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This glossary of terms for cooking will help bring out your inner chef. We have compiled a list of some common cooking terms to give you confidence when reading recipes and working in the kitchen.
Common culinary terms can range from cooking methods, ways to cut food, and more. Learning some of the basic vocabulary is a great way to improve your cooking skills and feel comfortable reading recipes.
Glossary of Cooking Terms
A method of cooking using an air fryer appliance where hot air circulates around the food making it crisp on the outside and warm and tender on the inside.
This cooking term is typically used when referring to cooking rice or pasta. It means "to the tooth" in Italian and means that something is cooked until just firm.
This is a French word that is translated to "with a crust". Au gratin means a dish that is sprinkled with breadcrumbs or cheese or both and then browned to make a crust.
Cooking with its own juices, usually some form of meat like steak. Jus describes the pan drippings from the roasted meat.
A pan that is placed in a container of hot water bath for slow cooking. This can also be called a "double boiler".
Method of cooking food with heat in the oven. Can also be called roasting if baking meat or vegetables.
Method of cooking food over and open fire, usually a grill, spit, or even a fireplace.
The act of moistening food with melted fat or juices while it is cooking to prevent it from drying out. Basting also helps to add flavor.
Stirring a mixture of ingredients rapidly with a mixer, whisk, or spoon.
Bias means to cut food at an angle. This helps to increase the surface area of the food.
A method of placing vegetables of fruit into boiling water for about 30 seconds and then removed and placed in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. The act of blanching helps to seal in color and flavor of food.
To combine ingredients by mixer, blender, whisk, or spoon until they form a uniform mixture.
Bring liquid to a temperature of 212 degrees F. You can typically tell if liquid is boiling when it starts bubbling.
The act of removing bones from meat, fish, or poultry.
A French method of cooking meat by using moist and dry heat. Meat is seared at a high heat and then slowly cooked in a flavorful liquid.
The process of covering food with bread crumbs or cracker crumbs before it is cooked.
The act of soaking meat in a salted water liquid to tenderize the meat. This process is done before the meat is actually cooked. Great to use for tougher cuts of meat.
A cooking term that is used mostly in the United States. Heat the top of the oven heat source and place food underneath to brown the top of the food.
Cook something over high heat typically on the stove to brown the outside of the food.
Butterflying means to split through the center but not all the way through. An example is butterflied shrimp.
Coating food with a form of sugar like a candied apple.
This term is talking about a piece of parchment paper that makes a lid over a pot to that allows for some evaporation.
Cooking sugar until it browns. This helps release a nutty flavor. One example is caramelizing onions for French onion soup.
Cutting leafy vegetables into ribbon strands with a knife.
Usually used when talking about butter. It refers to when the milk solids and water are rendered from the butterfat. The way this is done is by slowly melting the butter, allowing them to separate and then skimming the solids off.
This means to cook something in water just below boiling point. This often refers to cooking eggs. This method helps to produce softer eggs.
This term means meat that is slowly cooked in its own fat. You will usually find this term referring to duck.
A clear soup that is made from a rich stock that has been clarified by using egg whites and flavored stock to remove fat.
Removing the middle or central part of certain fruits that contain seeds, like apples.
A method of cooking without heat. The food is packed with a salt mixture and left to "cure" as moisture draws out.
This is a term when an egg mixture is cooked too fast and then the protein separates from the liquid making a lumpy mixture.
The process of removing the browned food residue from a pan in order to flavor gravies, sauces, and more.
This is a knife skill that cuts something into a small cubes.
This is a small amount of a soft food that has been formed into a round shape. You might find when talking about whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream.
A double boiler has 2 saucepans that fit together. The lower pan has boiling water sending heat up to the upper pan where the food is being cooked. A great way to melt chocolate and more.
The process of coating a moist food with a dry ingredient before cooking to ensure an even coating.
Putting oil, vinegar, or other toppings on a salad.
Drippings are the fats and juices that are released from poultry and meat during cooking.
A pot that is thick-walled and a secure, tight fitting lid. A dutch oven can be used on a stove top or in the oven.
Removing a string from string bean. It can also mean to thinly slice almonds.
Slicing thinly like a julienne style except not as long.
Combining 2 ingredients together that would normally not go together by using a whisk or blender. A good example is whisking together oil and vinegar.
Fillet refers to a boneless piece of meat, fish, or poultry.
Adding alcohol like rum or brandy to a hot pan to create flames. Bananas Foster is a classic flambe dish.
The act of using a gentle folding or over-under motion to combine air-filled ingredients like whipped cream into a heavy mixture.
The act of removing all of the meat, fat, and cartilage from rib bones by cutting between the bones with a very sharp paring knife. You might find this term when talking about lamb ribs, pork, or beef.
Organs of poultry that are edible. These usually include the heart, liver, and gizzard. You might find giblets stored in a bag in the cavity of a whole bird.
A glaze is a sticky coating on top of food. Usually used when talking about a marinade on meat.
A topping that is usually either bread crumbs or grated cheese that forms a crust that turns golden brown when placed under a broiler.
Adding fat to a baking sheet, roasting pan, cake pan, to help prevent sticking.
Break down into smaller pieces like grinding coffee beans or grinding spices with a food mill.
This is the shell, husk, or external covering of a fruit. Specifically the leafy green part of a strawberry.
To let the flavor of an ingredient to soak into a liquid until the liquid takes on the flavor.
Cutting into the shape of matchsticks using a sharp knife. Example to julienne carrots for a salad or slaw.
Using your hands to work a dough by stretching, folding, and pushing. Kneading helps to develop gluten in the dough.
An agent that is mixed into a batter or a dough to help the food rise while cooking. You might be familiar with leavening agents like baking powder, baking soda, yeast, and air.
To soften a food by soaking in a liquid. An example would be to sprinkle sugar over cut strawberries to dray out the juices. This helps to soften the strawberries.
Placing food into a flavored, seasoned liquid to transfer the liquids flavors to the food.
Chopping food into uniform, very small pieces. A mince is smaller than a chop or dice.
Mise En Place:
Mise En Place is a French term for "putting in place". It refers to the setup that is needed before cooking begins. The steps of mise en place are having the recipe, preparing work space, preparing equipment, and gather ingredients.
Refers to partially cooking food so that it can be finished later. This technique is used that that food can be prepared ahead of time and then finished off right before serving.
Panade is a mixture of liquid and starch that is added to meat like ground beef. A panade helps to keep the meat moist and tender. A good example is using milk and breadcrumbs in meatballs.
Partially cooking vegetables in boiling water.
Pickling is the process of preserving the shelf life of a food by soaking in a brine or vinegar.
White, spongy tissue lining on the rind of citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange.
Cook gently over low heat in simmering water.
The resting period given to some doughs after they have been formed in a shape to bake. Proof can also mean to allow yeast to with water until it bubbles and starts to activate.
Mashing or blending food until it becomes liquid.
The act of rehydrating a dried food by soaking in water. An example would be to reconstitute dried mushrooms for cooking.
Thicken a liquid by boiling to concentrate the flavor of the liquid.
Cooking the fat out of poultry or meat over a low heat to keep the drippings.
The outer layer of some fruits. Some cheeses like Brie and Parmesan also have a rind.
Cooking a large piece of poultry or meat uncovered in an oven. You can also roast vegetables by coating them with a little oil and cook in dry, high heat.
Fat and flour that has been cooked together to form a paste that helps to thicken a sauce.
Cooking food in a small amount of fat, like olive oil or butter, over high heat.
Heating liquid to just before boiling until bubbles form around the edge.
To score is to make shallow cuts in the surface of meat or even a dough. Scoring can be done to allow marinades to soak or for decoration.
Quickly browning the surface of meat over high temperature so that juices are sealed in.
A method of cooking in hot oil in a large, shallow skillet.
The act of cooking in liquid that is just below boiling. A simmer should be small bubbles that are just forming.
A skewer is a thin metal or wooden stick or shaft that is used to hold meat or vegetables for grilling.
Removing an extra surface fat or foam from a liquid.
The act of splitting poultry by removing the backbone so that it can be flattened. This helps get a crispier skin and even cooking.
The act of cooking food in a steamer or on a rack that has been put over a pot of boiling water.
Soak tea, coffee, or even herbs in boiling water so that the liquid takes on the flavor of the soaked food.
Cooking food covered and over low heat in a liquid.
Cook small pieces of food over high heat with a small amount of fat or liquid while constantly stirring.
A liquid produced from cooking herbs, vegetables, even meat or fish in water over low heat for several hours. The liquid stock is then used for dishes like sauces, soups, and stews.
The act of cooking food, usually vegetables, over a low heat with a small amount of fat. The pan is usually covered, unlike sautéing where the pan is uncovered.
Bringing two liquids to a similar temperature before combining. A good example is tempering chocolate.
The act of preparing meat so that it will be more tender. There are several methods of tenderizing like pounding, marinating, braising, or piercing the meat.
Tie a whole poultry with string to help with even cooking.
A type of knife cut in vegetables or fruit, like zig-zag, to make decorative garnishes.
A light, savory sauce that has been thickened with flour and is cooked until it turns light brown.
Using a wire whisk to incorporate air into a mixture of ingredients in order to increase volume. For example, whipping egg whites.
The act of using a whisk utensil to blend ingredients until smooth.
Yeast is a microscopic organism that turns starches or sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Brewer's yeast is used when brewing beer and baker's yeast is used in baking and leavening doughs.
This is the act of removing the outer part of a citrus peel (the zest) by using a microplane, grater, peeler, or knife.
We hope this glossary is helpful when you are in the kitchen. Did we miss any terms for cooking? Let me know in the comments so they can be added.