Cooking Terms Glossary

Aerate: Passing dry ingredients through a fine-mesh sifter so large pieces can be removed. The process also incorporates air to make ingredients lighter.

Al dente: Pasta cooked until just firm. In Italian, it means “to the tooth."

Bake: Cooking food in an oven, surrounded with dry heat. It is usually called roasting when applied to meat or poultry.

Baking powder: A combination of baking soda, an acid such as cream of tartar, and a starch or flour. Most common type is double-acting baking powder, which acts when mixed with liquid and again when heated.

Baking soda: The main ingredient in baking powder, baking soda is also used when there is acid in a recipe. Always mix with other dry ingredients before adding any liquid. This is important since leavening begins as soon as soda is mixed with liquid.

Balsamic vinegar: A dark-brown vinegar made from the juice of the white Trebbiano grape. Aged in wooden barrels, it is syrupy and slightly sweet.

Barbecue: To cook foods on a rack or a spit over hot coals.

Baste: Moistening food as it cooks by spooning or brushing it with a liquid such as meat drippings, sauce, fruit juice or melted fat.

Batter: An uncooked mixture that can be poured or spooned such as with cakes, pancakes and waffles. Batters usually contain flour, eggs, and milk as their base.

Beat: Stirring rapidly to make a mixture smooth, using an electric mixer, spoon or whisk.

Blanch: Cooking briefly in boiling water to seal in flavor and color. Blanching is a method usually used for vegetables or fruit to ease skin removal and to reduce final cooking times.

Blend: Thoroughly combining two or more ingredients, either by hand with a spoon, with an electric mixer or a blender.

Boil: Cooking in hot liquid that has reached 212 degrees F., where bubbles are continually breaking the surface.

Bone: Removing bones from fish, poultry or meat.

Boning Knife: A thin-bladed knife, usually about six inches long, used for separating raw meat from the bone.

Bouillon: A dehydrated beef, chicken, fish, or vegetable stock. It can be found as a compressed cube or in granules. Both can be reconstituted in hot liquid to substitute for stock or broth.

Bouquet garni: A tied bundle of herbs, usually parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. It is added to flavor soups, stews, and sauces. Remove before serving.

Braise: A method in which poultry, fish, vegetables or meat are browned in hot fat and then slowly simmered in a small amount of seasoned liquid until tender. The liquid can be thickened and served as a sauce.

Bread: Coating a food with flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs or cracker crumbs before cooking.

Brine: Heavily salted water used to cure or pickle vegetables, fish, meats and seafood.

Broil: Cooking on a rack or spit under direct heat, usually in an oven.

Browning: Cooking over high heat to give color and added flavor to food.

Butter-Clarified: Clarified butter, also known as drawn butter, is whole, unsalted butter that is melted down and allowed to separate so that the milk solids can be removed. This clarification process raises the smoke point and makes it great for cooking.

Butterfly: To split such foods as shrimp or pork chops, through the middle without completely separating the halves. Opened flat, the split halves resemble a butterfly.

Caramelize: Heating sugar until it melts and becomes a syrup ranging in color from golden to dark brown. Also refers to sauteing, roasting or grilling fruits and vegetables with natural sugar content to give them a golden color and sweet flavor.

Carve: Cutting or slicing cooked meat, poultry, fish, or game into serving-size pieces.
Chiffonade: Meaning "made of rags," in French refers to thin strips of fresh herbs or lettuce used in cooking.

Chow (Stir-fry): Brisk cooking of small cuts of vegetables and meat in hot oil over intense heat.

Core: Removing the seeds or tough centers from vegetables and fruits.

Creaming: Beating ingredients, such as sugar and a fat, until smooth and fluffy.

Crème Fraîche: Crème Fraîche is very similar to sour cream with a mildly tart flavor. Crème Fraîche has a thinner consistency than sour cream and is less prone to curdling making it more suitable for cooking. Crème fraîche is an ideal thickener for soups and sauces.

Crisp-tender: Cooking vegetables until just tender but still somewhat crunchy. At this stage, a fork can be inserted with a little pressure.

Cube: Cutting food into small cubes, usually about ½ inch square.

Cut in: Distributing a solid fat in flour using a cutting motion until divided evenly into tiny pieces in pastry recipes. Two knives can be used scissors-fashion or a pastry blender tool can be used.

Dash: A small amount of seasoning that is added to food. It is generally between 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoon and generally refers to liquid ingredients.

Deep-fry: Cooking that is done by completely immersing food in hot fat.

Deglaze: Loosening the brown bits from the bottom of a pan by adding a liquid, then heating while stirring and scraping the pan.

Dice: Cutting food into 1/8-to 1/4-inch cubes.

Dot: To scatter bits of butter over food.

Dredge: Covering or coating uncooked food, usually with flour, bread crumbs or a cornmeal mixture.

Dress: Coating foods such as salad with a sauce or dressing. Dress also refers to cleaning fish, poultry, or game for cooking.

Drippings: Juices and fats that are rendered by meat or poultry during cooking. Meat dripping are most used to make sauces and gravies.

Drizzle: Pouring melted syrup, butter, melted chocolate or other liquid back and forth over food in a fine stream.

Dust: Coating cakes and pastries lightly with confectioners’ sugar or cocoa or another powdered ingredient.

Emulsify: To combine two liquid or semiliquid ingredients, such as oil and vinegar, that don't naturally mix into each other. Gradually adding one ingredient to the other while whisking rapidly with a fork or wire whisk is one way to accomplish this.

Fillet: A flat piece of boneless poultry, meat or fish. Fillet also refers to cutting the bones away from a piece of poultry, meat or fish.

Flambé: Drizzling warmed liquor over a food while it is cooking then igniting the food just before serving.

Flute: Making decorative grooves in pastries; pie shell edges.

Fold: Using a gentle over-and-under motion, usually with a rubber spatula, to combine light ingredients such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites into a heavier mixture.

Fry: Cooking food in a hot cooking oil or fat, usually until a crisp brown crust forms. Pan frying is to cook food, which may have a very light breading or coating, in a skillet in a small amount of hot fat or oil. Deep-fat fry (or French fry) is cooking a food until it is crisp in enough hot fat or oil to cover the food.

Glaze: Glazing can be done by basting food with a syrupy liquid while it is cooking or by putting a sauce on it and placing briefly under the broiler.

Grate: Rubbing foods against a grater (a tool with small, rough, sharp-edged holes) to produce shredded or fine bits.

Grease: Rubbing the interior surface of a cooking pan or dish with butter or shortening to prevent food from sticking.

Grill: Cooking food on a rack under the direct heat of a broiler or over the direct heat of a barbecue grill.

Grind: Reducing food to tiny particles using a grinder or a food processor.

Julienne: Cutting food into long, thin strips.

Knead: The process of working dough by mixing, stretching, and pulling either with the hands or in a mixer and is a necessary step in order to develop the gluten in bread.

Macerate: Soaking or steeping fruits or vegetables in a flavored liquid.

Marinate: Soaking meat, poultry, or fish in a flavored liquid. Helps to tenderize meats and add flavor.

Mash: Pressing or beating a food to remove lumps to create a smooth mixture. This can be done with a fork, food ricer, electric mixer or potato masher.

Mince: To cut into very small pieces. This term means the smallest possible pieces; smaller than dice or chop, but not pureed.

Parboil: Partially cooking by boiling. Usually done to prepare food for final cooking by another method.

Pare: Cutting off the skin or outer covering of a fruit or vegetable, using a vegetable peeler or a small knife.

Pinch: A small amount of a dry ingredient. The amount that can be pinched between a finger and the thumb.

Poach: Cooking food gently in simmering liquid.

Purée: A French term for "mashed." Mashing or grinding food until completely smooth, usually in a blender, food processor or sieve.

Reduce: Thickening a liquid and concentrating its flavor by boiling. As the liquid evaporates, it thickens and intensifies in flavor.

Render: Cooking a food item with a high fat content in order to melt the fat. The fat can then be used in other preparations.

Roast: Cooking meat or poultry uncovered with dry heat in an oven.
Roux (roo): A French term that refers to a mixture of flour and butter cooked to a golden- or rich-brown color and used for a thickening in sauces, soups, and gumbos.

Sauté: Cooking food quickly in a small amount of fat or oil, until brown, in a skillet or saute pan over direct heat.

Scald: Heating liquid until bubbles begin to form around the edge just before boiling.

Scramble: To stir or mix foods gently while cooking, as in eggs.

Sear: Browning the surface of meat quickly over high heat to create a crisp tasty exterior and to seal in the meat’s juices.

Season: Enhancing a food's flavor by adding salt. More commonly, to enhance a food's flavor by adding herbs and other spices as well as salt and/or pepper.

Shred: To cut food into narrow strips with a grater or a food processor.

Sift: Putting one or more dry ingredients, especially flour or powdered sugar, through a sifter or sieve to remove lumps and incorporate air.

Simmer: Cooking in liquid on gentle heat just below the boiling point where bubbles form but do not burst on the surface of the liquid.

Skewer: Spearing small pieces of food on long, thin, pointed rods called skewers.

Skim: Removing the top layer of foam or fat from a cooked liquid.

Skin: Removing the skin from food before or after cooking. Game, fish and poultry are often skinned for appearance, taste and to reduce fat in the diet.

Steam: Cooking food on a rack or in a steamer basket set over boiling water in a covered pan.

Steep: Soaking food, such as tea, in a liquid just under the boiling point to extract flavor.

Stew: Meat and vegetables that are slowly simmered in liquid for a period of time so that the meat not only becomes tender but all the ingredients flavors blend.

Tenderize: Making meat more tender by pounding with a mallet or marinating for varying periods of time.

Toss: Mixing ingredients by lightly lifting and dropping them using two utensils.

Truss: Tying the wings and legs of whole poultry with string or skewers before cooking.

Whip: Beating food with a whisk or mixer to incorporate air and produce volume.

Whisk: Beating ingredients with a whisk or fork to blend.

Zest: The colored, outer part of the peel of citrus fruit which is rich in essential oils used for flavoring. To remove the zest, scrape a grater or fruit zester across the peel avoiding the white membrane beneath the peel because it is bitter.

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