Cooking Terminology

Bewildered by "braising"? Confused by "clarifying"?
Everything becomes clear here. Read on for descriptions to common cooking terminology.

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TermDescription
Al denteTo the tooth, in Italian. The pasta is cooked just enough to maintain a firm, chewy texture.
BasteTo brush or spoon liquid fat or juices over meat during roasting to add flavor and to prevent it from drying out.
Bias-sliceTo slice a food crosswise at a 45-degree angle.
BindTo thicken a sauce or hot liquid by stirring in ingredients such as eggs, flour, butter, or cream.
BlackenedA popular Cajun-style cooking method in which seasoned foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until charred.
BlanchTo boil briefly to loosen the skin of a fruit or a vegetable. After 30 seconds in boiling water, the fruit or vegetable should be plunged into ice water to stop the cooking action, and then the skin easily slices off.
Blind-Bakingto bake a pastry shell before it is filled, often preparing it by pricking to prevent blistering and putting in weights to keep the crust from rising.
BraiseA cooking technique that requires browning meat in oil or other fat and then cooking slowly in liquid. The effect of braising is to tenderize the meat.
BroilTo cook food directly under the heat source.
ButterflyTo cut open a food such as pork chops down the center without cutting all the way through, and then spread apart.
CaramelizationBrowning sugar over a flame, with or without the addition of some water to aid the process. The temperature range in which sugar caramelizes is approximately 320º F to 360º F (160º C to 182º C).
Carryover CookingThe continued cooking of a piece of food after it's been removed from the cooking source. Typically, foods will cook another 1-2 degrees F. as they rest.
ClarifyRemove impurities from butter or stock by heating the liquid, then straining or skimming it.
ConfitTo slowly cook pieces of meat in their own gently rendered fat.
CreamTo beat vegetable shortening, butter, or margarine, with or without sugar, until light and fluffy. This process traps in air bubbles, later used to create height in cookies and cakes.
CureTo preserve or add flavor with an ingredient, usually salt and/or sugar.
Cut inTo work vegetable shortening, margarine, or butter into dry ingredients.
DashA measure approximately equal to 1/16 teaspoon.
DeglazeTo add liquid to a pan in which foods have been fried or roasted, in order to dissolve the caramelized juices stuck to the bottom of the pan.
DiceTo cut into cubes.
Direct heatA cooking method that allows heat to meet food directly, such as grilling, broiling, or toasting.
DredgeTo sprinkle lightly and evenly with sugar or flour. A dredger has holes pierced on the lid to sprinkle evenly.
Egg washA mixture of beaten eggs (yolks, whites, or whole eggs) with either milk or water. Used to coat cookies and other baked goods to give them a shine when baked.
EmulsionA mixture of liquids, one being a fat or oil and the other being water based so that tiny globules of one are suspended in the other. This may involve the use of stabilizers, such as egg or mustard. Emulsions may be temporary or permanent.
FilletTo remove the bones from meat or fish for cooking.
FlambéTo ignite a sauce or other liquid so that it flames.
FoldTo cut and mix lightly with a spoon to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
FricasseeUsually a stew in which the meat is cut up, lightly cooked in butter, and then simmered in liquid until done.
GarnishA decorative piece of an edible ingredient such as parsley, lemon wedges, croutons, or chocolate curls placed as a finishing touch to dishes or drinks.
GlazeA liquid that gives an item a shiny surface. Examples are fruit jams that have been heated or chocolate thinned with melted vegetable shortening. Also, to cover a food with such a liquid.
GrateTo shred or cut down a food into fine pieces by rubbing it against a rough surface.
GreaseTo coat a pan or skillet with a thin layer of oil.
IceTo cool down cooked food by placing in ice; also, to spread frosting on a cake.
InfusionExtracting flavors by soaking them in liquid heated in a covered pan. The term also refers to the liquid resulting from this process.
Jell (also gel)To cause a food to set or solidify, usually by adding gelatin. Also SET.
JulienneTo cut into long, thin strips.
JusThe natural juices released by roasting meats.
KneadTo work dough with the heels of your hands in a pressing and folding motion until it becomes smooth and elastic.
LeavenerAn ingredient or process that produces air bubbles and causes the rising of baked goods such as cookies and cakes.
MarinateTo combine food with aromatic ingredients to add flavor.
MarzipanA paste (of ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites) used to fill and decorate pastries.
MinceTo chop food into tiny, irregular pieces.
MoistenAdding enough liquid to dry ingredients to dampen but not soak them.
Muffin MethodA baking term, where dry ingredients are measured separately from wet ingredients, then the two are combined together, usually adding the wet into the dry.
MullTo slowly heat wine or cider with spices and sugar.
PanbroilTo cook a food in a skillet without added fat, removing any fat as it accumulates.
PanfryTo cook in a hot pan with small amount of hot oil, butter, or other fat, turning the food over once or twice.
ParboilTo partly cook in a boiling liquid.
ParchmentA heavy, heat-resistant paper used in cooking.
PeaksThe mounds made in a mixture. For example, egg white that has been whipped to stiffness. Peaks are "stiff" if they stay upright, or "soft" if they curl over.
PinchSame as "dash."
PipeTo force a semisoft food through a bag (either a pastry bag or a plastic bag with one corner cut off) to decorate food.
PoachTo simmer in liquid.
Pressure cookingA cooking method that uses steam trapped under a locked lid to produce high temperatures and achieve fast cooking time.
ProofTo let yeast dough rise.
PuréeTo mash or sieve food into a thick liquid.
ReduceTo cook liquids down so that some of the water evaporates.
RefreshTo pour cold water over freshly cooked vegetables to prevent further cooking and to retain color.
RenderTo melt down fat to make drippings.
RoastTo cook uncovered in the oven.
RouxA cooked paste, typically made from equal parts flour and butter (or similar fat), used to thicken sauces.
SautéTo cook food quickly in a small amount of oil in a skillet or sauté pan over direct heat.
ScaldCooking a liquid such as milk to just below the point of boiling; also to loosen the skin of fruits or vegetables by dipping them in boiling water.
ScoreTo tenderize meat by making a number of shallow (often diagonal) cuts across its surface. This technique is also useful in marinating, as it allows for better absorption of the marinade.
SearSealing in a meat's juices by cooking it quickly under very high heat.
SiftTo remove large lumps from a dry ingredient such as flour or confectioners' sugar by passing it through a fine mesh. This process also incorporates air into the ingredients, making them lighter.
SimmerCooking food in a liquid at a low enough temperature that small bubble begin to break the surface.
SkimTo remove the top fat layer from stocks, soups, sauces, or other liquids such as cream from milk.
SteamTo cook over boiling water in a covered pan, this method keeps foods' shape, texture, and nutritional value intact better than methods such as boiling.
TrussTo use string, skewers, or pins to hold together a food to maintain its shape while it cooks (usually applied to meat or poultry).
UnleavenedBaked goods that contain no agents to give them volume, such as baking powder, baking soda, or yeast.
WhipTo incorporate air into ingredients such as cream or egg whites by beating until light and fluffy; also refers to the utensil used for this action.
WhiskTo mix or fluff by beating; also refers to the utensil used for this action.
ZestThe thin, brightly colored outer part of the rind of citrus fruits. It contains volatile oils, used as a flavoring.

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