The Ultimate Glossary of Cooking Terms 136 Terms

Mise en Place - cooking terms and thier definitions

Ever read a recipe and have no idea what a term or process in the recipe means? Understanding what cooking terms mean is a big part of becoming a better cook. Are you ready to learn the lingo of cooking terms?

To help you do that we have put together the ultimate guide of cooking terms. Every cooking term we can think of and some we had to research because they were new to us too. Or a foggy memory of culinary school.

We have also provided examples of recipes were a particular cooking term may be used to give you an idea of when a recipe might use a particular cooking technique.

Read all of the cooking terms now, Pin this to Pinterest to save it for later. And use the table of contents below to jump to the exact cooking term you are looking for.

Al Dente 

Is an Italian word that translates as “to the tooth” and is used to describe pasta and rice that is firm and slightly undercooked or has a certain bite or chewiness. Al Dente can also be used to describe vegetables like green beans.

Au gratin

A dish that is sprinkled with breadcrumbs and cheese, or both, and browned in the oven under the broiler. A common way to cook potatoes and other vegetables. Potatoes Au Gratin is a good example that most people will be familiar with.

Au jus

The definition of au jus is took cook food with its own juices, often refers to Prime Rib, steak or other meat.

Au sec

Description of a liquid which has been reduced until it’s nearly dry, a process often used in making a pan sauce prior to de-glazing the pan with liquid like broth or wine.

Bake

To cook food in an oven using dry heat, in the oven. Also, another term for roasting. Like baking a cake or roasting a turkey or chicken.

Barbecue

This one is a bit controversial. Some might say, isn’t this grilling? We yes it is, Merriam Webster defines Barbecuing as “to roast or broil on a rack or revolving spit over or before a source of heat (such as hot coals)” Click on the link to read more. Many in the United States would argue there is quite a bit more to it than that.

Barding

To cover a meat with a layer of fat before cooking, effectively maintaining the moisture of the meat while it cooks to avoid overcooking. Examples of dishes where barding is used are Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon or Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin.

Baste 

To pour juices or liquid fat like melted butter over meat while it cooks. Basting is a technique with which you moisten food as it’s cooking with either fat or liquids (preferably a flavorful liquid like butter or stock). Examples of this technique are roasted turkey or roasted chicken.

Batter

A mixture that is thin enough to pour or spoon; often made of flour, eggs and milk. Examples of batter are pancakes or cake recipes or a coating for fried fish.

Beat

Beating requires rapid mixing in order to adequately combine ingredients. It can be done with a mixer, a spoon or even a whisk. Beating is frequently used in recipes with a batter, cakes, pancakes, waffles.

Bind/binder

To add a thickening ingredient such as an egg, flour or cornstarch, to hold ingredients together in meat dishes, soups, sauces or gravy. Meatloaf recipes and meatball recipes typically have a binder as do croquettes or fritters.

Blacken or Blackened

To cook meat or fish in a very hot skillet to give a dark, crispy crust. Many blackening recipes call for a dredge in butter and a spice mix or rub. Examples of this are Blackened Fish and Blackened chicken.

Blanch 

Blanch is a cooking term that refers to scalding food in boiling water for a quick moment and then place it in cold water to stop the cooking process also involves boiling water and is well known for setting the color of a vegetable. The ingredient is plunged into boiling water for a brief time before being removed to an ice bath. This process brings out a vibrant, bright color without cooking the vegetable all the way through. The result is a tender-crisp vegetables.

Blend or Blending

To stir together two or more ingredients until just combined.

Blind bake

To bake a pie or pastry crust part-way, without the filling before adding the filling and baking to ensure the product has a crust that is cooked through. 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. This technique is commonly found in recipes for cream pies and tarts.

Boil

Bring water or other liquid to a temperature of 212 degrees at sea level. The water is in full motion with bubbles rising rapidly to the surface. Boiling is a common cooking technique for pasta. Understanding the stages of a boil is also important for steaming, blanching and poaching. For additional detail read our post on How to Boil Water.

Bone or De-bone

To remove the bones from poultry, meat or fish.

Bouquet Garni

A small bundle of aromatics or herbs that’s added to stocks, broths, stews and sauces to add flavor. The bouquet garni is cooked with the other ingredients, but removed before serving the finished dish. Click on the highlighted text to get great ideas on herb and spice combinations to make your own bouquet garni.

Braise or Braising

Is a cooking term that French method of cooking meat. It uses a combination of dry and moist heat, dry being when the meat is seared at a high heat and moist when it’s gently cooked in a liquid. This cooking method almost always refers to cooking something low and slow to tenderize the meat.  Tougher cuts of meat, like chuck roast, pork butt,  or brisket are examples of meats than should be braised.  Examples of braising are traditional pot roast recipes where the meat is seared and then cooked in its juices until tender.

Bread or Breading

Are cooking terms that mean to coat food in a dry ingredient such as flour, bread crumbs, cornmeal or cracker crumbs before sauteing or frying.

Brine or Brining

Refers to using a salty, flavorful solution used for pickling, curing or tenderizing meats or vegetables. A strong mixture of water, salt and vinegar. Mixture can be used on meats to add flavor, tenderness and moistness. Spices, herbs and sweeteners can also be used in brining.

Broil or Broiling

Similar to baking except the food is directly exposed to very high heat on one side only-the top side. It’s like a grill in reverse. In most restaurants, the grill is actually called the broil station. Broiling is commonly used to melt cheese on top of a casserole to achieve a golden-brown top, but can also be used to cook whole fish or char vegetables. 

Broth

A flavorful liquid made with vegetables, water, herbs or proteins. It’s then strained and defatted prior to using in recipes. Broth is commonly used interchangeably with stock. While they are similar in they get their flavor from meats and or vegetables stock gets its flavor primarily from bones.

Brown or Browning

Are cooking terms that are generally interchangeable with sear. When searing, it’s important to cook in small batches. Overcrowding the pan causes the temperature to drop, preventing a good crust and steaming your ingredients instead of searing them. Meat is traditionally browned or seared prior to braising to enhance the flavor of the meat.

Brunoise 

Is a type of knife cut, meaning to cut foods in to a 1/8″ size dice

Brush

To coat a food lightly with a marinade or liquid using a pastry brush. This is common when grilling or roasting meats. Or in baking when an egg wash is used in pastry recipes.

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. Commonly used when cooking chicken, pork or Shrimp.

Can

To preserve food by placing it into a glass jar and cooking under pressure to seal. This technique is commonly used to preserve vegetables, jellies and jams.

Caramelize 

To heat sugars until they are browned, this term can apply to different things. For example, you can caramelize onions by cooking them over low heat until the onions become soft, golden brown and sweet. Or you can make a caramel sauce by melting sugar and it turning it into a syrup.

Carve or Carving

To cut meat into slices using a sharp knife.

Char

Is similar to sear, except it takes everything to the next level. Charred food is not burnt, but it is does come very close to burning. Chili peppers such as Anaheim, poblano peppers, and jalapeno peppers are typically charred by holding over a gas flame with tongs or cooking in the oven at a high heat until the skins are blackened. This allows for easy removal of the skin.

Chiffonade 

To roll up leafy greens or herbs and cut into long, thin slices or ribbons. Sweet basil is frequently cut this way to prevent it from bruising.

Chop

Is one the most popular directions in recipes. It’s the most generic way to say “cut food into smaller pieces.” When you see the term chop in a recipe for vegetables or meats, you can assume they mean similarly sized, squarish pieces between 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch. When referring to herbs like parsley, chop is often modified as roughly chop or finely chop or mince to indicate large or small pieces.

Clarify 

Commonly refers to melting butter to separate the solids from the butterfat

Concasse

You probably won’t run across this one much, but it means to chop coarsely.

Confit

Meat cooked slowly in its own fat a common way to cook duck.

Core

To remove the central section of some fruits, which contain seeds and tougher material that is not usually eaten. An example of a recipe that would require coring would be apple pie or apple turnovers.

Cream

A technique in where 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. Creaming is commonly used to mix butter and sugar together to make cookies.

Cube

Like chopping, it is to cut food into small cubes, usually about 1/2 inch.

Curdle

Is to overcook, most often egg-based recipe, causing the mixture to separate and appear lumpy. Another example is when acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, is added to milk which will then thicken and become lumpy.

Cure 

A method to preserve foods by adding salt and drawing out moisture. Bacon and ham are often cured. Where as pancetta and prosciutto are uncured meats commonly found in Italian cooking.

Cut in

A way to incorporate solid fat like 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 or a pastry cutter. Creating the perfect pie crust requires that the butter or fat be cut in to the dried ingredients to create a lighter crust.

Dash

Is most commonly used when referring to seasonings like salt and pepper and is approximately 1/8 teaspoon.

Deep Fry

Is to cook and  fully submerging your ingredient in hot oil. Since it is completely submerged, the ingredient cooks on all sides creating a crispy exterior. You want it to cook just through to the inside, so the interior stays moist and tender.

De-glaze 

Is adding wine, water, vinegar, stock, or another liquid to a frying pan after cooking something. Most often used after searing or browning meat. The liquid removes the brown bits that are stuck to the pan adding flavor that is then incorporated in a pan sauce. De-glazing is a critical step in recipes like Steak Au Poivre.

De-grease

To skim the fat from the top of a liquid. This is a critical step in making stocks and broths.

Dice

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

Glossary of cooking terms cut, dice, slice

Dollop

Spoonful of a semi-solid food or soft food placed on to of another food. Examples include: whipped cream, sour cream, creme fraiche, guacamole or salsa.

Dot

To place or sprinkle small pieces of an ingredient, over top of food, such as butter, over a fruit filling on a pie or cobbler.

Drain

To pour liquid or fat from food through a strainer or colander. Examples include: cooked pasta, canned beans, or vegetables.

Dredge 

To coat moist foods in a dry ingredient, like flour, corn meal or bread crumbs. Examples are fried chicken, fried fish or chicken parmesan.

Dress

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

Drippings

Refers to pan juices usually referenced in recipes for roasted meats.

Drizzle

To slowly pour a thin liquid mixture over food, such as a cookie, a quick bread or to pour a thin stream of salad dressing or vinaigrette over a salad.

Drop

To place dough by spoonful onto a baking sheet.  Also, can mean a small amount of liquid, such as food coloring. Commonly used in recipes for cookies, scones or other baked goods.

Dust

To coat lightly with an ingredient, such as flour or powdered sugar.

Effiler

To remove the string from a string bean.

Egg Wash

Is a mixture of beaten eggs plus water or milk brushed on pastries and pies before baking to give them a golden, shiny glaze.

Emulsify 

To blend two liquids like oil and a lemon juice, that normally wouldn’t mix into a creamy mixture. Mayonnaise and salad dressing are two examples. The emulsion is created by slowly adding one liquid to the other and beating rapidly. Other ingredients like mustard are sometimes added to increase the emulsion.

Fillet 

To cut a portion of meat or fish.

Flake

To pull food, such as cooked fish, with a fork, producing small pieces as a test for doneness. Cooked fish should break away easily into small pieces.

Flambe 

To cover a food in a flammable liquid, like brandy or rum, and light it briefly on fire. A good example of this is Bananas Foster.

Flip

To turn over, such as turning pancakes, to finish cooking on the other side.

Fluff

Use a fork to mix up cooked rice, quinoa, couscous or grains before serving. Or beat a mixture until light and soft.

Flute

To press together two pastry layers on edge of pie crust, sealing the dough and at the same time creating a decorative edge using fingers, a fork, or other utensil.

Fold 

To incorporate an ingredient with a careful motion that retains air. This technique is 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. Examples of recipes that require folding are souffles and mousses.

Frenching

Is the process of removing all fat, meat, and cartilage from rib bones on a rack roast by cutting between the bones with a sharp paring knife, often referring to lamb, beef, or pork rib. Examples of Frenching are Standing Rib Roast and Lamb Chops.

Froth

Beating a light mixture or beverage until bubbles or foam form on the surface. A good example of a froth is Cappuccino.

Fry

To cook food in hot fat over medium to high heat until brown and crisp. Think of fried chicken, fried fish or hash browned potatoes.

Gelatin

While most people immediately think of grandma’s Thanksgiving Jello Ring, this isn’t what a recipe is talking about when it calls for Gelatin. Gelatin is a colorless, flavorless mixture of proteins typically made from animal bones and sometimes algae. When dissolved in warm liquid it creates a jelly like substance that is commonly used as a thickener for desserts, cold soups and certain sauces.

Garnish

To decorate a finished food, often with an herb, fruit or vegetable. Garnishes are what make dishes beautiful and add to the flavor of the dish. Think of a sprinkle of basil or fresh parsley on pasta.

Glaze

To coat food with a very thin mixture that will be smooth and glossy.

Grate

A technique that involves moving a hard food product like chocolate, nutmeg, or a hard cheese across box grater or a micro-plane grater result in a fine pieces or shavings.

Grease

To apply a fat of any kind to a surface to prevent food from sticking. This is often used in baking cake and refers to coating the pan with butter and flour to prevent the cake 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.

Glossary of Cooking Terms - grill

Grind

Reducing food to small particles. Often nuts, spices or coffee are ground. Can use a mortar and pestle, food processor, blender or small food grinder. Examples of grinding are pepper, coffee and nuts like almonds.

Hull

To remove green stem and leaves from a strawberry or removing the shells from peas. Hull can also mean to remove the outer husk of some nuts.

Husk

To remove the outer leaves of a vegetable, such as fresh corn, or to remove the outer husk of some nuts.

Ice Bath

A large bowl filled with water and ice. Dropping the food in an ice bath immediately after cooking stops the cooking process. An ice bath preserves the bright color and texture of ingredients, like green beans and fresh peas. This technique also works well for hard-boiled eggs.

Infuse

The cooking term infuse in cooking is to soak something in liquid to add flavor. It can be as simple as adding rosemary to stock and then using the stock to baste chicken. Or steeping herbs in olive oil to make a flavored cooking oil.

Jacquarding

The process of poking holes into the muscle of meat in order to tenderize it, also known as needling. Think of Swiss Steak, this is a process you can ask the butcher to perform.

Julienne 

To cut foods, usually vegetables into long thin strips. Julienne is commonly found in the instructions for salads and stir fry.

Jus

Is a word for the pan-drippings from roasted meat, which is generally enhanced by de-glazing the pan with stock and simmering the liquid with other ingredients to make a pan sauce or gravy.

Jus Lie

Meat juice that has been lightly thickened with either arrowroot or cornstarch.

Knead

The process of mixing dough with the hands or a mixer. Kneading activates the gluten in flour and it critical to most bread recipes.

Larding

Is a process for preparing large pieces of meat. Long stirps of fat (like pork belly) are woven into the meat using a larding needle.

Lukewarm

Is a term you will often find in recipes for baking that call for yeast. Its very important that the water be at or around room temperature if hotter it will kill the yeast, if colder the dough will not rise.

Macerate

A technique where the food is covered sugar and acidic liquid. Tossing berries in sugar to macerate them will pull the natural juices out of the berries accentuating the flavor and creating a sauce. Macerating is common in desserts like Strawberry Shortcake and Strawberries Romanov.

Meuniere 

The definition of Meuniere is “millers wife” And refers to both a sauce and a method of cooking. Usually used with fish, in which the food is lightly dusted with flour and sauteed in butter. Meuniere is very popular in Cajun and Creole Cooking and commonly served in New Orleans restaurants.

Mince

Is the smallest cut. These pieces should be as small as you can make them. Their tininess means they don’t have to be uniform. Use a back-and-forth rocking motion with your knife instead of making precise cuts. Garlic and herbs are often minced.

Mirepoix

Is a French term and is a combination of chopped carrots, celery, and onions used to add flavor and aroma to stocks, sauces, and soups.

Mise en Place

Pronounced “Meez uhn Plahs” is French meaning “everything in its place” or “put in place.” It’s a way of organizing ingredients prior to the beginning the cooking process. Adopting the practice of fully reading the recipe and having all of your ingredients ready is a great way to improve your cooking.

Glossary of Cooking Terms - Mise en Place

Mix

Is a general term in cooking often used in place of stirring, beating or creaming.

Muddle

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

Pan Fry

Uses much less oil than deep frying but more oil than a typical saute. The recipe will usually specify the amount of oil (i.e., heat 1-inch of oil), but a general rule of thumb is the oil should come halfway up the side of the ingredient. This method is great for delicate items that may fall apart in the deep fryer, like crab cakes or zucchini fritters.

Parboil 

To precook foods by boiling for a short time A technique in which you boil a food to partially cook it. Potatoes are commonly parboiled when making French Fries.

Pare

Or paring means to cut the outer skin off of the food. For example, to pare an apple means to remove the skin.

Peel

Refers to removing the skin of a food using a vegetable peeler or paring knife commonly found in recipes using potatoes, apples or tomatoes.

Pickle

Is a process using a brine to preserve vegetables. Dill Pickles, Pickled Jalapenos, Asparagus, Green Beans and Italian Giardiniera are examples.

Pinch

About 1/16 teaspoon.

Pit

Pitting is to remove a seed. Examples include cherries, peaches, plums and avocados.

Poach

Refers to cooking gently in liquid and falls in the temperature range between 140 and 180 degrees. There should be few to no bubbles in the water, although the water should gently ripple to maintain its heat. Poaching is often used for eggs (as in Eggs Benedict), Fish, Chicken.

Puree

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. This is common step in making cream based soups.

Reconstitute

Is the process of rehydrating food using a liquid. Examples of when you would use this is rehydrate dried mushrooms by soaking them in hot water or stock.

Reduce 

To thicken a liquid mixture by boiling or simmering, causing moisture to evaporate

Render

To cook the fat out of something. Examples of this are when you cook something low and slow like a brisket or a pork but. The most common example would be bacon.

Roast or Roasting and Baking

Are really the same thing. If you preheat your oven to 375 degrees, for example, the air in the oven heats up to that temperature. The heated air then surrounds the baking dish or roasting pan on all sides and remains constant. The term roasting is usually used with regard to meat or vegetables.  The term baking is used to refer to cooking desserts, breads, or pastries.

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. Roux’s are popular in dishes like gumbo (dark roux) and macaroni and cheese (light roux).

Saute

Means cooking food quickly over high heat. Usually using oil or fat as the cooking medium. Saute means “to jump” in French. This refers to the constant motion of food in the pan either by stirring or shaking. The food is lightly browned and cook through during this process.

Scald 

To heat a liquid just to the boiling point.  Heat the liquid until bubbles form around the edges. Scalding is common in recipes that use milk. Scalding makes cakes and breads made with yeast lighter and fluffier.

Score

The term score in cooking means to cut slits in a piece of food. Examples of scoring can be found in meat recipes and baking recipes where you score or vent the food to allow steam to escape.

Scrape 

A technique done with a rubber spatula or scraper to remove batter or other ingredients stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl. Many recipes that are made in a stand mixer, mixing bowl or food processor call for “scraping” to ensure all ingredients are fully combined into the mixture.

Sear or Searing

Is an important skill to learn, for cooking meat and vegetables. Searing cooks an ingredient over very high heat for a brief period of time. Unlike sauteing, the food is not moved until it has become fully browned. Searing seals in the flavor and gives your food a crusty exterior and a moist, tender interior.

Seasoning to Taste

Almost always refers to salt and pepper and it is exactly what it sounds like: it’s up to you. If you like it spicy, add black pepper, white pepper, chili powder or cayenne pepper. Always start sparingly with salt and taste the food often. You can always add more.

Shred

A technique similar to grating, but resulting in larger pieces that cook or melt more slowly than grated products. Items that are commonly shredded are lettuce, cabbage and cheese.

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. Sifting is an important step when baking particularly for cakes.

Simmer

Refers to cooking in a liquid that is just below the boiling point, between 180 and 205 degrees. You will see bubbles form, but they should be gentle and not at a full roll which would be a boil. Simmering is the most common moist cooking method, used for everything lie cooking stocks, soups and vegetables.

Skim

Refers to removing the fat from the surface of a liquid. Commonly used when making stock or soups.

Slice

Refers to cutting ingredients into similarly shaped, flat pieces. Think slices of bread, onion rings, carrot rounds.  Slices can be thin or thick, and the recipe should direct you how to slice (i.e., thinly sliceslice into 1/2-inch rounds). For example, onion slices should be thinner for a sandwiches or salads (you don’t want a chunk of onion in your mouth), and thicker for grilling or frying.

Smidgen

Is so small about 1/32 teaspoon. It’s often used when you want a hint of the flavor, like nutmeg in a savory dish.

Sous Vide

Is a method of cooking where food is submerged in water in sealed bags and cooked slowly until the desired temperature is reached. Food is removed from the bag and quick seared or grilled. This technique works beautifully for pork chops, steaks and fish. Perfect for entertaining as it is almost impossible to overcook the food.

Spatchcock 

To split open a whole chicken or turkey along the backbone for easy and even grilling.

Steam or Steaming

Uses boiling water and a double boiler or steamer basket, the ingredient cooks at 212 degrees without losing any of its flavors to the water. Tamales are a good example so are dumplings.

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.

Stew or Stewing

Is really another kind of braising. When cooking large cuts of meat (like that pork shoulder), it’s called braising. When you cut the meat into smaller pieces and completely submerge them in the liquid (like pork green chile stew), it’s called stewing.

Stir-fry

A cooking technique in which small pieces of food are cooked very rapidly over very high heat and coated with a flavorful sauce. For the best results use a wok on a gas stove or grill. Stir fry usually consists of proteins like beef, chicken and tofu and mixed vegetables like carrots, onion, broccoli and snow peas.

Glossary of Cooking Terms - Stir Fry

Stock

Stock is a flavorful cooking liquid that is made by simmering bones and vegetables in water or wine. Also commonly referred to as bone broth.

Supreme

A technique used to remove the peel, rind, and pith of a citrus fruit and serve in slices. Examples of fruits are oranges and grapefruit.

Sweat

Gently heating vegetables in a little oil, with frequent stirring and turning to ensure emitted liquid will evaporate; usually results in tender, or in some cases such as onions’, translucent pieces

Temper

Raising the temperature of a cold or room-temperature ingredient by slowly adding hot or boiling liquid, often referring to eggs. Examples of tempering can be found in pudding and custard recipes.

Toast

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

Toss

A term referring to finish a dish, like tossing a salad in salad dressing or mixing pasta in a sauce to coat.

Truss

To tie meat or poultry, such as turkey with a string, woven through the bird parts by using a needle, in order to create a more compact shape before cooking

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 technique by which you beat an ingredient to incorporate air or blend ingredients together.  a cooking utensil used to blend ingredients in a process such as whipping.

Zest

A technique in which you remove the outer, colored portion of the peel on a citrus fruit with a tool like a micro plane grater.

Cooking Terms and Cooking Definitions – Conclusion

There sure are a lot of cooking terms to know and understand when learning to cook!. But that’s okay. You won’t have to remember all of them. Pin this article on Pinterest to refer back too it whenever you have a question.

Did we miss anything? If we did, please leave a note in the comments so we can continue to improve our content provide value to our readers!

Happy Cooking!

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