What do some of those terms mean in cooking? This page contains some useful cookery jargon to help when cooking or with choosing cookware. (This is an evolving page with cookware and cooking terms continually being added).
A-Z of Cookery Terms
A — C
acidulated water — water with lemon, lime, or vinegar added to stop peeled apples or other fruit or vegetables from browning.
al dente — food item that is cooked in a way that leaves a ‘bite of firmness’, e.g. in pasta and rice, rather than being soft
aspic — a glaze or garnish or mold ingredient of clear savory jelly, which is usually made from stock and gelatin.
au gratin — food browned in the oven after a covering of white sauce and a layer of breadcrumbs
au natural — raw, e.g. when oysters are served natural
Bakelite — First developed in 1907, Bakelite is a type of heat resistant plastic. It is used in handles for cookware among many other uses. It is a phenolic resin formed from phenol reacting with formaldehyde.
baste — pouring or brushing liquid over food when roasting or grilling to moisten the food.
beat — mix food or liquid ingredients quickly so as to add air to the mixture.
béchamel — French sauce made of scalded mild with flour and butter.
beurre blanc — French sauce made of butter, shallots, and lemon juice or vinegar that’s used for fish and seafood.
blanch — food is scalded in boiling hot water for a small amount of time and then treated with ice-cold water. Yields a bright green color in green vegetables, along with a firm texture.
blind bake — means to bake a pastry shell first without the filling.
blend — mix ingredients to a smooth and uniform paste
bone — means to remove the bone from a piece of meat
bouquet garni — herbs combined in a sachet and used for flavoring soups and sauces. A traditional French cooking method that uses a piece of cheesecloth to tie whole herbs together for use in soups and sauces.
braise — a French way of cooking meat where meat is seared on a pan at high temperatures and then slowly cooked in liquid. Useful for tougher cuts of meat.
broil — placing food under the grill of an oven until it browns. Also referred to as ‘grilling’
brown — use a small amount of oil (or none if using a nonstick pan) to cook peat until the surface becomes brown.
butterfly — to split a piece of meat partly in two through the center so that it has two flat sides like the wings of a butterfly joined in the middle
caramelise — to convert sugar to clear sticky syrup over heat
casserole — an ovenproof dish with a cover
cast iron — iron with a small quantity of carbon that can be cast in molds for toughened products like cast iron skillets
clarify — to render milk solids from butterfat. This is done by melting the butter so that the solids and fat separate, and then the milk solids are skimmed off
ceramic knife — a knife made of high-grade zirconium, which is near diamond hardness and known for its sharpness
chop — to cut food, finely or coarsely, into equally sized portions, usually square in shape.
clarify — a process that usually involves skimming the surface of a liquid with a spoon to remove impurities and solids.
D — F
deep fry — cooking food submerged in hot oil
dice — cut food into small cubes
dollop — a dob of soft food, e.g. a small amount of yogurt, whipped cream, or mashed potatoes, that has been formed into a roundish shape
entree — a light serving of food served prior to the main course
flan — an open tart
fillets — cuts of meat, chicken, or fish sliced from the bone.
G — L
glaze — adding a gloss by brushing with egg and milk or sugar and water
grind — to reduce food item to small particles or powder, e.g., coffee grinds, spices
hors d’oeuvres — appetizers served at the start of a meal
hull — the outer covering of a fruit or nut. It refers to husk, shell, or covering. For example, it can refer to the leafy green part of a strawberry.
infuse — allowing the flavor of one ingredient to soak into another, usually a liquid
julienne — a way of cutting food into short thin strips, like matchsticks, e.g. julienne carrots
knead — to work dough with the hands turning the outside into the middle as a way of giving the product structure and texture
legumes — food that comes from pods, e.g., peas and beans
M — P
marinade — a mixture, usually spicy and made of oil and vinegar, used to flavor meat or fish through soaking before cooking
mornay — a sauce flavored with cheese, used in fish, egg, and vegetable dishes
pané — to coat food in breadcrumbs
parboil — to use liquid to partly cook food
PFOA — Perfluorooctanoic acid, aka C8, is used in the process of making PFTE although several companies have now stopped using it. PFOA has been linked to potential health and environmental issues. According to the American Cancer Association, however, PFOA is “burned off during the process and is not present in significant amounts in the final products”.
PTFE — Polytetrafluoroethylene is the basis of Teflon that provides the nonstick coating on cookware. Read more about PFTE/Teflon here.
poaching — using water heated just below boiling point to cook food, e.g., eggs
pickle — a way of preserving food, traditionally involving immersing the food in a salt or vinegar mix
purée — food, e.g. tomatoes, that have been broken up and blended to form a watery paste-like consistency
Q — T
ramekin — a small ceramic dish for an individual serving of baked food
roux — a mix of flour and fat that is heated and then, by adding liquid, forms the thickener for sauces, gravies, soups, etc
sauté — toss food lightly in a little oil or butter to cook in a shallow pan
score — to make shallow cuts diagonally across the surface of food, e.g. to improve flavor of food by absorbing spices or marinades or to render fat from meat and encourage crispiness
sear — cook meat quickly over high heat to brown the surface without cooking all the way through. A method used for meat intended for casseroles and stews to add flavor to the food
skillet — a pan used for frying
simmer — to cook food in liquid just below boiling point
skim — to take off the top layer from food mixtures e.g. where the fat or milk solids have liquified and form a surface layer on top of the heated food mix
steam — using steam to cook food, e.g. steamed vegetables
tepid — slightly warm. The temperature when you combine cold and boiled water in parts 2 to 1.
U — Z
whip — to beat food with a whisk to add air and lighten the product at the same time increasing the volume, e.g. whipped cream
whisk — mix with a whisk to add air into or to blend ingredients
zest — the outer part of citrus is called the zest. In cooking, the terms refers to using this zest by grating, peeling or cutting the outer skin.
Downes, LM. (1991) Day To Day Cookery. Brooks Waterloo.
Roessler, C. (2015) The Modern Household Manual. News Magazines PL.