Here is a glossary of culinary terms starting with the letter O
Oatmeal is a porridge made from rolled, ground, or steel-cut oats. It is often served for breakfast or as a snack and can be flavoured with sweet or savoury ingredients such as fruit, nuts, or spices. Oatmeal is also used in baking and cooking as a thickening agent or a base for soups and stews.
Oeuf is French for “egg.” It can refer to a recipe’s cooked egg, egg dish, or egg-based ingredient. For example, “oeufs en cocotte” is a classic French dish of poached eggs in a creamy sauce.
Offal is an animal’s internal organs and entrails, typically used in cooking and considered a delicacy in many cultures. Offal dishes include liver, kidneys, heart, and other organs, often prepared in soups, stews, or grilled. Offal is rich in nutrients and can have a unique and savoury flavour, making it a popular choice for adventurous eaters. It is often used in traditional or ethnic dishes. Some cultures shy away from offal as food, while others use it as everyday food or in delicacies. Certain offal dishes—including foie gras, pâté and sweetbread are considered gourmet food in international cuisine. Others remain part of traditional regional cuisine and may be consumed especially in connection with holidays. This includes Scottish haggis, Jewish chopped liver, Southern U.S. chitterlings, Mexican menudo, and other dishes. Intestines are traditionally used as casing for sausages.
Offal is divided into two categories: white and red.
Red – Kidneys, heart, liver, tongue, liver, and spleen;
White – Bone marrow, testicles, sweetbreads, stomach, mesentery, and the head.
Oignon Brule is a French word that literally means “burnt onion.” It is a culinary term for a half-peeled onion seared on a skillet. Burnt onion is used to enhance the colour of stock and consomme.
Cooking oils are plant, animal, or synthetic fat used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking. It is also used in food preparation and flavouring not involving heat, such as salad dressings and bread dips, and in this sense, might be more accurately termed edible oil. Oil can be flavoured with aromatic foodstuffs such as herbs, chillies or garlic. While certain oils provide a health boost, others should be used with caution. Choose oils wisely. Peanut, cashew, and other nut-based oils may be hazardous to persons with a nut allergy. See the guide to the different types of oils available, their health benefits, and what they are best used for.
Olive oil is a type of vegetable oil extracted from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea). It is a versatile and healthy oil with a distinctive flavour and aroma. It is used for frying, sautéing, dressing salads, marinades and making sauces. Olive oil is also a key ingredient in many traditional dishes and cuisines worldwide, particularly in Mediterranean and Italian cooking.
Olive paste refers to a thick, spreadable paste made from pureed olives and olive oil. It’s often used as a flavour enhancer in pasta sauces, stews, and soups. The olive paste can also be used as a substitute for olive oil in recipes, adding a rich, savoury flavour without the added calories. Prepared olive paste, imported from Italy, France or Greece, is available at gourmet and specialty stores. The homemade version is made by finely chopping, crushing or blending good quality pitted olives (e.g. Kalamata), then adding olive oil until the mixture becomes a paste. Whether homemade or commercial, the olive paste will be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of months.
Omelette is a thin, folded egg dish made with beaten eggs, salt, and often fillings such as cheese, vegetables, or meat. It is cooked on a skillet until the eggs are set and the filling is heated, then folded and served. Omelettes are a popular breakfast dish and can also be used as a versatile base for a variety of flavours and ingredients.
Oolong tea is a partially fermented tea that falls between green and black tea in terms of taste, colour, and aroma. It has a complex and nuanced flavour profile, with notes of floral, fruit, and honey. It is known for its partially oxidized leaves.
Open Face/Faced Sandwich (or Open sandwich or Bread baser or Tartine)
An open-face sandwich is a sandwich prepared with just one piece of bread with its filling exposed on top of the bread rather than enclosed within a bread “shell.” It is usually topped with a wide variety of meats, vegetables, and cheeses, heated or not. This type of sandwich is often called a “faced sandwich” to distinguish it from a traditional closed-face sandwich.
Oregano refers to the dried leaves of the Origanum vulgare plant from the mint family. It is commonly used for seasoning in cooking to add depth and warmth to dishes, mainly Mediterranean, Italian, Greek, and Mexican cuisine. It has an aromatic, pungent, spicy, earthy flavour and is often used in herb blends, marinades, and sauces. Use fresh or dried for all types of savoury dishes. It is especially popular with tomatoes and other vegetables.
Ort is a scrap or morsel of food left over from a meal. It is a creative term when the word “leftovers” doesn’t excite you about dinner.
Orzo is a type of pasta similar to rice in size and shape. It is made from wheat flour, water, and sometimes eggs and is commonly used in soups, stews, and salads. Orzo has a nutty flavour and a chewy texture, making it a versatile ingredient in many culinary dishes. It is often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes.
Ossobuco is a traditional Italian (Milanese) dish made with braised cross-cut veal shanks that are slow-cooked in white wine, broth, and vegetables until tender and flavourful. The name “ossobuco” literally means “bone buckle” in Italian, likely due to how the meat is cooked and served with intact bone. It is often garnished with gremolata and traditionally served with risotto alla Milanese.
Ouzo is a Greek anise-flavoured strong, colourless alcoholic spirit often used as a digestif or in cocktails. It can be served neat or mixed with water, and its licorice flavour can complement a variety of dishes, particularly those with Middle Eastern or Mediterranean influences.
Oven-proof refers to the ability of cookware, bakeware or material to withstand high temperatures without being damaged, breaking, warping, or losing shape when placed in the oven. Oven-proof dishes and materials are designed to be safe and durable in the oven, allowing for easy cooking and serving of food.
Overproof refers to alcoholic beverages that have a higher alcohol content than standard versions of the same drink.
It is a spirit distilled to a higher proof than intended, resulting in a more concentrated and potent final product. This can happen during the distillation process, where the spirit is left to distill for too long or at too high a temperature, causing it to become over-concentrated. Overproof spirits are typically bottled at a higher ABV (alcohol by volume) than regular spirits. They are often enjoyed as a digestif or used in cocktails for their bold flavour and potency.
Overproof dough refers to a dough that has been allowed to rise for too long. This can happen when the dough is left to rise for an extended period, causing the yeast to produce too much carbon dioxide and the dough to become over-inflated. The overproof dough can be difficult to shape and may not rise properly in the oven, resulting in too dense and heavy bread rather than light and airy.
Oyster mushrooms are prized for their rich, buttery flavour and tender texture. They have a delicate, velvety texture and subtle sweetness, making them a versatile ingredient in many dishes, from soups and stews to stir-fries and sauces. They also have a meaty texture, making them a popular substitute for meat in vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Oyster sauce is a dark, savoury condiment made from oyster extract, sugar, water, and sometimes cornstarch or other ingredients. It adds depth and richness to dishes, particularly in Asian cuisine. Oyster sauce can be used as a marinade, stir-fry sauce, or dipping sauce, and it’s a key component of many popular dishes like Kung Pao chicken and Cantonese-style roast pork.
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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