A Comprehensive Glossary of Culinary Terms – S

A Comprehensive Glossary of Culinary Terms – S

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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See Zabaglione


A cut of meat consisting of the two loins from the rib section to the haunch or tail, most commonly from hare, rabbit, lamb, or venison.


Orange yellow in colour, aromatic, pungent, this spice is used to flavour or colour foods. Use in soup, chicken, rice and fancy bread. Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece.


Pungent herb used either fresh or dried that goes particularly well with fresh or cured pork, lamb, veal, poultry or vegetables.


A sauce usually made from finely chopped tomatoes, onions, chillies, and cilantro. It is often used in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine.


An ancient process of preserving meats, mainly pork and fish.


A hot or cold seasoned or flavoured liquid, cream, or semi-solid food either served with or used in the cooking process of a dish, designed to accompany food and to enhance or bring out its flavour. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavour, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsa, meaning salted.


The French term for a small sausage. Seasoned minced meat which is stuffed into a tubular casing and formed into links.

Saucisson (or Saucisson sec)

The French term for a large, thick, dry smoke-cured sausage that originates in France. Typically made of pork, or a mixture of pork and other meats, saucisson is a type of charcuterie similar to salami or summer sausage.


Finely chopped cabbage which has been salted and allowed to ferment until sour. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavour, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage.


See Fry

Savoury (or savory)

The dried brownish-green extremely small aromatic leaves of a plant of the mint family; has an aromatic piquant flavour. Blends well with other herbs. May be used alone or in combination with other herbs in stuffing for meat, fish or poultry; egg dishes; sauces; soups; meatloaf and hamburgers; stews; beans; cabbage; peas; and tomato juice. Also, in cooking terminology, it describes foods that are not sweet, but piquant and full flavoured.


To pour over or immerse in boiling water for a short time in order to cook only the outer layer. Also, to heat a liquid, often milk, to a temperature just below the boiling point when tiny bubbles just begin to appear around the edge of the liquid or to sterilise kitchen equipment with boiling water.


To remove the scales from the skin of a fish using a dull knife or a special kitchen tool called a fish scaler. Also means weighing out all ingredients in a recipe.

Scallop (or Scalloped)

A term that refers to baking food, usually in a casserole, in (usually) a cream sauce or other liquid (for example, scalloped potatoes). Crumbs often are sprinkled over.

Scaloppine (or Scaloppini or Scallopini)

This refers to an Italian dish consisting of thin small boneless slices of meat, usually veal, although chicken may also be used, that is dredged in wheat flour, sautéed, then heated and served with a tomato-, or wine-sauce; or piccata, which denotes a caper and lemon sauce. These cuts of meat can also be called scallops, for example, veal scallops, or cutlets.


To cut narrow grooves or gashes or slits, often in a diamond pattern, partway through the outer surface of meat and vegetables to decorate it, tenderize it, help it absorb flavour, encouraging crispiness and flavour absorption or allow fat to drain as it cooks.

Scotch bonnet (or Scotty bons or Bonney peppers or Caribbean red peppers)

A variety of chilli pepper. Most Scotch bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville units. For comparison, most jalapeño peppers have a heat rating of 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale. However, there are completely sweet varieties of Scotch bonnet grown on some of the Caribbean islands, called cachucha peppers. Found mainly in the Caribbean islands, it is also in Guyana (where it is called the ball-of-fire pepper), the Maldives Islands (where it is called mirus) and West Africa. Also called ‘Ata rodo’ by Yoruba natives of Nigeria.


To use a sharp or blunt instrument to rub the outer coating from food, such as carrots.

Sear (or Searing or Brown)

A technique used in grilling, baking, or sautéing in which the surface of meat quickly on all sides using high heat until caramelization crust forms on the surface. This helps seal in the meat’s juices and may be done in the oven, under the broiler, or on top of the range. This method increases shrinkage but develops flavour and improves appearance. This is often done before braising the food, to give it added flavour and is not usually intended to cook the food all the way through. It creates a thin layer at the bottom of the pan, which is deglazed and used for making sauces.

Sea Salt (or Bay salt or Solar salt)

This variety of salt is derived from the evaporation of sea water. Some cooks prefer it over table salt for its clean, salty flavour. However, there is little or no health benefit to using sea salt over other forms of sodium chloride salts.


To add an ingredient to foods before, during, or after cooking to enhance its flavour, but not taking away from the natural flavour of the food. The term also refers to coating the cooking surface of a new pan or grill with oil and then heating in a 175°C (350°F) oven for about an hour, this smooths out the surface of new pots and pans, particularly cast-iron, to prevent foods from sticking.


To separate and remove the membrane of segments of citrus fruits. To section oranges, use a paring knife to remove the peel and white pith. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, cut between one orange section and the membrane, slicing to the centre of the fruit. Turn the knife and slide it up the other side of the section along the membrane, cutting outward. Repeat with remaining sections.


To remove the seeds from fruits and vegetables.

Sesame Seeds

Versatile annual with sweet, nutty flavour used in appetizers, bread, meats and vegetables. Black and white sesame seeds are used whole as a garnish in a variety of Asian cuisines, ground into a paste, or pressed for their rich oil. To bring out their flavour, toast them briefly in a dry skillet.


A small member of the onion family which produces an edible bulb, with brown skin, white-to-purple flesh, and a flavour resembling a cross between sweet onion and garlic.


A cut of meat taken from the front leg of the carcass, though highly flavourful, extended cooking is required to break down the tough connective tissues.

Sharpening Steel (or Honing steel or Sharpening stick or Sharpening rod or Butcher’s steel or Chef’s steel)

A long, thin, grooved rod made of extremely hard, high carbon steel, diamond steel, or ceramic, used to keep a fine edge on a blade. They are flat, oval, or round in cross-section and up to one foot long (30 cm). The steel and ceramic honing steels may have longitudinal ridges, whereas the diamond coated steels are smooth but will be embedded with abrasive diamond particles.

Sheet Cake Pan

Often the term used to describe a 13 x 9 x 2-in. baking pan.

Short Loin

The most tender section of beef, it lies in the middle of the cattle’s back between the ribs and sirloin. It contains part of the spine and includes the top loin and the tenderloin. This cut yields types of steak including porterhouse, strip steak (Kansas City Strip, New York Strip), and T-bone (a cut also containing partial meat from the tenderloin). The T-bone is a cut that contains less of the tenderloin than does the porterhouse. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “a portion of the hindquarter of beef immediately behind the ribs that is usually cut into steaks.”

Short Rib

The large or top section of the rib cage that is cut into portions usually 2-3 inches long.


A cut of meat referring to the part of the carcass to which the front legs are attached.

Shred (or Finely Shred)

To push food across a shredding surface to make small, long, narrow strips. Finely shred means to make long, thin strips. A food processor or a grater may be used. Lettuce and cabbage may be shredded by thinly slicing them with a knife. Cooked meat can be shredded by pulling it apart with two forks.


A fortified wine that ranges from dry to sweet and light (pale amber) to dark (brown) in tint. Sherry can be enjoyed as a pre-dinner or after-dinner drink, and it is also used in cooking. Originally from Jerez in Spain.


Vegetable oil that has been processed into solid form. Shortening commonly is used for baking to make crumbly pastry and other food products or frying. Shortening is used in pastries that should not be elastic, such as cake. Plain and butter-flavour types can be used interchangeably. Although butter is solid at room temperature and is frequently used in making pastry, the term “shortening” seldom refers to butter but is more closely related to margarine. Store in a cool, dry place. Once opened, use within 6 months. Discard if it has an odour or appears discoloured.

Shrimp Paste (or Shrimp sauce)

A pungent seasoning made from dried, salted shrimp that’s been pounded into a paste. Shrimp paste gives Southeast Asian dishes an authentic, rich flavour. The salty shrimp taste mellows during cooking. In a pinch, substitute anchovy paste, though it’s not as boldly flavoured.


To remove the shells from seafood, such as oysters and clams, or the husks from corn.


To separate liquids from solids, to strain liquids or particles of food through a sieve or strainer. Press the solids, using a ladle or wooden spoon, into the strainer to remove as much liquid and flavour as possible. A sieve or sifter is used to separate and break up clumps in dry ingredients such as flour, as well as to aerate and combine them. A strainer is a form of sieve used to separate solids from the liquid.


To put one or more dry ingredients, especially flour, cocoa or powdered sugar, through a sifter; sprinkle, scatter, disperse or sieve to break up the larger parts, remove lumps or unevenly sized particles. The process also incorporates air to make ingredients like flour, lighter. Synonymous with aerating.

Silver Dragees

Tiny, ball-shaped silver-coloured candies.

Silver Skin

A tough connective membrane found on cuts of meat where they attach to certain bones and joints. The silver skin must be removed before cooking.


To cook food slowly in a sauce or other liquid over gentle heat that is kept just below the boiling point, but higher than poaching temperature; a liquid is simmering when a few bubbles form slowly and burst just before reaching the surface (bubbles form but do not burst on the surface of the liquid). It’s cooked slowly in liquid over low heat at a temperature of about 82-94°C (180-200°F). The surface of the liquid should be barely moving, broken from time to time by slowly rising bubbles.


The process of rotating poultry over a flame in order to burn off any feathers that remain after plucking.


The prime cut of beef taken from the upper loin between the short loin and the round, the section is divided into three cuts, the top sirloin contains part of the top loin muscle of the short loin, the tenderloin which is also a continuation of the short loin, and the bottom sirloin which has a portion of the sirloin tip from the round.


A long, narrow metal or wooden stick that can be inserted through pieces of meat or vegetables for grilling. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before you thread them to prevent burning.


To remove impurities, whether scum or top layer of fat or foam, that has developed on the surface from a liquid (soups, stocks or sauces) when it is boiled, thereby resulting in a clear, cleaner-tasting final produce. The top layer of the liquid, such as the cream from milk or the foam and fat from stock, soups or sauces, can be removed using a spoon, ladle or skimmer. Soups, stews or sauces can be chilled so that the fat coagulates on the surface and may be easily removed before reheating.


To remove the skin from food before or after cooking. Poultry, fish and game are often skinned for reasons of appearance, taste and diet. Check out our cutlery section for scissors and skinning knives.

Slow Cooker (or Crock-Pot)

A countertop electrical cooking appliance that is used for simmering (cooks food with low, steady, moist heat), which requires maintaining a relatively low temperature (compared to other cooking methods such as baking, boiling, and frying), allowing unattended cooking for many hours of pot roast, stews, soups, “boiled” dinners and other suitable dishes, including dips, desserts and beverages. It consists of a lidded round or oval cooking pot made of glazed ceramic or porcelain, surrounded by a housing, usually metal, containing a thermostatically controlled electric heating element. This appliance uses up to 80% less energy than a regular stove. The slow cooker is also known as a Crock-Pot (a trademark often used generically).


To mix a powder, such as corn flour, with a little liquid to form a paste in order for it then to be mixed into a larger amount of liquid without forming lumps.


A flat, usually thin piece of food cut from a larger piece. Also the process of cutting flat, thin pieces.


A term referring to a mixture of flour and water, which is stirred into soups and sauces as a thickener.


To expose foods to smoke from a wood fire, using select woods, for a prolonged period of time. Traditionally used for preservation purposes, smoking is used as a means of adding natural flavours to food. Smoking tends to dry the food, kills bacteria, deepens the colour and gives food a smoky flavour. The duration of smoking varies from 20 minutes to several days. The most commonly used woods are beech, oak and chestnut to which aromatic essences are often added. Small home smokers are now available.


To cut food, often fresh herbs or dried fruit, with kitchen shears or scissors into very small, uniform pieces using short, quick strokes.

Soba Noodles

Made from wheat and buckwheat flours, soba noodles are a favourite Japanese fast food. In a pinch, substitute a narrow whole wheat ribbon pasta, such as linguine. In Japan can refer to any thin noodle (unlike thick wheat noodles, known as udon). Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce or in hot broth as a noodle soup. Soba that is made with newly harvested buckwheat is called “shin-soba”. It is sweeter and more flavorful than regular soba.

Soft Ball

A term in sugarcraft and confectionary. A small amount of syrup is dropped into cold water and forms a soft, flexible ball, but flattens like a pancake after a few moments in your hand. The temperature on a thermometer would be 118-120°C (244-248°F). This stage is used for fudge mostly.

Soft Crack

When the sugar temperature reaches 132-144°C (270-291°F), the syrup will form hard threads that are still pliable and will bend before they break. Mostly used for butterscotches and taffy.

Soft Peaks

A term used to describe when egg whites or cream are beaten until thick and hold some shape but the peaks flop over softly when the whisk is removed. When the beaters are removed, soft peaks curl over and droop rather than stand straight up.

Somen Noodles

Made from wheat flour, these delicate dried Japanese noodles are very fine and most often white. In a pinch, substitute angel hair pasta. They are often served cold or in soups.


Any combination of meats, fish, and/or vegetables and spices cooked by simmering in stock, juice, water, or another liquid that produces a thick, smooth, or chunky consistency. Soup is primarily liquid food, generally served warm (but may be cool or cold). Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot until the flavours are extracted, forming a broth.

Sour Cream

A commercial dairy product made from pasteurized sweet cream, used as enrichment in a wide range of savoury and sweet recipes. The taste of sour cream is only mildly sour. Its extra acidity can boost the leavening action of baking soda in a quick bread.


A plant milk made of the liquid pressed from ground soybeans, soymilk can be a good substitute for cow’s milk for people who do not consume dairy products. Plain, unfortified soymilk offers high-quality proteins and B vitamins. Substituting soymilk for regular milk is possible in some cases, though the flavour may be affected. Experiment to see what is acceptable to you.

Soy sauce (or Soya sauce)

Asian seasoning and condiment usually made from a fermented paste of boiled soybeans, roasted grain (barley or wheat or other grain), brine (salt and water) and Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae molds. Chinese brands tend to be saltier than Japanese. Soy sauce is one of the world’s oldest condiments. There are critical differences between brewed and non-brewed soy sauces. Brewed soy sauce has a mellow, salty-sweet flavour, a subtle aroma and a delicate, transparent colour – qualities that enhance other ingredients. The harsh, salty flavour of non-brewed soy sauce is one-dimensional, masking and overpowering other ingredients. Soy sauce can be used in entrees, pasta, pizza, soups, salads, sandwiches and more. Soy Sauce can balance and intensify the salty, sweet and tart flavours of other ingredients, acting as a natural flavour enhancer.

Spare Rib (or Side ribs or Spareribs)

A variety of pork ribs or beef ribs, cooked and eaten in various cuisines around the world. They are the most inexpensive cut of pork and beef ribs. They are a long cut from the lower portion of the pig or cattle, specifically the belly and breastbone, behind the shoulder, and include 11 to 13 long bones. There is a covering of meat on top of the bones as well as between them.


A pointed rod on which a portion of meat or a whole animal is speared for roasting over or in an open flame.

Springform Pan

A round pan with high sides and a removable bottom. The base is removed by releasing a clamp (spring) that holds the sides tight around it. This makes it easy to remove food from the pan.

Steak au poivre (or Pepper steak)

A French dish that consists of a steak, traditionally a filet mignon, coated with coarsely cracked peppercorns and then cooked. The peppercorns form a crust on the steak when cooked and provide a pungent but complementary counterpoint to the rich flavour of the high-quality beef. Pepper steak (also called green pepper steak) is also a stir-fried Chinese American dish consisting of sliced beef steak (often flank, sirloin, or round) cooked with sliced green and/or red bell peppers and other seasonings such as soy sauce and ginger, and usually thickened with cornstarch. Sliced onions and bean sprouts are also frequent additions to the recipe.

Star anise (or Star anise seed or Chinese star anise or Badiam)

A spice that closely resembles anise in flavour is obtained from the star-shaped pericarp of the fruit of Illicium velum which is harvested just before ripening. Star anise oil is a highly fragrant oil used in cooking, perfumery, soaps, toothpaste, mouthwashes, and skin creams.

Staling (or Going stale)

A chemical and physical process in which foods such as bread that reduces their palatability and become hard, musty, dry or leathery.


To cook a food in the vapour, on a rack or in a steamer, given off by boiling or simmering water in a covered pan. To cook in steam in a pressure cooker, deep well cooker, double boiler, or a steamer made by fitting a rack in a kettle with a tight cover. A small amount of boiling water is used, more water being added during the steaming process, if necessary. Steaming retains flavour, shape, texture, and nutrients better than boiling or poaching.


To allow dried food, such as coffee, tea, or spices, to soak in water (or other liquid) that is just below the boiling point in order to extract flavour and/or colour, or other qualities from a substance. Similar to infuse.


To destroy micro-organisms by boiling, dry heat, or steam.


A method of cooking by which meat and/or vegetables are barely covered by a liquid and allowed to cook for a substantial period of time, usually in a covered pot. The term also refers to a mixture prepared this way and served in the resultant gravy. Ingredients in a stew can include any combination of vegetables (such as carrots, potatoes, onions, beans, peppers and tomatoes), meat, especially tougher meats suitable for slow-cooking, such as beef. Poultry, sausages, and seafood are also used. While water can be used as the stew-cooking liquid, wine, stock, and beer are also common. Seasoning and flavourings may also be added. Stews are typically cooked at a relatively low temperature (simmered, not boiled), allowing flavours.

Stiff Peaks

A term describing the consistency when egg whites or cream are beaten until they form physical stiff peaks that hold their point after the whisk is removed. When the beaters are removed from the mixture, the stiff peaks will stand up straight.


To mix ingredients with a circular motion using a spoon or other utensil to combine them (until well blended or of uniform consistency), to prevent ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan during cooking, or to cool them after cooking.


(see Fry)


The strained clear flavourful liquid which meat, poultry, fish or vegetables has been slowly simmered with herbs and aromatic vegetables. Used as the primary cooking liquid or moistening and flavouring agent in many recipes. It is similar to the broth but is richer and more concentrated. Stock and broth can be used interchangeably; reconstituted bouillon can also be substituted for stock.


A fruit bread containing dried fruit and often covered with powdered sugar or icing sugar. The bread is usually made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices. Stollen is a traditional German bread usually eaten during the Christmas season, when it is called Weihnachtsstollen (after “Weihnachten”) or Christstollen (after Christ) as well as Winterbrot (winter bread) when eaten during Jewish festivities, as it foreshadows the coming of winter.


To pour a mixture of liquid and solids into a strainer, colander, sieve, or cheesecloth in order to remove the solid particles. Sometimes the solids are pushed through the strainer with the back of a spoon or spatula and the resulting purée is mixed with the strained liquid and becomes part of the dish.

Strainer (or Sieve or Sifter)

A kitchen utensil with a perforated bottom used to strain liquids or semi-liquids or to sift dry ingredients such as flour or icing sugar or filter for removing impurities or foreign objects from liquids or to separate and break up clumps in dry ingredients such as flour, as well as to aerate and combine them. A strainer is a form of sieve used to separate solids from the liquid.


To fill the interior of foods with another preparation before or after cooking, often chopped or minced.


The white fatty casing that surrounds the kidneys and the loins in beef, sheep, and other animals. Suet has a higher melting point than butter and when it does melt it leaves small holes in the dough, giving it a loose soft texture.


A sweetener that’s primarily made from sugar beets or sugarcane. Sugar comes in a variety of forms:

Brown sugarA mix of granulated sugar and molasses. Dark brown sugar has more molasses, and hence, more molasses flavour than light brown sugar (also known as golden brown sugar). In general, either can be used in recipes that call for brown sugar, unless one or the other is specified.

Tip: To help keep brown sugar soft, store it in a heavy plastic bag or a rustproof, airtight container and seal well. If the sugar becomes hard, you can resoften it by emptying the hardened sugar into a rustproof container and placing a piece of soft bread in the container; the bread will absorb the moisture and soften the sugar in a day or two. After the sugar has softened, remove the bread and keep the container tightly closed.

Coarse sugarOften used for decorating baked goods, coarse sugar (sometimes called pearl sugar) has much larger grains than regular granulated sugar; look for it where cake-decorating supplies are sold.

Granulated sugarThis white, granular, crystalline sugar is what to use when a recipe calls for sugar without specifying a particular type. White sugar is most commonly available in a fine granulation, though superfine (also called ultrafine or castor sugar), a finer grind, is also available. Because superfine sugar dissolves readily, it’s ideal for frostings, meringues, and drinks.

Powdered sugar (or confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar) – The finest version of sugar which is powered form. This is granulated sugar that has been milled to a fine powder, then mixed with cornstarch to prevent lumping. Sift powdered sugar before using.

Raw sugarIn most of the countries, true raw sugar is not sold to consumers. Products labelled and sold as raw sugar, such as Demerara sugar and turbinado sugar, have been refined in some way. Cleaned through a steaming process, turbinado sugar is a coarse sugar with a subtle molasses flavour. It is available in many health food stores.

Vanilla sugarInfused with flavour from a dried vanilla bean, vanilla sugar tastes great stirred into coffee drinks or sprinkled over baked goods. To make vanilla sugar, fill a 1-quart jar with 4 cups sugar. Cut a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and insert both halves into sugar. Secure lid and store in a cool, dry place for several weeks before using. It will keep indefinitely.


Dark purple-red berries with a pleasantly fruity, astringent taste (similar to a lemon). They are very much present in Middle-Eastern cuisine, complementing everything from fish to meat to vegetables. Sumac is an essential component of the Fattouche salad. It is sold ground or in its dried-berry form.


To remove the flesh sections of citrus fruit from the membranes. Using a sharp knife, cut away all of the skin and pith from the outside of the fruit. Place the knife between the membrane and the flesh of one section and slice down. Turn the knife catching the middle of the fruit. Slice up, removing each section sans membrane.


Gently heating vegetables in a little butter or oil, with frequent stirring and turning to ensure emitted liquid will evaporate to aid the cooking process. They become soft but not brown, and their juices are concentrated in the cooking fat. Usually results in tender, or in some cases such as onions’, translucent pieces. If the pan is covered during cooking, the ingredients will keep a certain amount of their natural moisture. If the pan is not covered, the ingredients will remain relatively dry.

Sweetbreads (or Ris)

Pancreas (also called heart, stomach, or belly sweetbread) or thymus (also called throat, gullet, or neck sweetbread) glands of calf (ris de veau), lamb (ris d’agneau), and less commonly, of beef and pork, located in the throat and near the heart that is prepared and served as food. The “heart” sweetbreads are more spherical in shape and surrounded symmetrically by the “throat” sweetbreads, which are more cylindrical in shape.

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