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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French for “in white”. Usually used to describe cream sauces or meats that are prepared without browning them.
Act or process of making something slightly acidic or sour with lemon or lime juice.
A substance having a sour taste. Sourness is found naturally in many foods. Wines, vinegar and lemon juice are many of the common acids used in cooking. These are natural tenderizers and help break down foods by marinating.
Adjust (or Adjust the seasoning)
In cooking “To Adjust” means to taste during cooking (before serving) and add salt, herbs, or other seasonings or flavourings, as needed.
Adobo (or Adobar) Sauce
A dark red Mexican sauce made from the immersion of raw food in a stock (or sauce) composed variously of paprika, ground chiles, herbs (such as oregano), salt, garlic, and vinegar to preserve and enhance its flavour. The Portuguese variant is known as Carne de vinha d’alhos. Chipotle peppers are packed in cans of adobo sauce.
Aerate (or Aeration)
Refers to the process in which air is absorbed into the food item. To pass dry ingredients through a fine-mesh sifter so large pieces can be removed. It refers to the lightness of cakes and bread, the process also incorporates air to make ingredients like flour (or, confectioners’ sugar, or sugar or butter), lighter. Sifting dry ingredients aerates them while distributing small amounts of chemical leaveners or dry seasoning evenly through the mixture. Use sifters, sieves or whisks to both aerate and sift.
In wine tasting, a variety of methods are used to aerate the wine and bring out the aromas including swirl wine in the glass, use of a decanter to increase exposure to air, or a specialized wine aerator.
In cooking “To Age” means to let food get older under controlled conditions. Aged Meat is usually stored 3-6 weeks at 1-3°C (34-38°F) to allow the enzymes to break down connective tissues. Aged Cheese is stored in a temperature controlled area until it develops the desired texture and flavour. Aged Wine is aged in both barrels and bottles. Red wine often benefits from longer aging. Ageing is the change that takes place when freshly slaughtered meat is allowed to rest and reach the state at which it is suitable for consumption.
The Hawaiian name for yellowfin or Bigeye tuna. Often served raw or medium rare and used in sushi and sashimi. They are found in the open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, but not the Mediterranean Sea.
Aioli (or aïoli)
A strong flavourful garlic mayonnaise mixture used for fish, meats, and vegetables. It is a Mediterranean sauce made of garlic and olive oil; some versions use egg or egg yolks as an emulsifier and lemon juice, whereas the original versions are without egg or egg yolk and have more garlic. The names mean “garlic and oil” in Catalan. In France, it may include Dijon. Purists insist that the true aioli contains no seasoning other than garlic. It is served at room temperature.
A French word for “in the style of” or “in the manner of”, often used by region.
À la carte
According to a menu that prices each dish separately. A term indicating that every item on a menu is priced and ordered separately, not as part of a set meal.
À la Française
Meas “in a French style”
À la Grecque
Prepared in the Greek style of cooking, with tomatoes, garlic, black olives, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, and several seasonings, often referring to vegetables.
À la mode
Means served with ice cream on the side (i.e. cake or pie topped with ice cream).
Italian term generally used in terms of pasta and rice cooking, but technically includes vegetables and beans too. From the Italian, Al dente is translated as ‘to the tooth’ meaning something cooked but left with a bite of firmness. Not overdone or too soft.
An Italian term used to describe baked or roasted foods. Al Forno food is food that has been baked in an oven.
Aromatic sweet spice made from the powdered dried berries of Caribbean origin with a flavour suggesting a blend of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, hence its name. May be purchased as a whole, dried berries or ground. When using whole berries, they may be bruised–gently crushed with the bottom of a pan or other heavy instrument–to release more of their flavour. Called “pimento” in Jamaica.
Flavouring derived by dissolving the essential oil of almonds macerated in an alcohol base. Use only products labelled “pure” or “natural” almond extract (essence).
A creamy mixture made of ground blanched almonds and sugar that’s often used as a filling in pastries, cakes, chocolates, and confections. For best baking results, use an almond paste without syrup or liquid glucose.
A French culinary term for Dishes made or garnish with almonds.
A sweet Italian liqueur combining essences of apricot and almond.
Greek Mythology refers to ambrosia as the food of the gods (translation is “immortality”). It means something that has a wonderful taste or smell. Also, a dessert mixture of fruit and coconut served many ways, with or without gelatin. And also a Brazilian sweet made of milk, sugar, and eggs.
Amuse-bouche (or amuse-gueule)
A French term meaning “Amuse the mouth”. Also known as, amuse-gueule, amusee, petite amuse, and lagniappe. These are small samplings (a little bite of food) of food served before a meal to whet the appetite and stimulate the palate. Many Chefs tantalize diners palates with decorative, intense flavoured tastings to delight the eyes. Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but are served gratis and according to the chef’s selection alone. These, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine.
Tiny saltwater silvery fish, related to sardines; that comes from the Mediterranean. Imported anchovy filets salt-cured and packed in olive oil and salt are the most commonly available canned in some Italian delicatessens. These add great flavour to many foods! They are considered the finest.
A smooth paste made from a mixture of preserved ground filets of the tiny saltwater fish (anchovies), oil, vinegar, and seasonings. Anchovy paste is available in tubes and jars in the canned fish or gourmet section of the supermarket.
Green-grey fruit or seed of plan of parsley family; available whole and in extracts; unmistakable strong liquorice flavour. Used extensively in confections, sweet pastries, and as a flavouring in liqueurs.
Antipasto (plural antipasti)
An Italian term, that means “before the meal”, and denotes a relatively light dish served before courses that are more substantial. Referring to an assortment of hot or cold appetizers. Traditional antipasto includes cured/smoked meats, olives, pepperoncini, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, various cheeses (such as provolone or mozzarella), pickled meats, and vegetables in oil or vinegar.
An alcoholic beverage taken before a meal to whet the appetite.
Apple brandy made from hard cider. See Calvados.
Cooking until the ideal degree of doneness as to be warm but still red in the middle, often referring to meat as medium rare.
There are thousands of kinds of apples, and they differ in colour, flavour, shape, size, and texture. Different varieties are used for different purposes. The most common varieties of apples are Gala, McIntosh, Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Rome Beauty. Varieties of Apples:
A yellowish-orange to a red apple. Its yellow to cream-coloured flesh is crisp and sweet.
A bright red apple, it is medium sized and round or oval. It tastes mildly acid to sweet. It has tender flesh and is usually eaten fresh.
A dark red apple with red stripes, it is large and has flat ends. It tastes mildly acid to sweet and is tender and juicy. It is eaten fresh and used for cooking.
It has a solid dark red colour or is dark red with darker stripes. It is medium-to-large and has an oval shape with five knobs on the bottom. This sweet-tasting apple is firm, crisp, and juicy and is usually eaten fresh.
A dark red apple. It has crisp, juicy, slightly tart flesh and is eaten fresh.
It has a golden-yellow skin and an oval shape. Its juicy, firm flesh has a sweet flavour. It ranges from medium-to-large and is a good all-purpose apple.
A bright green apple. It ranges from medium to large and has an almost round shape. Its firm flesh tastes tart and is eaten fresh and used for cooking.
A bright red apple touched with yellow and green. This apple varies from small to medium and has a tart flavour and juicy, firm flesh. Its shape is round to oval and is eaten fresh and baked in pies.
A red apple with yellow or green markings. It is large and has a round to oval shape. The crisp, firm flesh has a mildly acid flavour. This apple is used for cooking, baking, and processing.
A dull red apple with darker stripes. This apple varies from medium to large and has a roundish shape. Its firm flesh has a mildly acid flavour and is eaten fresh and used for processing.
A bright dark red and roundish apple. It ranges from small to medium and has a mildly acid flavour. Its flesh is firm and juicy and is eaten fresh and used for processing.
A green or yellow apple with red stripes. This medium to large apple is round to oval and has a slightly lopsided appearance. Its firm flesh tastes mildly acid to sweet. It is used mainly for processing.
The liquid from canned chickpeas, used as an egg substitute (can be used in recipes much like egg whites) because of its function as an emulsifier, leavening agent, and foaming agent.
Dry brandy, similar to cognac, distilled in, and made from wine produced in, the Armagnac region, in Gascony, southwestern France. It is distilled from wine usually made from a blend of grapes, traditionally using column stills rather than the pot stills used in the production of Cognac. The resulting spirit is then aged in oak barrels before release. Other good-quality dry wine-based brandies may be substituted.
Any herb, spice, or plant that gives foods and drinks a distinct flavour or aroma.
A nutritive starch obtained from the rhizomes (rootstock) of Maranta arundinacea. Sold as a dried and milled white powder. Does not mask or alter natural flavours. Produces sauces and pastes of remarkable clarity. Use as a thickening agent in place of flour or cornstarch for fruit sauces, pie fillings, puddings, salad dressings, dessert sauces, vegetable sauces, and meat glazes. Do not use to make gravy. Arrowroot reaches maximum thickening at lower temperatures than other thickeners, thus it is ideal for use with heat sensitive foods.
Also known as globe artichoke. The large flower bud of a type of thistle, grown primarily in the Mediterranean and in California. The tightly-packed cluster of tough-pointed, prickly leaves, conceals tender, gray-green flesh at the vegetable’s center–the heart. A globe artichoke is easily prepared for cooking. While trimming, dip the artichoke repeatedly in a mixture of water and lemon juice to prevent discolouring.
Artificial Sweeteners (or Sugar substitute)
A category of sugar substitutes that have no nutritional value. It is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like that of sugar while containing significantly less food energy. Because they have unique attributes, they should not be substituted for other sweeteners unless a recipe calls for them specifically.
Arugula (or Rocket or Roquette)
Mediterranean plant with pungent edible brightly green leaves with slender, multiple-lobed leaves that have a slightly bitter, peppery mustard flavour. It is also called rocket and it resembles radish leaves. Often used raw in salads.
Jellied meat, fish or poultry stock or vegetable liquid often used for molding meat, fish, poultry or vegetables. Aspic is a dish in which ingredients are set into gelatin made from a meat stock or consommé. Non-savoury dishes often made with commercial gelatin mixes without stock or consommé, are usually called gelatin salads.
A French term for Roasting, which means cooking foods in their own natural juices without adding extra liquids.
A French term referring to cooking food under a broiler or in a hot oven to form a lightly browned crust. The food can be left plain or topped with bread crumbs and/or grated cheese, and/or egg and/or butter, to make the crust.
A French term for “with [its own] juice” from cooking, meaning served with unthickened natural juices that develop during roasting. Often referring to steak or other meat. In French cuisine, jus is a natural way to enhance the flavour of dishes, mainly chicken, veal and lamb. In American cuisine, the term is mostly used to refer to a light sauce for beef recipes, which may be served with the food or placed on the side for dipping.
A French term meaning served with milk.
A French term meaning “with pepper”, typically describing meats either prepared by coating in coarse ground (loosely cracked) peppercorns before cooking or accompanied by a peppercorn sauce.
The descriptor for a liquid which has been reduced until it is nearly dry, a process often used in sauce making.
A fruit that grows in tropical and subtropical climates. The fruit may be round, oval or pear-shaped. Its skin colour ranges from green to dark purple, depending on the variety. Avocados have a yellow-green pulp and contain one large pit. They are highly nutritious and rich in vitamins, minerals, and oil. Eat fresh in dips, salads, and desserts. Base ingredient for guacamole.
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