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 burrowing mammal closely related to the hare. Rabbit meat is very lean but since it is skinned before cooking, it absorbs more of the fat used to cook it.
A portion of the rib section of an animal usually containing eight ribs. The rack is either cut into chops or served whole as with a crown roast.
An Italian variety of chicory related to Belgian endive, sometimes known as Italian chicory, and is a perennial. It is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white-veined red leaves. The most common variety has a spherical head, reddish-purple leaves with creamy white ribs, and a mildly bitter flavour and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted. Served raw in salads, or cooked, usually by grilling.
In classic French terminology (French ragoût), it was used to describe anything which stimulated the appetite. The modern term refers to either a main-dish stew or sauce made from meat, poultry, fish, game, or vegetables cut into evenly sized pieces and cooked in a thick sauce, generally well-seasoned. There are two types of ragout; blonde and brown.
In Italian cuisine, a ragù (known as Raguletto in Oceania, Finland and South Korea) is a red meat-based sauce, which is commonly served with pasta.
Ramekin (or Ramequin)
A small ovenproof dish used for individual portions of baked or chilled foods. Ramekins resemble soufflé dishes and are usually ceramic or porcelain, between 7 and 8 cm in internal diameter and about 2/3 cup volume, used for individual servings. It’s also a casserole of baked cheese prepared in an individual baking pan.
Ras-el-hanout (or Rass el hanout)
A spice blend from North Africa, also known as “couscous spice”, which is a combination of up to 50 ingredients. It is used in many savoury dishes, sometimes rubbed on meat or fish, or stirred into couscous or rice. “Ras-el-hanout” means “head of the shop” (similar to the English expression “top-shelf”), because shop owners create their own unique blend and implies a mixture of the best spices the seller has to offer, sometimes also including aphrodisiacs, but most commonly cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, anise, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, dried flowers, mace, and turmeric. It plays a similar role in North African cuisine as garam masala does in Indian cuisine. The mix is generally associated with Morocco, although neighbouring North African countries use it as well.
A thin slice of bacon or a serving of meats portion such as bacon or ham.
A popular stewed vegetable dish from the French region of Province, originating in Nice, ratatouille is popular among the entire Mediterranean coast as an easy summer dish. It is typically prepared as a stew with each vegetable, such as tomatoes, eggplant, onions, peppers and zucchini, being sautéed separately with olive oil, herbs and garlic before being layered into a baking dish and baked.
To bring a concentrated or condensed food, such as frozen fruit juice or dried food, to its original consistency, strength or texture by adding or letting it soak in warm water.
To decrease the volume of a liquid, usually a stock or a sauce, by simmering or boiling it rapidly to cause evaporation. As the liquid evaporates, it thickens and intensifies in flavour. The resulting richly flavoured liquid called a reduction, which can be used as a sauce or the base of a sauce. When reducing liquids, use the pan size specified in the recipe, as the surface area of the pan affects how quickly the liquid will evaporate.
To run cold water over food that has been parboiled, to stop the cooking process quickly, usually that of vegetables after being blanched, by plunging them into ice cold water.
To bring prepared food back to the correct temperature suitable for eating after it has already been cooked and cooled down.
A stock made from bones that have already been used once to make a stock. The stock is weaker than the first stock and is sometimes called “second stock”. It is sometimes used for water in making another stock or is reduced to make a glace.
To slowly cook, using a low heat, solid fatty meat or poultry, such as bacon or goose, by melting it over low heat to obtain drippings. This rendered fat can then be used to cook with.
A natural enzyme obtained from the stomach of calves or lamb. It is used to coagulate or curdle milk when making cheese.
To let meats set before serving so that the muscle fibres relax and allow the juices to be retained. Also used in baking to indicate placing dough or batter to one side in a cool place as part of its preparation.
A cut of meat taken from the rib section, between the short loin and the chuck.
A term used to describe the texture of an egg-and-sugar mixture, that has been beaten until pale and thick. When the whisk or beater is held up over the bowl, the batter falls slowly onto the batter, in a ribbon-like pattern, that disappears after a few seconds.
The mixture is thick enough to leave a letter ‘O’ drawn on the surface for 10 secs when the whisk is lifted.
To force food that has been cooked through a perforated utensil known as a ricer, giving the food a rice-like shape.
Rice Noodles (or Rice Sticks or Rice vermicelli or Bee hoon)
Thin noodles, popular in Asian cooking, that are made from finely ground rice (rice flour) and water. However, sometimes other ingredients such as tapioca or corn starch are also added in order to improve the transparency or increase the gelatinous and chewy texture of the noodles. Resembling long, translucent white hairs, that can be cooked in a variety of ways. When fried, they puff into light, crisp strands. They can also be soaked to use in stir-fries and soups. Thicker varieties are called rice sticks. Find in Asian markets; substitute vermicelli or capellini for thin rice noodles, and linguine or fettuccine for thicker rice sticks. They should not be confused with cellophane noodles, which is an Asian type of vermicelli made from mung bean starch rather than rice.
These round, flat, strong thin edible papers, made from the pith of a rice paper plant and water, are used for wrapping spring rolls.
A mild-flavour vinegar made from fermented rice and comes in several varieties, each differing in intensity and tartness. In general, they are all fairly mild compared to European and American-style vinegar. Rice vinegar is interchangeable with rice wine vinegar, which is made from fermented rice wine. Seasoned rice vinegar, with added sugar and salt, can be used in recipes calling for rice vinegar, though you may wish to adjust the seasonings. If you can’t find rice vinegar, substitute white vinegar or white wine vinegar. Used in both Japanese and Chinese cooking. They can be used in dressings, marinades, as dipping sauces and condiments.
Rimmed Baking Sheet
Metal baking pan rimmed on all four sides. Used for roasting vegetables or baking chicken or cookies. A heavy one won’t warp and a light-colour metal will prevent foods from baking dark.
The thick skin or outer coating on some varieties of fruit cheese and meat.
The French word for “sweetbreads”.
A French term for foods that are fried until crispy and golden brown. Also, a small roll or croquette of minced meat or fish coated in egg and breadcrumbs, enclosed in a thin pastry and usually baked or deep fried. It is filled with sweet or savoury ingredients and is served as an entrée, main course, dessert or side dish.
A Spanish term for foods that are stung up on rope or twine, used mainly for drying chilli pepper pods or for decoration purposes. Ristras historically served as a functional system of drying chile for later consumption. Today, ristras are commonly used as a trademark of decorative design in the state of New Mexico, however, many households still use ristras as a means to dry and procure red chile.
Roast (or Roasting)
To cook a large piece of meat, fish, game or poultry uncovered with dry heat in an open flame, over a grill, or the radiant heat of an oven (by roasting), where the hot air envelopes the food to cook it evenly on all sides with temperatures of at least 150 °C (~300 °F). Roasting can enhance flavour through caramelization and Maillard browning on the surface of the food. Roasting uses indirect, diffused heat (as in an oven), and is suitable for slower cooking of meat in a larger, whole piece. Meats and most root and bulb vegetables can be roasted. Any piece of meat, especially red meat, that has been cooked in this fashion is called a roast. Tender pieces of meat work best for roasting. A roast joint of meat can take one, two, even three hours to cook—the resulting meat is tender. Also, meats and vegetables prepared in this way are described as “roasted”, e.g., roasted chicken or roasted squash.
A small deer common to German and East European forests. The flesh of young roebuck is delicate and dark red with no need for marinating.
A long cylindrical kitchen utensil of wood or other material mostly used to roll paste or shape and flatten dough. It can be used also to crush bread crumbs and flatten other foods. Two styles of rolling pins are found; roller and rods. Roller types consist of a thick cylindrical roller with small handles at each end; rod type rolling pins are usually thinly tapered batons. Rolling pins of different styles and materials offer advantages over another, as they are used for different tasks in cooking and baking.
Roll, Roll Out
To form a food into a shape. Dough, for instance, can be rolled (spread out and flatten) into ropes or balls. The phrase “roll out” refers to mechanically flattening a food, usually a dough or pastry, with a rolling pin.
A wide, shallow pan with straight sides and two loop handles and a lid, often used for braising, stewing, searing, oven roasting and poaching, usually only found in restaurants.
A popular variety of lettuce with elongated, pale-green leaves characterized by their crisp texture and slightly pungent flavour that grows in a tall head of sturdy leaves with firm ribs down their centres. Unlike most lettuces, it is tolerant of heat.
An American and Canadian term for a class of cheeses. In spite of the name, it should not be confused with genuine Pecorino Romano which is a typical Italian product recognized and protected by the laws of the European Community, a hard, salty cheese, suitable primarily for grating, from which the name is derived. Traditionally made from sheep’s milk, now made from goat and cow’s milk as well. Sold either fresh or aged. Similar but tangier than Parmesan.
A woody, perennial evergreen shrub of the mint family with fragrant, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, which grows in Mediterranean regions. Use with partridge, duck, poultry, lamb, veal, seafood and vegetables. A strong, aromatic flavour.
A style of roasting where meat is skewered on a spit. A small grill with a rotating spit – a long solid rod used to hold food while it is being cooked over a fire in a fireplace or over a campfire, or roasted in an oven – for cooking meats and poultry. It also refers to a shop or restaurant that specializes in broiled and barbecued meats where spit-roasted meats are prepared and sold, a restaurant or store that specializes in roasting chicken by turning it around slowly near a flame or rotisserie grill. This method is generally used for cooking large joints of meat or entire animals, such as pigs or turkeys. The rotation cooks the meat evenly in its own juices and allows easy access for continuous self-basting.
A round, thick slice of veal cut across the leg commonly used in roasting or braising, this cut is used to make Osso Bucco.
A roulade is a dish of filled rolled meat or pastry. Traditionally found in various European cuisines, the term roulade originates from the French word “rouler”, meaning “to roll”. However, the term may be used in its generic sense to describe any filled rolled dish, such as those found in maki sushi.
A French term that refers to a mixture of flour and a fat cooked to a golden- or rich-brown colour and used for thickening gravy, other sauces, soups, stews, and gumbos. The cooking time varies depending the on the type of the required. The three types of roux are blonde, brown, and black. The roux is used in three of the mother sauces of classical French cooking: béchamel sauce, velouté sauce, and espagnole sauce. Clarified butter, vegetable oils, bacon drippings or lard are commonly used fats. It is typically made from equal parts of flour and fat by weight.
To integrate hard fat into flour by rubbing the two together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Royal icing is a hard white icing, made from softly beaten egg whites, icing sugar (powdered sugar), and sometimes lemon or lime juice. It is used on Christmas cakes, wedding cakes, gingerbread houses and many other cakes and cookies, either as a smooth covering or in sharp peaks. Glycerine is often added to prevent the icing from setting too hard. When placing icing on cakes, Marzipan is usually used under the royal icing in order to prevent discolouration of the icing.
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