A-Z of Cooking: Glossary for Home Cooks

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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 And Cookware Terms

A–C | D–F | G–L | M–P | Q–T| U–Z

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 — using a small amount of cooking oil at high heat (or none if using a nonstick pan) to cook the meat 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

ceramic nonstick — describes cookware with a ceramic cooking surface over a metal base. The ceramic coating is made from silica (sand) that is applied using a sol-gel process. — read more here.

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

PFAS — Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, includes the compound PFOA and many others. These include chemicals that are highly persistent in the environment as well as the human body and which accumulate over time. Evidence suggests PFAS exposure can affect human health adversely…You’ll find official information like this at EPA.

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.

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