Aerate: To pass ingredients through a fine mesh device to break up large pieces and to incorporate air into ingredients to make them lighter.
Al Dente: The pasta is cooked just enough to maintain a firm, chewy texture.
Bake: To cook in the oven. Food is cooked slowly with gentle heat, causing the natural moisture to evaporate slowly, concentrating the flavor.
Baste: To brush or spoon liquid fat or juices over meat during roasting to add flavor and to prevent it from drying out.
Batter: A mixture of flour, fat, and liquid that is thin enough in consistency to require a pan to encase it. Used in such preparations as cakes and some cookies. A batter is different from dough, which maintains its shape.
Beat: To smoothen a mixture by briskly whipping or stirring it with a spoon, fork, wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer.
Bias-slice: To slice a food crosswise at a 45-degree angle.
Bind: To thicken a sauce or hot liquid by stirring in ingredients such as eggs, flour, butter, or cream.
Blackened: A popular Cajun-style cooking method in which seasoned foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until charred.
Blanch: To 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.
Blend: To mix or fold two or more ingredients together to obtain equal distribution throughout the mixture.
Boil: To cook food in heated water or other liquid that is bubbling vigorously.
Braise: A 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.
Bread: To coat the food with crumbs (usually with soft or dry bread crumbs), sometimes seasoned.
Broil: To cook food directly under the heat source.
Broth or stock: A flavorful liquid made by gently cooking meat, seafood, or vegetables (and/or their by-products, such as bones and trimming) often with herbs, in liquid, usually water.
Brown: A quick sautéing, pan/oven broiling, or grilling method done either at the beginning or end of meal preparation, often to enhance flavor, texture, or eye appeal.
Butterfly: To cut open a food such as pork chops down the center without cutting all the way through, and then spread apart.
Caramelization: Browning 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).
Chop: To cut into irregular pieces.
Clarify: Remove impurities from butter or stock by heating the liquid, then straining or skimming it.
Coat: To evenly cover food with flour, crumbs, or a batter.
Coddle: A cooking method in which foods (such as eggs) are put in separate containers and placed in a pan of simmering water for slow, gentle cooking.
Combine: To blend two or more ingredients into a single mixture.
Confit: To slowly cook pieces of meat in their own gently rendered fat.
Core: To remove the inedible center of fruits such as apples or pineapples.
Cream: To 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.
Crimp: To create a decorative edge on a piecrust. On a double piecrust, this also seals the edges together.
Crisp: To restore the crunch to foods; vegetables such as celery and carrots can be crisped with an ice water bath, and foods such as stale crackers can be heated in a medium oven.
Crush: To condense a food to its smallest particles, usually using a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin.
Crystallize: To form sugar- or honey-based syrups into crystals. The term also describes the coating.
Curdle: To cause semisolid pieces of coagulated protein to develop in food, usually as a result of the addition of an acid substance, or the overheating of milk or egg-based sauces.
Cure: To preserve or add flavor with an ingredient, usually salt and/or sugar.
Cut in: To work vegetable shortening, margarine, or butter into dry ingredients.
Dash: A measure approximately equal to 1/16 teaspoon.
Deep-fry: To completely submerge the food in hot oil.
Deglaze: To 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.
Dice: To cut into cubes.
Direct heat: A cooking method that allows heat to meet food directly, such as grilling, broiling, or toasting.
Dot: To sprinkle food with small bits of an ingredient such as butter to allow for even melting.
Dredge: To sprinkle lightly and evenly with sugar or flour. A dredger has holes pierced on the lid to sprinkle evenly.
Drizzle: To pour a liquid such as a sweet glaze or melted butter in a slow, light trickle over food.
Drippings: Used for gravies and sauces, drippings are the liquids left in the bottom of a roasting or frying pan after meat is cooked.
Dust: To sprinkle food lightly with spices, sugar, or flour for a light coating.
Entrée: A French term that originally referred to the first course of a meal, served after the soup and before the meat courses. In the United States, it refers to the main dish of a meal.
Fillet: To remove the bones from meat or fish for cooking.
Filter: To remove lumps, excess liquid, or impurities by passing through paper or cheesecloth.
Firm-ball stage: In candy making, the point where boiling syrup dropped in cold water forms a ball that is compact yet gives slightly to the touch.
Flambé: To ignite a sauce or other liquid so that it flames.
Flute: To create a decorative scalloped or undulating edge on a piecrust or other pastry.
Fold: To cut and mix lightly with a spoon to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
Fricassee: Usually a stew in which the meat is cut up, lightly cooked in butter, and then simmered in liquid until done.
Frizzle: To cook thin slices of meat in hot oil until crisp and slightly curly.
Fry: To cook food in hot cooking oil, usually until a crisp brown crust forms.
Ganache: A rich chocolate filling or coating made with chocolate, vegetable shortening, and possibly heavy cream. It can coat cakes or cookies, and be used as a filling for truffles.
Garnish: A decorative piece of an edible ingredient such as parsley, lemon wedges, croutons, or chocolate curls placed as a finishing touch to dishes or drinks.
Glaze: A 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.
Gluten: A protein formed when hard wheat flour is moistened and agitated. Gluten is what gives yeast dough its characteristic elasticity.
Grate: To shred or cut down a food into fine pieces by rubbing it against a rough surface.
Gratin: To bind together or combine food with a liquid such as cream, milk, béchamel sauce, or tomato sauce, in a shallow dish. The mixture is then baked until cooked and set.
Grease: To coat a pan or skillet with a thin layer of oil.
Grill: To cook over the heat source (traditionally over wood coals) in the open air.
Grind: To mechanically cut a food into small pieces.
Hard-ball stage: In candy making, the point at which syrup has cooked long enough to form a solid ball in cold water.
Hull (also husk): To remove the leafy parts of soft fruits, such as strawberries or blackberries.
Ice: To cool down cooked food by placing in ice; also, to spread frosting on a cake.
Infusion: Extracting 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.
Julienne: To cut into long, thin strips.
Jus: The natural juices released by roasting meats.
Knead: To work dough with the heels of your hands in a pressing and folding motion until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Larding: Inserting strips of fat into pieces of meat, so that the braised meat stays moist and juicy.
Leavener: An ingredient or process that produces air bubbles and causes the rising of baked goods such as cookies and cakes.
Line: To place layers of edible (cake or bread slices) or inedible (foil or wax paper) ingredients in a pan to provide structure for a dish or to prevent sticking.
Marble: To gently swirl one food into another.
Marinate: To combine food with aromatic ingredients to add flavor.
Mash: To beat or press a food to remove lumps and make a smooth mixture.
Medallion: A small round or oval bit of meat.
Mince: To chop food into tiny, irregular pieces.
Mix: To beat or stir two or more foods together until they are thoroughly combined.
Moisten: Adding enough liquid to dry ingredients to dampen but not soak them.
Mull: To slowly heat wine or cider with spices and sugar.
Panbroil: To cook a food in a skillet without added fat, removing any fat as it accumulates.
Panfry: To cook in a hot pan with small amount of hot oil, butter, or other fat, turning the food over once or twice.
Parboil: To partly cook in a boiling liquid.
Parchment: A heavy, heat-resistant paper used in cooking.
Pare: To peel or trim a food, usually vegetables.
Peaks: The 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.
Pinch: Same as “dash.”
Pipe: To force a semisoft food through a bag (either a pastry bag or a plastic bag with one corner cut off) to decorate food.
Pit: Using a sharp knife to take out the center stone or seed of a fruit, such as a peach or a mango.
Poach: To simmer in liquid.
Pressure cooking: A cooking method that uses steam trapped under a locked lid to produce high temperatures and achieve fast cooking time.
Proof: To let yeast dough rise.
Purée: To mash or sieve food into a thick liquid.
Reconstitute: To take a dried food such as milk back to its original state by adding liquid.
Reduce: To cook liquids down so that some of the water evaporates.
Refresh: To pour cold water over freshly cooked vegetables to prevent further cooking and to retain color.
Render: To melt down fat to make drippings.
Roast: To cook uncovered in the oven.
Roux: A cooked paste usually made from flour and butter used to thicken sauces.
Sauté: To cook food quickly in a small amount of oil in a skillet or sauté pan over direct heat.
Scald: Cooking 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.
Score: To 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.
Sear: Sealing in a meat’s juices by cooking it quickly under very high heat.
Season: To enhance the flavor of foods by adding ingredients such as salt, pepper, oregano, basil, cinnamon, and a variety of other herbs, spices, condiments, and vinegars. Also, to treat a pot or pan (usually cast iron) with a coating of cooking oil and baking it in a 350° F oven for approximately 1 hour; this process seals any tiny rough spots on the pan’s surface that may cause food to stick.
Seize: To form a thick, lumpy mass when melted (usually applied to chocolate).
Set: Let food become solid. (See also “Jell.”)
Shred: To cut or tear into long narrow strips, either by hand or by using a grater or food processor.
Sift: To 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.
Simmer: Cooking food in a liquid at a low enough temperature that small bubble begin to break the surface.
Skim: To remove the top fat layer from stocks, soups, sauces, or other liquids such as cream from milk.
Steam: To cook over boiling water in a covered pan, this method keeps foods’ shape, texture, and nutritional value intact better than methods such as boiling.
Steep: To soak dry ingredients (tea leaves, ground coffee, herbs, spices, etc.) in liquid until the flavor is infused into the liquid.
Stewing: Browning small pieces of meat, poultry, or fish, then simmering them with vegetables or other ingredients in enough liquid to cover them, usually in a closed pot on the stove, in the oven, or with a slow cooker.
Stir-Fry: The fast frying of small pieces of meat and vegetables over very high heat with continual and rapid stirring.
Thin: To reduce a mixture’s thickness with the addition of more liquid.
Toss: To thoroughly combine several ingredients by mixing lightly.
Truss: To use string, skewers, or pins to hold together a food to maintain its shape while it cooks (usually applied to meat or poultry).
Unleavened: Baked goods that contain no agents to give them volume, such as baking powder, baking soda, or yeast.
Water bath: A gentle cooking technique in which a container is set in a pan of simmering water. (See also “Coddle.”)
Whip: To 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.
Whisk: To mix or fluff by beating; also refers to the utensil used for this action.
Zest: The thin, brightly colored outer part of the rind of citrus fruits. It contains volatile oils, used as a flavoring.