Cooking Terms


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.


A 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.

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.