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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A small amount of seasoning that is added to food. It is generally between 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoon. The term is often used for liquid ingredients, such as bottled hot pepper sauce.
A French term referring to a method of braising meat in red wine stock well-seasoned with herbs. Daube is a classic Provençal (or more broadly, French) stew made with inexpensive beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de Provence, and traditionally cooked in a daubière, a braising pan. The meat used in daube is cut from the shoulder and back of the bull, though some suggest they should be made from three cuts of meat: the “gelatinous shin for body, short ribs for flavour, and chuck for firmness.” Although most modern recipes call for red wine, a minority call for white, as do the earliest recorded daube recipes.
A traditional daubière is a terracotta pot that resembles a pitcher, with a concave lid. Water is poured on the lid, which condenses the moisture inside, allowing for the long cooking required to tenderize lesser cuts of meat.
Deglaze (or Deglazing)
To dissolve and loosen the thin glaze of juices and brown bits from the surface of a pan by adding a liquid such as water, wine, stock, or broth to a skillet or pan that has been fried, sauteed or roasted meat. After the meat and excess fat have been removed, a small amount of liquid is poured into the pan, then heating while stirring and scraping the pan, thereby adding flavour to the liquid for use as a flavourful sauce, soup, or gravy.
Degrease (or Defatting or Fat trimming)
To remove fat from the surface of stews, soups, sauce, or stock. Usually cooled in the refrigerator so that fat hardens and is easily removed.
A French term meaning “half-glaze” from the French word glace, which, used in reference to a sauce, means icing or glaze. It is traditionally made by combining equal parts of veal stock and espagnole sauce, the latter being one of the five mother sauces of classical French cuisine, and the mixture is then simmered and reduced by half. The intense flavour of demi-glace is used as a base for many other small sauces, it begins with a basic brown sauce preparation which is combined with beef stock, made from beef and or veal bones and vegetables with wine, slowly cooked (3 to 5 hours over very low heat) and reduced by half to a thickness that coats the back of a spoon Ready-to-use demi-glace sauce may be bought at the meat counter (refrigerated), or in a packet, which can be found in the non-perishables section of the grocery store. Demi-glace keeps for about 3 months in the refrigerator or up to 9 months in the freezer.
To remove the blackish-grey vein (intestinal) from the back of a shrimp or other crustaceans. The vein can be removed with a special utensil called a deveiner or with the tip of a sharp knife. Small and medium shrimp need deveining for aesthetic purposes only. However, because the veins in large shrimp contain grit, they should always be removed.
A knife skill cut food into very small (1/8 to 1/4 inch) cubes of uniform size and shape. The exact measurement changes but the shape is always a small square.
A drink, typically alcoholic, that is normally served after a meal.
Fine, feathery leaves and seeds with a sweet aromatic flavour sold fresh or dry used to flavour food.
To reduce a mixtures strength or thickness by adding liquid making the liquid mixture thinner or weaker.
To immerse food for a short time in a liquid or dry mixture to coat, cool, or moisten it.
Method of quickly cooking food by placing it on a grill rack directly over the heat source. A charcoal grill is often left uncovered, while a gas grill is generally covered.
A cooking term meaning to separate meats at the joint. Separating the drumstick from the thigh of poultry would be an example of this.
To cause a dry substance to pass into solution in a liquid. Usually stirring a solid food and a liquid food together to form a mixture in which none of the solid remains. In some cases, heat may be needed in order for the solid to dissolve.
A small amount (a spoonful) of soft food that has been formed into a round-ish shape. Yoghurt, whipped cream and mashed potatoes are all examples of foods that can be dolloped.
To scatter butter in bits over food.
Bain-marie or water bath two-pan arrangement to heat materials gently and gradually to fixed temperatures, or to keep materials warm over a period of time. Two pots, one designed to fit partway inside the other, with a single lid. The bottom pan holds simmering water that gently cooks heat-sensitive food in the upper pan, which should not touch the base of the top pan. Used to cook custards and sauces where the mixture might curdle if cooked over direct heat.
To pour off fat or liquid from food, often using a colander.
To remove the entrails from poultry or fish, also to clarify a mixture.
A term referring to a whole fish, with or without scales, that has had its internal organs removed.
A melted butter often served as a sauce for steamed seafood. Some cooks restrict the term to clarified butter; while others insist that it should not be clarified.
Dredge (or Dredging)
To sprinkle, lightly coat or cover food, either before (to be fried) or after cooking, with a dry ingredient such as flour, cornmeal mixture, bread crumbs, sugar, or other fine substance. The coating helps to brown the food and provides a crunchy surface. Dredged foods need to be cooked immediately, while breaded foods, those dredged in flour, dipped in egg then dredged again in breading, can be prepared and held before cooking.
Dress (or Dressed)
Dress has two definitions when it comes to cooking, firstly to coat with oil, vinegar, salt, or other toppings foods, mostly salad leaves, in a sauce. It also refers to preparing poultry, fish, venison or game for cooking, such as plucking, skinning, or scaling and then eviscerating, which essentially is breaking them down off of their carcasses and sectioning the meat. Fish or game that has had guts (viscera) removed. In the case of fish, gills are removed, the cavity is cleaned, and the head and fins remain intact. The scales may or may not be removed.
A metal or disposable foil pan placed under food to catch drippings when grilling. A drip pan can also be made from heavy-duty foil.
The juices, fats, and browned bits rendered by meat or poultry during cooking that collect at the bottom of a pan in which foods are cooked. Unless burned or very greasy, the drippings are valuable for a little sauce and gravy for the finished product.
To randomly pour or sprinkle drops of liquid, such as melted butter, oil, syrup, melted chocolate, powdered sugar icing, or other liquid, back and forth over food in a fine stream, in a casual manner.
The process of placing carcasses or wholesale cuts of beef in refrigerated temperatures -1 to 1ºC with no protective packaging for 14 days with 80 to 85% humidity and an air velocity of 0.5 to 2.5 m/second. Only whole pieces of meat still covered with the natural fat can be aged, not cut pieces of individual steaks. With aging, the natural enzymes in the muscle breakdown the connective tissues and muscle fibres enhancing tenderness and flavour, in addition, marbling, helps make meat juicier, more flavourful, and tender. While cooking, the marbling is melted and lubricates the muscle strands providing the steak with the flavour qualities and tenderness one expects from a dry aged steak.
A Dutch oven is a thick-walled (usually cast iron but also ceramic and clay) cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid and a heavy bottom and is made of materials that distribute heat evenly. Those made of enamelled iron, known as French ovens, have thick walls as well. Two handles make it easy to lift the pot in and out of the oven, and a tightfitting lid traps moisture inside. A wide bottom allows plenty of surface for browning food; it should be large enough to hold a whole chicken or a pot roast. If you are looking for a Dutch oven, check that it can be used stovetop as well as in the oven. These pots don’t come cheap but are invaluable for cooking and should serve the cook well forever. Dutch ovens have been used as cooking vessels for hundreds of years. They are similar to both the Japanese tetsunabe and the Sac, a traditional Balkan cast-iron oven, and are related to the South African Potjie and the Australian Bedourie oven.
To lightly coat or sprinkle food with a dry ingredient, such as flour or powdered sugar (also called confectioners’ sugar), or cocoa (cakes and pastries) or another powdery ingredient, either before or after cooking. Use a strainer or a jar with a perforated cover, or try the good, old-fashioned way of shaking things together in a paper bag.
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