Culinary Terms Every Foodie Should Know

My lovely Foodies! You’re always on my mind. This week’s topic is culinary and cooking terms. You don’t have to go to culinary school to make a gourmet meal or understand the recipes. Simply learning the definitions of the less familiar cooking terms that appear in recipes can make you more confident in the kitchen. Common culinary terms range from ways to prepare food and sauces to kitchen items to dishes themselves. These cooking definitions often come from other languages like French and Italian and can be challenging to understand. Don’t worry, I have a list of common culinary terms for just that situation! Take a look at our list to get cooking:

AL DENTE

Generally, this cooking term is used when referring to the cooking of pasta and rice, but technically includes vegetables and beans too. Al dente is translated as ‘to the tooth’ meaning something cooked but left with a bite of firmness.

AU GRATIN

Sprinkled with breadcrumbs and cheese, or both, and browned. The phrase ‘au gratin’ literally means “by grating” in French, or “with a crust”.

A LA CARTE

Separately priced items from a menu, not as part of a set meal.

BAKE

To cook food in an oven using dry heat.

BROIL

To expose food to direct heat on a rack or spit, often used for melting food like cheese.

BROWN

To cook over high heat (usually on the stove-top) to brown food.

BAIN MARIE

A container holding hot water into which a pan is placed for slow cooking, otherwise known as a “water bath” or “double boiler”

BEURRE BLANC

A sauce made with butter, onions, and vinegar, usually served with seafood dishes

BLANCHING

To plunge into boiling water, remove after moment, and then plunge into iced water to halt the cooking process, usually referring to vegetable or fruit

BLEND

The process of combining two or more ingredients so that they become smooth and uniform in texture and lose their individual characteristics.

BARD

To tie fat around lean meats to prevent them from drying out during the cooking process. Fat should be removed a few minutes before the meat is done to allow browning.

BASTE

To spoon, brush, or squirt a liquid, like meat drippings, stock, or butter, on food while it cooks. This adds flavor and prevents the food from drying out.

CONSOMME

A type of clear soup made from richly flavored stock that has been clarified, a process of using egg whites to remove fat

CONFIT

Meat cooked slowly in its own fat, usually referring to duck

CORING

To remove the central section of some fruits, which contain seeds and tougher material that is not usually eaten

CROQUETTE

A small round roll of minced meat, fish, or vegetable coated with egg and breadcrumbs

CARAMELIZE

To heat sugar until it liquefies and becomes a syrup.

CHOP

To cut vegetables into large squares, usually specified by the recipe.

CREAM

To beat ingredients (usually sugar and a fat) until smooth and fluffy.

CUBE

Like chopping, it is to cut food into small cubes

DASH

1/8 teaspoon.

DICE

To cut into small pieces, usually 1/4 to 1/8 chunks.

DREDGE

To lightly coat uncooked food with a dry mixture, usually with flour, cornmeal, or bread crumbs, to be pan fried or sautéed.

DRESS

To put oil, vinegar, salt, or other toppings on a salad or other food

DRIZZLE

To pour liquid back and forth over a dish in a fine stream, Usually melted butter, oil, syrup, or melted chocolate.

DUST

To coat lightly with a powdery ingredients, such as confectioners’ sugar or cocoa.

DEEP FRY

To cook food in a deep layer of hot oil.

EFFILER

To remove the ends and the string from green beans.

FLAMBE

The process of cooking off alcohol that’s been added to a hot pan by creating a burst of flames. The fumes are set alight and the flame goes out when the alcohol has burnt off.

FILLET

Most commonly known as a very tender cut of beef, but can also refer to the meat of chicken and fish.

FLAKE

Refers to the process of gently breaking off small pieces of food, often for combining with other foods. For example, you would flake cooked fish to combine with cooked, mashed potatoes to make fish cakes.

FRENCHING

The process of removing all fat, cartilage, and meat, from rib bones on a roast by cutting between the bones, often referring to lamb, beef, or pork rib.

GLAZE

To coat foods with mixtures such as jellies or sauces.

GRATE

Creates tiny pieces of food, best for things like cheese to melt quickly or a vegetable used in a sauce.

GALANTINE

A Polish dish of de-boned stuffed meat that is poached in gelatin stock, pressed, and served cold with aspic or its own jelly

GALETTE

Flat, round cakes of pastry, often topped with fruitor a food prepared in served in the shape of a flat round cake, such as “a galette of potatoes”

GAZPACHO

A Spanish dish of cold, uncooked soup, which typically contain tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, oil, and vinegar

GRILL

Grilling food is applying dry heat to food either from above or below. In South Africa, grilling refers to cooking food under the grill in your oven (in the States this is called broiling) or can also refer to cooking food in a pan with grill lines.

GRIND

To break something down into much smaller pieces, for example, coffee beans or whole spices.

INFUSION

The process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from a vegetable in water, oil, or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the liquid over time, also known as steeping

JACQUARDING

This cooking term means the process of poking holes into the muscle of meat in order to tenderise it, also known as needling.

JULIENNE

Refers to a knife skill cut where the shape resembles matchsticks.

KNEAD

To work dough into a soft, uniform and malleable texture by pressing, folding and stretching with the heel of your hand.

MARINATE

The process of soaking foods in seasoned and acidic liquid before cooking for hours or days, adding flavor to the food

MINCE

To finely divide food into uniform pieces smaller than diced or chopped foods, prepared using a chef’s knife or food processor

MISE EN PLACE

The preparation of ingredients, such as dicing onions or measuring spices, before starting cooking

NEEDLING

Injecting fat or flavours into an ingredient to enhance its flavour.

PAR COOKING

The process of not fully cooking food, so that it can be finished or reheated later.

PANE

This cooking term refers to coating in breadcrumbs.

PARBOIL

To boil food only slightly, often used to soften foods like potatoes before roasting them. Helps to speed up the cooking process.

POACH

To cook in gently bubbling liquids such as a stock or a broth.

PUREE

Cooked food, usually vegetables, that have been mashed or blended to form a paste-like consistency.

PICKLE

The process of preserving food in a brine, which is a salt or vinegar solution.

ROAST

Technically defined as a method of dry cooking a piece of meat, where the hot air envelopes the food to cook it evenly and to allow it to caramelise nicely.

ROUX

A roux is a flour and fat mixture cooked together, which acts as a thickener in soups, stews and sauces.

REFRESH

To halt the cooking process, usually that of vegetables after being blanched, by plunging them into ice-cold water.

SAUTE

Meaning ‘to jump’ in French, sauteeing is cooking food in a minimal amount of oil over a rather high heat.

SHALLOW FRY

To cook food in a shallow layer of preheated oil.

SHRED

Done on a grater with larger holes, resulting in long, smooth stripes to cook or melt.

SIMMER

Process of cooking in hot liquids kept just below boiling point.

SKIM

To remove a top layer of fat or scum that has developed on the surface of soups, stocks or sauces.

STEAM

Method of cooking food by using steam.

SWEAT

This refers to the gentle cooking of vegetables in butter or oil under a lid, so that their natural liquid is released to aid the cooking process. Often vegetables cooked this way will end up looking translucent.

TEMPERING

Raising the temperature of a cold or room-temperature ingredient by slowly adding hot or boiling liquid, often referring to eggs

WHIP

To beat food with a mixer to incorporate air and produce volume, often used to create heavy or whipping cream, salad dressings, or sauces

WHISK

A cooking utensil used to blend ingredients in a process such as whipping

ZEST

Refers to removing the outer part of citrus (called the zest) either by using a grater, a peeler or a knife.

Understanding specific cooking terms and techniques is essential to be a skilled chef. Whether you’re interested in the difference between braising and brining, this guide is here to help.

This cooking terminology above will to improve your knowledge and your dishes.

Bon Appetit Foodies!

Miss me until next week.

Love,

Your Foodie ❤

Call me Foodie. You gonna be a Foodie sooner or later, trust me. I'll never let you down.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store