A Comprehensive Glossary of Culinary Terms – B

Think you know every culinary term used in your kitchen? Get ready to think again.

Reading a recipe and aren’t sure about some of the ingredients, terms, and recipe techniques included?

Recipes can sometimes be a minefield of terms, jargon and foreign words. Even for the most gifted Chefs, there are terms in a recipe that make them stop and say “huh?”.

Don’t worry, we have compiled an extensive list of common culinary terms to help you out!

Some of the most common are defined here. Take a look at our list to get cooking.

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B


Baby Back Ribs

Especially juicy and tender, small pork ribs cut from the top of a young animal’s centre loin section.

Bake

To cook food, covered or uncovered, surrounded by dry heat in an oven. The term is usually used to describe the cooking of cakes, other desserts, casseroles, and bread. It’s called roasting when applied to meat or poultry.

Baker’s dozen

Refers to the number 13. Believed to have originated as a way for bakers to avoid being blamed for shortchanging their customers.

Bain-Marie (or “Water Bath” or “Double Boiler”

This this the French term for a water bath. A water bath protects delicate desserts, such as a set custard or a cheesecake, from curdling, cracking or over-cooking as they bake. The baking tin containing the mixture is set inside a larger pan that holds a shallow amount of hot water – this provides insulation against high heat.

Baking Ammonia

A compound also known as hartshorn powder that was once used as a leavening agent. It’s most often used in Scandinavian baking and is available at pharmacies and through mail order. Cream of tartar is an acceptable substitute, although cookies made with it are less crisp than those made with baking ammonia. If you use baking ammonia for baking, use caution when opening the oven door because irritating ammonia-like fumes may be produced.

Baking Powder

A commercial baking product combining three ingredients: baking soda, the source of the carbon dioxide that causes quick batters and doughs to rise; an acid such as cream of tartar, which when the powder is combined with a liquid, causes the baking soda to release its gas; and a starch such as corn starch or flour, to keep the powder from absorbing moisture. A raising agent that reacts in the presence of moisture and heat to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) which allows cakes and other baked goods to rise. The most common type is double-acting baking powder, which acts when mixed with liquid and again when heated.

Baking Sheet (or Cookie Sheets or Sheet Pan or Baking Tray)

It is a flat, rectangular metal pan used in an oven that has a raised rim on two sides to facilitate removing them from the oven. Choose heavy gauge (to prevent warping), light-coloured baking sheets. A dark finish will produce dark rolls or cookies, which may not be what you want.

Baking Soda (or sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda)

The active component of baking powder and the source of the carbon dioxide that leavens many baked goods. Also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda. A chemical leavening agent that creates carbon dioxide and is used in conjunction with acidic ingredients, such as buttermilk, sour cream, brown sugar, or fruit juices, to create the bubbles that make the product rise. Always mix with other dry ingredients before adding any liquid, since leavening begins as soon as soda comes in contact with a liquid.

Baking stone

A heavy, thick round or rectangular stone designed to be used in a gas or electric oven to imitate a brick one. The stone absorbs additional moisture for crispier food and retains the oven’s heat and promotes even baking. They may be made of ceramic, stone, or more recently, salt. Food is less likely to burn when using a baking stone than when using metal or glass bakeware. It is used most frequently for baking pizzas.

Balsamic Vinegar

A vinegar originating from Italy, increasingly popular throughout the world. Syrupy and slightly sweet, this dark brown vinegar is made from the juice of the white Trebbiano grape. It gets its body, colour, and sweetness from being aged in wooden barrels.

Barbecue (or barbeque or BBQ)

Usually used generally to refer to grilling done outdoors on a rack or a spit over an open charcoal or wood fire. More specifically, barbecue refers to long, slow direct- heat cooking. Grilling is generally done quickly over moderate-to-high direct heat that produces little smoke while barbecuing is done slowly over low, indirect heat and the food is flavoured by the smoking process.

Barbecue sauce (or BBQ sauce)

Sweet, tart and spicy sauce used as a marinade, basting or topping to baste foods or as a condiment for grilled foods, including pork or beef ribs and chicken. It is a ubiquitous condiment and is used on many other foods as well. Although recipes vary widely, common elements include tomato, sugar or molasses, vinegar, and a hot spice such as chilli or mustard.

Barding (or bard)

To cover, tie or wrap a lean cut of meat or fowl with a layer of fat, such as bacon, before cooking, effectively maintaining the moisture of the meat while it cooks to avoid overcooking. The barding fat bastes the meat while cooking keeping it moist and adding flavour and is then removed a few minutes before is done to allow browning. Barding is necessary only when there is no natural fat present.

Baron

An English term for a large cut of beef anywhere from 25-50kg, these are generally reserved for celebrations and significant events. In France, it is used to describe the saddle and legs of lamb.

Basil

Type of aromatic herb used in cooking with a sweet, warm flavour and an aromatic odour, used whole or ground. Good with lamb, fish, roast, stews, ground beef, vegetables, dressing, and omelettes.

Basmati Rice

An aromatic long grain brown or white rice from India and California. Basmati rice is nutty and fluffy. Use as you would regular long grain rice.

Baste

To spoon, brush or pour fat, drippings (cooking juices) or seasoned liquid continually over baking or roasting food (meat and poultry) in order to promote a moist finished product, to add colour and flavour, to glaze it, and prevent drying out while cooking. Be aware that basting tools, such as brushes and bulb basters, could be sources of bacteria if contaminated when dipped into uncooked or undercooked meat and poultry juices.

Batter

An uncooked semi-liquid pourable wet mixture) that can be spooned or poured, as with cakes, pancakes, and muffins. Batters usually contain flour, eggs, and milk (or a liquid) and other ingredients as their base. Some thin batters are used to coat foods before deep-frying. It can be thick enough to be poured or spooned (as with muffins), or thin, to coat foods before being fried in oil.

Bay Leaf

A pungent flavour, use the whole leaf but remove before serving. Dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavour and fragrance. The leaves are not meant to be eaten, although it is safe to do so. The leaves are often used to flavour beans, vegetable dishes, soups, fish and seafood, stews, braises, pickles and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavour until several weeks after picking and drying.

Bean Sauce (or Bean Paste or Soybean Paste)

A thick, dark brown- or black-coloured sauce made from wheat flour, sugar, salt, mantou flour, and fermented yellow soybeans. Popular in Asian cooking and have a salty bean flavour. Japanese bean paste is called miso.

Bean Threads (or Cellophane noodles or Chinese vermicelli or crystal noodles, or glass noodles)

Thin, almost transparent noodles made from starch (such as mung bean starch, yam, potato starch, cassava or canna starch), and water.

Beat

To stir rapidly to make a mixture smooth and light briskly whipping or stirring it, by incorporating as much air as possible, with a spoon, fork, wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer.

Beau Monde® Seasoning Salt

All-purpose Spice Island seasoning with a perfect balance of celery, onion, and salt with a touch of sweetness. It enhances the flavour of virtually any savoury dish and is great as a rub for roasted meats. Use with poultry dishes, Swiss steak, and tomato-based sauces.

Béchamel sauce (or white sauce)

Made from a white roux (butter and flour) and milk. It is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine. It is used as the base for other sauces (such as Mornay sauce, which is Béchamel with cheese).

Belgian endive

Refreshing, slightly bitter spear-shaped leaves, white to pale yellow-green or sometimes red, tightly packed in cylindrical heads, 4-6 inches; also known as chicory or witloof.

Beurre Blanc

A hot emulsified butter sauce made with butter, grey shallots or onions, and a reduction of vinegar and/or white wine (normally Muscadet), blended off the heat to prevent separation, usually served with seafood dishes.

Beurre manié

A paste made with softened butter and flour (usually in equal parts) that is used to thicken sauces. The beurre manié (French for “kneaded butter”) must be added slowly to a hot or warm liquid so that the butter melts and releases the flour particles without creating lumps (which would happen if stirring in just the flour).

Bias-Slice (or Cutting “On the Bias” or bias cut or bias-cut or bias cutting or bias-cutting)

To slice a food diagonally/crosswise. The most popular angle to cut a piece of food is at a 45-degree angle.

Bicarbonate of soda (or Baking Soda or sodium bicarbonate)

Also referred to as baking soda, reacts in baking as a raising agent. Bicarb is alkaline and needs the acidity from other ingredients to react and release CO2.

Bisque

A thick, smooth, creamy highly seasoned soup of French origin, with a base of strained broth (see coulis) of shellfish or game.

Blackened (or Blackening)

A popular Cajun cooking method in which seasoned fish or other foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until charred, resulting in a crisp, spicy crust. At home, this is best done outdoors because of the amount of smoke produced.

Blanch

To scald (immerse in rapidly) in boiling water or steam for a short period of time and allow to cook slightly and then refreshed in ice cold water to halt the cooking process and preserve colour and crunch. Usually used for fruits, green vegetables, or nuts to intensify and seal in flavour and colour. This ensures that the veggie retains its bright green colour and a good firm texture. This is an important step in preparing fruits and vegetables for freezing. Blanching also helps loosen skins from tomatoes, peaches, and almonds.

Blend

To thoroughly combine two or more ingredients by hand, with a spoon, with a whisk, or with an electric mixer, beater or blender, until smooth and uniform in texture, flavour, and colour and lose their individual characteristics.

Bleu

A French term (meaning “extra rare”) indicating a barely-cooked meat preparation, cooked only until warmed through, or very rare or very red and cold.

Blind-baking (or Baking blind or sometimes called pre-baking)

A technique used for prebaking an unfilled pastry shell. Before baking with the filling, the shell is lined with parchment paper and filled with ceramic beads, dry rice, or dry beans, and then baked briefly until the pastry is set. The blind-baked pie shell may be baked further after filling or not, depending on the recipe. Blind baking a pie crust is necessary when it will be filled with an unbaked filling (such as with pudding or cream pies), in which case the crust must be fully baked. It is also called for if the filling has a shorter bake time than the crust, in which case the crust is partly baked. Blind baking is also used to keep the pie crust from becoming soggy due to a wet filling.

Blondir

A French term for lightly browning food in fat. Meats and flour (to produce roux) are cooked in this fashion.

Bloom (Gelatine)

Blooming gelatine is a step integral to ensuring the smooth texture of a finished product. It involves sprinkling the powdered gelatine into a liquid and letting it sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Leaf gelatine must be softened in cold water for a few minutes before being used. To bloom agar agar it must be soaked in cold water but, unlike gelatine, it must be boiled for 5 minutes to activate.

Boil

To cook food submerged in a boiling liquid, which the temperature has reached 100°C (212°F) and causes bubbles to form in the liquid and to rise in a steady pattern, breaking at the surface. A rolling boil occurs when liquid is boiling so vigorously that the bubbles can’t be stirred down.

Bolognaise (or Bolognese)

An Italian term for various dishes based on beef and vegetables, or relating to the area of Bologna. See Bolognese (Meat) Sauce Fast2eat recipe.

Bon Appetit

A French term meaning “Good Appetite!”, “I wish you a hearty appetite!”, “Have a good meal”, “Enjoy your dinner”, etc.

Bone

Ironically, to bone a piece of poultry, meat, fowl, or fish is to remove the bone or joint from it. A special sharp boning knife is used and a degree of skill is required to avoid tearing or nicking the flesh, so as not to damage the end product.

Bonne Femme

A French phrase describing food prepared uncomplicated and simple or rustic.

Bottom Cuts

Cuts of meat that are from the lower parts of an animal when it is standing. It does not refer to a lesser quality as much as it signifies the second and third category meats suited for braising or boiling, as opposed to sirloin and other top end cuts.

Bouillon

The French word for a broth. A bouillon cube is a compressed cube of dehydrated beef, chicken, fish, or vegetable stock. Bouillon granules are small particles of the same substance, but they dissolve faster. Both can be reconstituted in hot liquid to substitute for stock or broth.

Bouquet Garni

French term for “garnished bouquet”. A tied bundle of fresh herbs (usually thyme, parsley, and bay leaves) used to add flavour to soups, stews, sauces, stocks, and poaching liquids. It is often tied inside two pieces of leek leaf or in a piece of cheesecloth (in a small cloth sack). The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients but is removed just before serving.

Braise (or Braising)

Braising is an old French method of cooking meat and comes from the French word, “braiser”. It is a combination-cooking method that uses both moist and dry heats: Typically, the food is first seared at a high temperature by browning, then gently simmering slowly in a small amount (variable) of liquid (which may also add flavour) over low heat in a tightly covered pan on the range top or in the oven until tender. Braising is recommended for sinewy, less-tender and tougher cuts of meat. Braising of meat is often referred to as pot roasting, though some authors make a distinction between the two methods, based on whether additional liquid is added. The braising liquid keeps meats moist and can be used as a basis for a sauce. Use wine, stocks or water as components in braising liquid.

Breading (or Bread)

To coat with cornmeal or crumbs, sometimes seasoned, on meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables before cooking. Breading is often made with soft or dry bread crumbs.

Brie

A soft, creamy cow’s milk cheese with an edible white rind. Brie from France is considered to be the best in the world. It is pale in colour with a slight greyish tinge under a rind of white mold. The whitish moldy rind is typically eaten, with its flavour depending largely upon the ingredients used and its manufacturing environment.

Brine

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

Brining (to brine)

The process of soaking something in a brine, or heavily salted water, before cooking, similar to margination.

Brochette

The French term, en brochette, refers to food cooked, and sometimes served, on brochettes, or skewers. Food served en brochette is generally grilled.

Broil (or Grilling)

To cook food, on a rack or spit, a measured distance under or over direct, strong dry heat, usually in an oven or on a grill. When broiling, position the broiler pan and its rack so that the surface of the food (not the rack) is the specified distance from the heat source. Use a ruler to measure this distance. Basically, you preheat the hot rod or grill at the top of your oven until it gets exceptionally hot. Place the food on an oven tray under the preheated grill until it browns and has some incredible flavour.

Broth

The strained clear liquid food preparation in which bones, meat, poultry, fish, cereal grains, or vegetables have been simmered with herbs. It is similar to stock and can be used interchangeably. Reconstituted bouillon can also be used when the broth is specified. The broth is used as a basis for other edible liquids such as soup, gravy, or sauce. It can be eaten alone or with garnish. If other ingredients are used, such as rice, pearl barley or oats, it is then generally called soup.

Brown

To cook food over high heat in a skillet, broiler, or oven to add flavour and aroma and develop a rich, desirable colour on the outside and moistness on the inside.

Brown sauce

Brown sauce is a traditional condiment served with food in the United Kingdom and Ireland, normally dark brown in colour. The best known brown sauce is HP Sauce, a spicy and tangy variety. Brown sauce is traditionally eaten with meals and dishes such as full English breakfasts, bacon sandwiches, chips, and baked beans.

Brush

To apply a liquid, like a glaze, to the surface of food using a pastry brush.

Bulb Baster

A kitchen utensil that assists with basting, which is a method of moistening food during the cooking process. Basting is most often used when cooking meat. The head of the bulb baster is squeezed, creating a partial vacuum, and then the stem is inserted into the juices at the bottom of the pan. When the pressure is released on the bulb, the juices are drawn into the stem so they can be transferred over and around the meat, adding flavour and creating a glaze.

Bundt pan

A tube-shaped baking pan with decorative curves on the bottom of the pan that make a design on the top of the cake when it is unmolded. When greasing a bundt pan, make sure to get oil or butter into all the crevices. The heavier walled construction allows cake batters to rise and bake more uniformly, while the improved heat conduction and hollow centre tube enable the cake to bake evenly, creating a golden crust on the outside of the cake. With the decorative shape of the pan, a pleasing appearance is produced from the baked cake. This pan is generally used for baking coffee cakes and sweet cakes, known as bundt cakes. When the mixture of cake ingredients are baked, the cake is shaped into the decorative form of the pan. After the ingredients are baked, the pan is turned over, so the firm cake falls out onto a plate or counter to be decorated or prepared for serving. Other similar pans for cakes are called tube pans or angel food cake pans. They are usually 10 or 12-inches in diameter and are up to 5 inches deep, with a hole in the centre that ensures that the deep cake bakes evenly while it is in the oven. Over the years, the pan style became so popular that manufacturers started to branch out into more creative designs, not limiting themselves to the traditional ridged round cakes. You can also now find bundt pans in silicone and other materials.

Butter

Butter is a solid dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk, to separate the butterfat from the buttermilk. It is generally used as a spread on plain or toasted bread products and a condiment on cooked vegetables, as well as in cooking, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying. Butter consists of butterfat, milk proteins and water. For rich flavour, butter is usually the fat of choice. For baking, butter is recommended rather than margarine for consistent results. Salted and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably in recipes; however, if you use unsalted butter, you may want to increase the amount of salt in a recipe.

Butterfly

To split food, such as shrimp, meat, fish, poultry or pork chops, through the middle to thin it out without completely separating the halves. The two halves are then opened flat and grilled, sautéed or stuffed and rolled to be roasted. The two halves are then opened flat to resemble a butterfly.

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