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 brand of spicy sauce made exclusively from tabasco red peppers vinegar and salt. It is hot, so use judiciously; a few drops go a long way.
Tagine (or Tajine)
Refers to a Moroccan shallow earthenware cooking pot, and also a traditional Moroccan stew of meat or poultry mixed with fruits that are named after the earthenware pot in which it is very slowly cooked.
Tahini (or Tahina)
An oily thick and smooth paste made of toasted ground hulled sesame seeds, used in the Middle Eastern cuisine to flavour dishes such as Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and halva. A sweetened dark variety also exists. It can be found in health food stores and the ethnic section of most grocery stores.
Tapioca is a starch extracted from cassava root. It is native to the North Region of Brazil but spread throughout the South American continent. It is now cultivated worldwide. It’s the finely ground flakes of the tropical manioc plant’s dried, starchy root. Used as a thickener in pies, tarts, puddings and other foods. Check my delicious gluten-free recipes using it.
Fragrant, distinctively sweet herb used fresh or dried as a seasoning for vegetables, salads, chicken, light meats, seafood and eggs.
A tender, flavourful cut of beef from the centre of the short loin (called the sirloin in Commonwealth countries) containing a short t-shaped bone and a small piece of tenderloin on each side. Porterhouse steaks are cut from the rear end of the short loin and thus include more tenderloin steak, along with (on the other side of the bone) a large strip steak. T-bone steaks are cut closer to the front and contain a smaller section of tenderloin.
The process of adding a small quantity of a hot liquid to a cold liquid in order to warm the cold liquid slightly. This is often done before adding delicate ingredients to a hot mixture, where their format may be affected. An example of this would be adding eggs to a hot mixture – in order to prevent them curdling or scrambling you would add a little of the hot mix to the eggs and incorporate before adding the eggs into the heated mixture. Another example would be adding a corn flour slurry to a hot mixture; a little of the hot mixture is added to the slurry to temper the temperature before adding the mix back to the main mixture. This process is used most in making pastry cream and the like. It’s also the process that takes chocolate through a temperature curve, which aligns the chocolate’s crystals to make it smooth, silky and creates a satisfying snap, shine and no streaks when you bite into it. Commercially available chocolate is already tempered but this condition changes when it is melted. Tempering is often done when the chocolate will be used for candy making or decorations. Chocolate must be tempered because it contains cocoa butter, a fat that forms crystals after the chocolate is melted and cooled. Dull grey streaks form and are called bloom. The classic tempering method is to melt chocolate until it is totally without lumps (semisweet chocolate melts at a temperature of 40°C (104°F) One third of the chocolate is then poured onto a marble slab then spread and worked back and forth with a metal spatula until it becomes thick and reaches a temperature of about 26°C (80°F). The thickened chocolate is then added back to the remaining 2/3 melted chocolate and stirred. The process is repeated until the entire mixture reaches 31-33°C (88-92°F) for semisweet chocolate, 29-33°C (84-88°F) for milk or white chocolate. This whole process can also be done in a simple double boiler or a stainless steel mixing bowl over a pot of hot water.
To make meat tender by pounding with a mallet, or applying a special enzyme substance (also tenderise), or marinating for varying periods of time, or storing at lower temperatures. Fat may also be placed into a piece of meat to make it tender during cooking.
Japanese style of grilling in which food is broiled or grilled, seasoned and basted with a marinade usually based on mirin (sweet rice wine), soy sauce, and sugar to form a rich, shining glaze.
Food substances used to give a thicker consistency to sauces, gravies, puddings, and soups. Common thickeners include:
Flour and cornstarch – All-purpose flour and cornstarch are starches commonly used to thicken saucy mixtures. Cornstarch produces a more translucent mixture than flour and has twice the thickening power. Before adding flour or cornstarch to a hot mixture, stir cold water into a small amount. You can also combine either flour or cornstarch with cold water in a screw-top jar and shake until thoroughly blended. It is critical that the starch-water mixture be free of lumps to prevent lumps in your sauce or gravy.
Quick-cooking tapioca – This is a good choice for foods that are going to be frozen because, unlike flour and cornstarch-thickened mixtures, frozen tapioca mixtures retain their thickness when reheated.
Tip: When using tapioca as a thickener for crockery cooking and freezer-bound foods, you can avoid its characteristic lumpy texture by grinding the tapioca with a mortar and pestle before adding to the recipe.
Fragrant, clean-tasting, small leafed herb, popular fresh or dried as a seasoning for poultry, light meats, seafood or vegetables.
A small round cut of beef taken from the end portion of beef tenderloin, often cooked with bacon or lard and is no more than 2½ cm thick and 5-6½ cm in diameter.
To cut ingredients, usually a vegetable such as carrots or potatoes into a barrel-like shape that forms six or seven sides on the length of the item being cut, using a Tourner knife, or a paring knife or a birds beak knife
To remove the parts of food that are not needed for preparation.
A type of edible lining from the stomachs of various farm animals used in cooking.
The hoof or foot of an animal that is used in cooking.
To tie meat, game or poultry, such as turkey with a string, pins or skewers, woven through the bird parts by using a needle, for the purpose of holding the legs and sometimes the wings in place during cooking and to create a more compact shape before cooking.
The process of browning, crisping, or drying a food by exposing it to heat. Toasting coconut, nuts, and seeds help develop their flavour. Also the result of exposing a slice of bread to radiant heat so it becomes browner, crisper, and drier, altering the flavour of the bread as well as making it firmer so that it is easier to spread toppings on it. Toasting is a common method of making stale bread more palatable. Bread is often toasted using a toaster, an electrical appliance with heating elements. Toaster ovens are also used for toasting bread.
Sometimes referred to as sun-dried tomatoes, these shrivelled-looking tomato pieces boast an intense flavour and chewy texture. They’re available packed in olive oil or dry. For rehydrating store bought dry tomatoes cover with boiling water, let stand about 10 minutes or until pliable, then drain well and pat dry. Snip pieces with scissors if necessary. Generally, dry and oil-packed tomatoes can be used interchangeably, though the dry tomatoes will need to be rehydrated, and the oil-packed will need to be drained and rinsed. Make your own dried tomatoes following my recipes.
Refers to any of a very large number of sauces made primarily from tomatoes, usually to be served as part of a dish (rather than as a condiment). Tomato sauces are common for meat and vegetables, but they are perhaps best known as sauces for pasta dishes.
Tortell (or Gâteau des Rois)
A Catalan and Occitan pastry typically O-shaped, usually stuffed with marzipan or whipped cream, that on some special occasions is topped with glazed fruit. It is traditionally eaten on January 6 (Epiphany), at the conclusion of the Twelve Days of Christmas. This is also known as the day of the Three Wise Men according to the Catholic liturgical calendar.
Small, thin, flatbread made from cornmeal or wheat flour. Popular in Mexican cooking, tortillas are usually wrapped around a filling. To warm and soft flour tortillas, wrap a stack of 8 to 10 in foil and heat in a 180°C (350°F) oven for 10 minutes. A flour tortilla (or wheat tortilla to differentiate it from other uses of the word tortilla, which in Spanish means “small torta”, or “small cake”) is a type of soft, thin flatbread made from finely ground wheat flour. Originally derived from the corn tortilla, a bread of maize which predates the arrival of Europeans to the Americas, the wheat flour tortilla was an innovation by exiled Spanish Jews who did not consider cornmeal to be kosher, using wheat brought from Europe, while this region was the colony of New Spain. It is made with unleavened, water-based dough, pressed and cooked like corn tortillas. In Spanish, the word “tortilla”, without qualification, has different meanings in different regions. In Spain it is a Spanish omelette of eggs and potatoes (and an omelette without potatoes is a “tortilla francesa”, French tortilla); in Mexico and Central America it is a corn tortilla, and in many other places a flour tortilla.
To mix ingredients lightly by lifting, gently turning over and dropping them using two utensils until blended.
Species of fungus that grows below the ground that are edible; used as a garnish. Some of the truffle species are highly prized as food called truffles “the diamond of the kitchen”. Edible truffles are held in high esteem in French, Georgian, Greek, Italian, Croatian, Middle Eastern and Spanish cooking, as well as in international. It’s also a very rich chocolate candy.
To bind the legs and wings of a bird to its body for roasting with string or skewers so it will hold its even shape so that none of the extremities dries out during cooking.
A rhizome that is often dried and ground belonging to the ginger family. It is often used to spice and colour dishes (bright yellow). It is used in several ways (in a seasoning such as curry, a yellow dye, and as a medicine) mainly in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. Turmeric is somewhat medicinal in aroma and should be used with restraint. Used primarily in pickling.
A Greek sauce served with grilled meats or as a dip. Tzatziki is made of strained yoghurt (usually from sheep or goat milk) mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and sometimes dill. American versions may include lemon juice, mint, or parsley.
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