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Cooking Terminology

Have you ever looked at a recipe and wondered what the heck the directions mean? Fry, boil and bake – sure we know what they are – but what about parboil,  julienne & deglaze? I’ve been there, that’s what I’m adding this glossary (abridged, of course) of common and not so common cooking terminology to help.

This information is gathered from around the web – I’m just bringing it all to one convenient location



adobo – a dark red sauce made from ground chilies, herbs and vinegar
aging – what we all do but in cooking it means keeping meats or cheeses in a controlled environment for a certain amount of time to improve tenderness and flavor
al Dente‘ – describes pasta cooked firm to the bite (not “mushy”)
au jus – the natural drippings or juice from a pan after cooking beef and deglazing

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bard – to wrap thin sheets of fat or bacon around lean meat or poultry to prevent it from drying out while roasting
baste – to brush, squirt or pour drippings, fat or liquid, over food while broiling, roasting or baking to prevent drying out; develops a crusty exterior and improves flavor and appearance of product being cooked
bind – to thicken a hot liquid or sauce by stirring in a roux, flour, cornstarch, egg yolks, cream or butter
bisque – a shellfish soup with cream
blackened – method of cooking that uses spices (sometimes butter) to coat fish or steak or chicken and then cooked in a very hot cast iron skillet
blanch – to partially cook vegetables by plunging them into boiling water (often salted) for up to one minute and then cooling them quickly in cold or ice water
boil – to cook at the boiling point keeping water or other liquids bubbling; rapid penetration of heat
bok choy – a Chinese cabbage with long white stalks and narrow green leaves – also called Chinese cabbage
Bouillabaisse – a fish soup made from several varieties of fish, tomatoes, saffron, fennel and wine (Mediterranean origins)
bouillon – simmering lean meat, bones, seasonings and vegetables and removing all food particles leaving a clear soup
Bouquet Garni – a bouquet of fresh herbs (frequently bay leaf, thyme and parsley) tied together and immersed in a liquid; used to season stocks and braised foods
braise – a method of cooking that involves browning meat with vegetables in fat, oil or butter first, then slowly cooking the food in a small amount of liquid; a pot roast is often cooked this way
break – the separation of fat from a liquid content of a sauce or soup; appears curdled
bread – to coat the food with bread crumbs (usually the food is first dipped in flour and then beaten eggs, then bread crumbs)
broil – a method of cooking where the food is placed directly underneath or above the source of high heat
broth – a liquid made by simmering meats or fish or poultry or vegetables or their by-products in water with herbs (also “stock”)
brown – quickly searing food to enhance flavor; most often done at the beginning of the cooking process
brush – to coat food with a liquid such as melted butter or a glaze using a brush designed for this process
butterfly – to cut food down the center but not all the way through; done to spread the food apart for quicker cooking without burning

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calamari – squid
capers – pickled flower buds from the Mediterranean
caramelize – a process of cooking sugar (usually with oil or butter) until it begins to color; foods containing natural sugars will caramelize in their own sugars
chicory – sometimes called curly endive; a type of lettuce (chicory root is sometimes used as a coffee substitute)
chiffon – a filling made light and fluffy with beaten egg whites or whipped cream
chop – to cut into non-uniformed pieces or rough cut
clarify – a process of making a liquid clear; removing milk solids and impurities from butter resulting in a pure golden liquid butter used for many cooking purposes
Celsius – a temperature scale in which 0 (zero) is freezing and 100 degrees is boiling or steaming
coat – to cover food with another product
combine – mixing ingredients together
core – remove the center of fruits
cream – beat butter or shortening until light and fluffy
crush – to reduce food to small particles using a tool (rolling pin or mortar and pestle)
cube – to cut up into regular sizes
cut in – the process of combining solid fat (such as butter or shortening) with a dry ingredient (such as flour) until small pea-size particles are formed; as is done when making pie crust or biscuits

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dash – about 1/16th of a teaspoon; a “pinch” or less
deep-fry – to cook submerged in very hot fat (like French fries) until golden brown
deglaze – to swirl a liquid into a pan to dissolve particles of food on the bottom of the sauté’ or roast pans for flavor
demi-glace – a rich brown sauce made from reduced veal or beef stock; used to make classic sauces
devil – to add hot, spicy ingredients (pepper, Tabasco, cayenne, mustard) to a food
dice – to cut into regular sized cubes; small, medium or large
direct heat – a grilling method of cooking, allowing food to be cooked directly over a flame or heat source
dissolve – to stir a dry substance into a liquid until no solids remain
dollop – a scoop or spoonful of food placed on top of another food
dough – a combination of flour, water or milk and sometimes a leaven (yeast) to make a mixture for baking
drain – to remove and discard the liquid contents from a cooking process (as in draining cooked potatoes or vegetables)
dredge Рto lightly coat food to be pan-fried or saut̩ed (usually with flour, cornmeal or bread crumbs)
drippings – the juices and fat that is collected from the pan of cooked foods
Dutch Oven – a large, deep pot that is covered with a tight fitting lid

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egg wash – liquefied eggs; beaten eggs with milk or water sometimes added; used in the breading process, in sealing pieces of dough and to coat some baked goods for a shiny look when baked
emulsion – small particles of oil or another liquid suspended in the other (e.g. vinaigrette salad dressing)
entree‘ – in France this refers to the first course of a meal after the soup but before the main course; in the USA it is the main dish
espresso – a very strong, dark coffee brewed with steam pressure

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Fahrenheit – a temperature scale in which 32 degrees represents freezing and 212 degrees is the steam point( to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit reading, multiply by 5 and divide by 9; better yet – have a thermometer that reads both scales)
filet – a boneless, skinless piece of meat (fillet is used for boneless, skinless fish)
filet mignon – center cut from the tenderloin of beef
fillet – to remove the bones from fish or meat before cooking (fish fillet, meat filet)
filter – to remove impurities or particles of food by pouring through cheesecloth or a strainer or “China Cap” (chinoise)
flake – to break food into small pieces (or allow it to do so when cooking)
flame‘ – a method of cooking in which foods are splashed with liquor and ignited
Florentine – food cooked with or garnished with spinach
flute – a decorative scalloped edge on pastry or pie crusts; vegetables can be fluted as a way to make them have more eye appeal
fond – solids (sucs) left in the bottom of a pan after cooking meats; adding water to dissolve the sucs creates the fond base liquid
fold – combining two or more products with a spatula or spoon using a side-to-side motion or a top-to-bottom motion
fondue – a warmed creamy liquid made of cheese, eggs, wine or other products and used as a dip for vegetables, breads and some other products
fricassee – a stew of cut up poultry fried in butter and simmered with vegetables
frittata – an omelet that is baked and not folded; “open-faced” omelet
frizzle – to fry julienne vegetables in hot oil until crisp

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ganache – a chocolate coating made with chocolate, egg yolks and heavy cream; used as filling for truffles and coating for pies and other desserts
garnish – a decorative touch added to dishes and beverages
glace – a stock that has been reduced to a syrupy consistency and used to add flavor and color to a sauce
glaze – a liquid that gives a shiny surface to an item
grate – to shred food into fine pieces
gratin – to sprinkle an item with cheese and/or bread crumbs and baked until golden brown
gravy – a sauce made from pan drippings and thickened with a roux
grill – to cook directly over a heat source on metal racks

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hominy – corn kernels with the germ and bran removed
hors d’Oeuvres – small portions of foods, canapés; appetizers
hull – to remove the leafy parts of fruits

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infusion – extracting flavors by soaking them in a liquid heated in a covered pan
insulated baking sheet – a cookie sheet with a space between its double layers to prevent hot spots

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jell – a solidifying process usually using gelatin
julienne – to cut food into uniform thin strips two-three inches long

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kebab – small chucks of meat, fish, or shellfish that are usually marinated before being skewered and grilled, broiled or pan-fried (pieces of vegetables often are added to the skewer); also called “shish kebab”
knead – to press and fold dough in order to give it a smoother consistency needed for leavening

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kosher salt – very coarse salt


larding – putting strips of fat into pieces of meat to help the braised meat stay moist and juicy during cooking
leaven – yeast: also the process of whipping egg whites that produces air bubbles and causes the rising of baked items

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marble – to swirl or layer one food item into another to create a ribbon effect when cooked and sliced
marinade – a liquid sauce that is used to soften and flavor meats before cooking (most marinades contain ingredients such as vinegar, oil, lemon, wine, beer, herbs and spices)
marinate – to cover a food item with a liquid substance (see above)
medallion – a small piece of meat (beef, chicken, pork, veal) lightly pounded into an oval or a round
meringue – sweetened egg whites beaten until stiff but light
mince – to chop into very fine pieces
mirepoix – a mixture of rough-cut or diced vegetables, herbs and spices used for flavoring
mise en place – a French cooking term for having all your ingredients prepped and ready to use before starting to cook (very important!)
mount – the addition of small pieces of cold butter to a sauce as a finishing process
mull – heating wine, cider, or juices with spices, citrus and sugar

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nap – to cover a food item with a thin, even layer of sauce

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organic – grown or raised without chemicals or artificial growth enhancers, without chemical fertilizers or chemical pesticides (this is a favorite topic of mine)
oven bake – to cook foods surrounded by hot dry air
oven broil – to cook with radiant heat from above
oven poach – to cook in the oven with a small amount of water or another liquid

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pan broil – cooking food in a heavy pan without added fat and removing any fat that is produced as you cook the item
pan fry – to cook in a moderate amount of fat, uncovered
papillote – a cooking method where a product is wrapped in a special paper or foil and baked so that the food cooks in its own juices
parboil – to cook partially in a simmering or boiling liquid for a short period of time
parchment paper – a special, non-stick, silicone coated, heat resistant paper used in cooking
pare – to remove the outer layer of skin from certain foods (usually fruits and vegetables)
pickle – to preserve or flavor food in brine
pinch – a measurement of less than 1/16th of a teaspoon (same as “dash”)
pipe – to squeeze a soft food item from a pastry bag to another food item, usually in a decorative manner
pit – to remove the center seed from fruits
poach – to cook very gently (slowly) in a liquid that is hot but not boiling or bubbling
precook – to partially cook food before final cooking process
preheat – to heat an oven (or sometimes a pan) to a recommended temperature before cooking in it
pressure cooking – using steam under a locked lid to produce high temperatures to accomplish a fast cooking time
proof – a cooking term used for the growth of yeast dough’s rise
puree‘ – the action of mashing a food until it has a thick, smooth consistency; usually done by a blender or food processor or pushed through a colander

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quesadilla – A flour tortilla filled with beans, cheese and/or vegetables; usually pan grilled
quiche – A savory, egg based pie baked with or without a crust

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ramekin – a very small dish used for individual portions
ravioli – Pasta squares or rounds filled with savory goodness — cheese, meat and/or vegetables
reconstitute – a dried food product is returned to its original form by adding a liquid, hot or cold
reduce – to cook by simmering or boiling until its volume is decreased in order to concentrate flavors
refresh – to stop the cooking process by submerging in or spraying with cold water; common with vegetables and pasta
roast – to cook foods by surrounding them with hot, dry air in an oven (uncovered) or on a spit over an open fire
rolling boil – boiling water at very high heat so that even if stirred the water continues to boil (bubble)
roux – a cooked mixture of flour and oil, fat or butter that is used to thicken liquids

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sachet – a small bag usually made of cheesecloth containing herbs and spices and is placed into soups, stews, stocks and sauces while cooking for added flavor and is removed when the item is finished cooking
saffron – a yellow-orange spice made from the stigmas of purple crocus
sauce – a liquid that adds flavor and moisture to foods
sautee – to cook foods quickly in a small amount of fat
scald – to heat a liquid just below boiling with bubbles around the edges
scallion – very young onions picked when beds of onions need to be thinned. Both the shallot and the green onion, which have small bulbs, are also known as scallions
scallop – to bake food with a sauce or other liquid in a casserole
score – tenderizing meats or seafood by slicing with a knife
sear – to seal in the juices of meat by quickly browning it on all sides in a very hot pan
season – enhancing the flavor of food by adding ingredients such as herbs and spices; cooking term also means to oil a pan and slowly warm it and then wipe it
set – to allow food to solidify
shred – to tear or cut food into narrow strips
shuck – to remove the shells from clams and oysters; also to remove the husks from corn
sieve – to press a food through a strainer to break it up
sift – to remove lumps from certain foods while aerating it
simmer – to gently cook food in a liquid over low heat so only tiny bubbles can be observed breaking the surface of the liquid
simple syrup – two parts water and one part sugar cooked together
skim – removing fat or impurities that have risen to the top of a liquid being cooked
slivered – thin slices about 1/4 inch by 1/8 inch
smoking point – the temperature at which fat breaks down and starts smoking
steam – to cook by direct contact with steam
steel – a dowel-shaped tool used to sharpen knives
steep – to soak dry ingredients in water or another liquid until the flavor is infused into the liquid
stew – to gradually cook ingredients in a covered pot for a long time (until tender)
stir-fry – fast frying in a small amount of oil over very high heat while continuously stirring ingredients
stock – the liquid that you have left after simmering bones, vegetables and seasonings in water or another liquid
strain – to separate and reserve the liquid contents from a cooking process such as straining the liquid from the bones and vegetables for stock
sucs – dehydrated solids of concentrated flavor left in the bottom of a pan after cooking meats; adding water dissolves the sucs, creating the fond base liquid
sweat – to cook in a very small amount of fat over low heat (sometimes covered) without browning to release flavors and moisture

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temper – to slowly introduce a hot liquid or batter component to a mix containing eggs; to prevent cooking an egg-base through slow incorporation of a hot component that must be added to a dish containing eggs
thin – reducing the thickness of a liquid by adding more liquid
toast –To brown food in a fry pan without oil
tomatillos –Small, round, firm, yellow-green tomato with a soft, paper-like cover. Used in salsas and Mexican cooking
tortellini –Small, pasta pockets stuffed with cheese, meat and/or vegetables
tortilla –Thin, round bread made of flour; white, whole wheat or corn, usually heated and cooked in a skillet or fried
toss – mixing ingredients by gently tossing together with an upward motion

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unleavened – baked items that have no ingredients to give them volume (no yeast, no eggs, no baking powder for example)
unsaturated fats – Mainly comes from plants and are in liquid form

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vinaigrette – an acidic sauce or dressing

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water bath – setting a container in a pan of simmering water to keep it hot
whip – To beat rapidly with a spoon, whisk or hand mixer
whisk – to quickly mix air into ingredients; also the name of a cooking tool

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yeast – The unscientific definition of yeast is that it’s a leavening agent used to make bread dough rise

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zest – The outer peel of a lemon, lime or other citrus fruits. To zest is to grate the outer peel into small pieces; often used as a garnish

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