Here is a glossary of culinary terms starting with the letter A
French for “in white.” It usually describes cream sauces or meats prepared without browning them.
Act or process of making something slightly acidic or sour with lemon or lime juice.
It is an ingredient that has a sour taste and helps to balance flavours. Sourness is found naturally in many foods. Wines, vinegar, lime and lemon juice are common acids used in cooking. Acids are essential in cooking as they enhance flavours, tenderize meat, and act as a preservative. However, it is important to use acids in moderation as they can easily overpower other flavours if used excessively.
Adjust (or Adjust the seasoning)
“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 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)
To incorporate air into a mixture, often by whisking, beating or passing dry ingredients through a fine-mesh sifter so large pieces can be removed. Sifting dry ingredients aerates them while distributing small amounts of chemical leaveners or dry seasoning evenly through the mixture.
In wine tasting, various methods are used to aerate the wine and bring out the aromas, including swirling wine in the glass, using a decanter to increase exposure to air, or using a specialized wine aerator.
In cooking, “To Age” means to let food get older under controlled conditions.
Aged meat is usually stored for 3-6 weeks at 1-3°C/34-38°F to allow the enzymes to break down connective tissues. 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.
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.
It’s the Hawaiian name for yellowfin or Bigeye tuna. They are 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)
Aioli is a famous Mediterranean sauce. The names mean “garlic and oil” in Catalan. It is 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. Purists insist that true aioli contains no seasoning other than garlic. In France, it may include Dijon. It has a creamy texture and a rich, tangy flavour. It is often used as a dip for vegetables or seafood or a spread for sandwiches. Aioli can be made from scratch or purchased pre-made. It adds a delicious burst of flavour to any dish and is a versatile condiment to have in your kitchen.x
The region often uses a French word for “in the style of” or “in the manner of”.
À la carte
It means, according to a menu. It indicates that every menu item is priced and ordered separately, not as part of a set meal.
À la Française
It meas “in a French style.”
À la Grecque
It means it is prepared in the Greek cooking style, with tomatoes, garlic, black olives, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, and several seasonings, often referring to vegetables.
À la mode
It refers to a dessert topped with a scoop of ice cream. i.e. cake or pie topped with ice cream.
In Italian, Al dente is translated as ‘to the tooth,’ meaning something cooked but left with a bite of firmness. Not overdone or too soft. The term is generally used for pasta and rice cooking but technically includes vegetables and beans.
An Italian term is used to describe baked or roasted foods baked in an oven.
Alkali refers to a type of base ingredient used in cooking or baking. It is often used to help leaven baked goods or to neutralize excessive acidity in certain dishes. Common examples of alkali ingredients include baking soda, baking powder, and lye water. These ingredients can help enhance texture, rise, and overall flavour in various recipes. However, it is important to use them in appropriate amounts as excessive alkali can affect the taste and quality of the final dish.
Aromatic sweet spice made from powdered dried berries of Caribbean origin with a flavour suggesting a blend of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. It may be purchased as a whole, dried berries or ground. Whole berries may be bruised–gently crushed with the bottom of a pan or other heavy instrument–to release more of their flavour. They are called “pimento” in Jamaica.
Almond extract is a flavorful liquid made by dissolving the essential oil of almonds macerated in an alcohol base. It is used primarily in baking and cooking to add a rich, nutty taste to various recipes. Use only products labelled “pure” or “natural” almond extract (essence).
A creamy mixture made of ground-blanched almonds and sugar often used as a filling in pastries, cakes, chocolates, and confections. Use an almond paste without syrup or liquid glucose for the best baking results.
In French, “amandine” is a culinary term that refers to a cooking technique or dish prepared or garnished with almonds.
Amaretto is an Italian liqueur commonly used in culinary applications, particularly desserts and baked goods. It is made from almonds or apricot kernels and has a distinct almond flavour with a hint of sweetness. In culinary terms, amaretto is often added to ingredients such as cream, chocolate, or coffee to enhance the overall flavour.
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, it is a dessert fruit salad typically made with fresh fruits, such as oranges, grapes, and pineapple, combined with coconut and sometimes marshmallows. And also a Brazilian sweet made of milk, sugar, and eggs.
Amuse-bouche (or amuse-gueule)
Amuse-bouche is meant to amuse the taste buds and awaken the senses, often showcasing the chef’s creativity and skill. It is also known as, amuse-gueule, amusee, petite amuse, and lagniappe. It refers to a small, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre typically served before the main course to whet the appetite and stimulate the palate. Amuse-bouches differ from appetizers in that they generally are served free of charge and provide a preview of the chef’s style and the overall dining experience. These small and carefully crafted bites are designed to set the tone for the meal, offering a compelling introduction to the flavours and presentation that lie ahead.
Anchovies are tiny saltwater silvery fish related to sardines 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.
It is a smooth paste from a mixture of preserved ground filets of tiny saltwater fish (anchovies), oil, vinegar, and seasonings. Anchovy paste is available in tubes and jars in the supermarket’s canned fish or gourmet section.
It is a green-grey fruit or seed of plan of the parsley family, available whole and in extracts, unmistakable strong licorice flavour. Anise seeds are commonly used in ground or whole form, adding a unique and fragrant taste to foods. It is often used to enhance the taste of various dishes, confections, sweet pastries, desserts and as a liqueur and herbal tea flavour. It is often used in various cuisines, including Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian dishes.
Antipasto (plural antipasti)
It’s an Italian term that means “before the meal” and denotes a relatively light dish served before more substantial courses. It refers to an assortment of hot or cold appetizers. Traditional antipasto includes cured/smoked meats, olives, pepperoncini, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, various kinds of cheese (such as provolone or mozzarella), pickled meats, and vegetables in oil or vinegar.
Apéritif is an alcoholic beverage taken before a meal to whet the appetite.
It means cooking until the ideal degree of doneness is warm but still red in the middle, often referring to meat as medium rare.
Appetizer is a small dish served before the main course to whet the appetite.
Apple Jack is an American spirit made by fermenting and distilling apple cider. It has a slightly sweet and fruity flavour with hints of apple. Apple-Jack and Calvados are apple-based alcoholic beverages with different origins and production methods. If you’re looking for a lighter, more straightforward apple spirit, go for Apple Jack.
Aquafaba is the liquid leftover from cooking legumes, typically chickpeas, in water. It has gained popularity in vegan cooking and baking as a substitute for eggs and dairy products. Aquafaba has a viscous consistency and can be whipped to create a foam-like texture, similar to egg whites. It can be used in meringues, mousses, mayonnaise, and other dairy-free recipes. Aquafaba is known for its ability to mimic the properties of eggs, making it a versatile ingredient for those with dietary restrictions or preferences.
Armagnac is a type of brandy similar to Cognac produced in southwest France’s Armagnac region. It is made from a specific variety of grapes. It undergoes a unique distillation process, 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. It can be added to sauces, desserts, and even savoury dishes to add flavour and depth. Armagnac’s rich and complex notes can enhance the taste of dishes and bring a touch of elegance to any culinary creation.
Aromatic is any herb, spice, or plant that gives foods and drinks a distinct flavour or aroma.
Arrowroot is a nutritive starch obtained from the rhizomes (rootstock) of Maranta arundinacea, sold as a dried and milled white powder. It does not mask or alter natural flavours. It 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 it to make gravy. Arrowroot reaches maximum thickening at lower temperatures than other thickeners; thus, it is ideal for heat-sensitive foods.
Artichoke, also known as globe artichoke, is the large flower bud of a thistle, grown primarily in the Mediterranean and 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 water and lemon juice to prevent discolouring.
Artificial Sweeteners (or Sugar substitutes)
A category of sugar substitutes that have no nutritional value. It is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like sugar while containing 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)
Arugula is a Mediterranean plant with pungent edible, brightly green leaves, slender, multiple-lobed leaves, and a slightly bitter, peppery mustard flavour. It is also called a rocket, and it resembles radish leaves. It is often used raw in salads.
Aspic is a dish with ingredients set into a gelatin made from meat (or fish, or poultry ) stock or consommé. It is commonly used to set ingredients such as pieces of meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables within the jelly. Aspic is often served cold and adds texture and flavour to various dishes, such as terrines, pâtés, and charcuterie. It was a widespread technique in classic French cuisine and is still used today in some traditional recipes. Aspic can be a great way to showcase and preserve the flavours of ingredients while adding an elegant touch to the presentation of a dish.
Assation is a French term for roasting, which means cooking foods in their own natural juices without adding extra liquids.
Au gratin is a French term that means “with a crust.” It is a term for cooking food, usually vegetables, potatoes or pasta, 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 or cream to make the crust.
Au Jus is 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.
Au Lait is a French term meaning served with milk.
Au Poivre is a French term meaning “with pepper,” typically describing meats prepared by coating coarse ground (loosely cracked) peppercorns before cooking or accompanied by a peppercorn sauce.
Au sec is the descriptor for a liquid that has been reduced until it is nearly dry, a process often used in sauce making.
Avocado is 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. The base ingredient for guacamole.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it covers a variety of culinary terms.
Did we leave any out? What would you add to this list of culinary terms?
If you need more terms or have any other questions, please ask in the comments, and we will update our ever-growing list.
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