces of food over medium to medium-high heat and flip only once (or just a couple times).

Parboil: A technique in which you boil a food to partially cook it.

Pinch: To grasp a small amount of something in order to sprinkle it over food; an imprecise measurement roughly equivalent to 1/16 teaspoon.

Poach: A cooking technique in which food is cooked at a low temperature (approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit) in enough liquid or fat to just cover the item.

Purée: A technique in which you mash the food as smooth as possible. You can do this with a food mill, a sieve, a food processor, or even a blender.

Reduce: A technique by which you decrease the amount of liquid through evaporation in order to thicken the product and concentrate the flavor.

Render: To cook fatty proteins (like bacon) over a low heat in order to draw out and collect the resulting drippings.

Roast: A cooking technique by which food is cooked uncovered using dry heat (such as in an oven).

Rough chop: An imprecise knife cut that results in pieces of approximately the same size. Pieces that have been rough chopped usually remain relatively large.

Roux: A thickening agent made of equal parts of fat and flour that is cooked to varying degrees (from light roux to dark roux). Its ability to thicken varies based on how long it’s been cooked.

Sauté: French technique that roughly means “to jump in the pan.” Smaller pieces of food are cooked in a little fat over high heat in a shallow pan.

Scald: A technique by which you heat a liquid to a near-boil until bubbles form around the edges.

Scrape: A technique done with a rubber spatula or scraper to remove batter or other ingredients stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl.

Sear: To apply very high heat to quickly brown the surface of proteins or vegetables.

Shred: A technique similar to grating, but resulting in larger pieces that cook or melt more slowly than grated products.

Simmer: To heat a liquid to between 180 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It is gentler than boiling. The heat should be between low and medium.

Sieve: A technique by which you separate the liquid and solid portions of a dish.

Sift: A technique by which you put a dry ingredient (like flour or powdered sugar) through a sifter or sieve in order to fluff it and remove clumps.

Skim: A technique by which you remove gunk or fat from the surface of a liquid.

Slice: A knife cut which results in long, thin, flat pieces.

Small dice: A knife cut that results in 1/4-inch squared pieces.

Steam: A cooking technique by which you cook a product using the vapors given off from a boiling liquid, such as water or stock. The food is cooked in a steamer basket to keep it out of the liquid itself.

Steep: A technique by which you let a product sit in warm liquid to impart its flavor or color. Tea and vanilla beans can both be steeped.

Stir-fry: A cooking technique in which small pieces of food are cooked very rapidly over very high heat. Best done using a wok.

Supreme: A technique used to remove the peel, rind, and pith of a citrus fruit and serve in slices.

Toast: A technique by which a food product is browned and crisped to develop its flavor.

Whip/whisk: A technique by which you beat an ingredient to incorporate air or blend ingredients together.

Zest: A technique in which you remove the outer, colored portion of the peel on a citrus fruit with a tool such as a microplane grater.

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