cooking terms, culinary terms

Cooking Terms

Helpful Culinery Terms and Cooking Definitions


Here's a list of popular cooking terms and cooking definitions to help improve your gourmet cooking skills. You probably know most of these already, many of the terms are simple cooking techniques.

"Smarten up on your cooking terminology to unleash the gourmet cook within you."


cooking terms


It's useful to understand a bit more about cooking and you don't have to go to a culinary school to bring out your inner gourmet. Not everyone knows the difference between beat and blend so hopefully these culinary terms will be helpful.



    Cooking Terms - A

  • al dente: Italian term to describe pasta and rice that are cooked until tender but still firm to the bite

    Cooking Terms - B

  • bake blind: to bake pastry cases without their fillings. Line the raw pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with raw rice or dried beans to prevent collapsed sides and puffed base. Remove paper and fill 5 minutes before completion of cooking time

  • baste: to spoon hot cooking liquid over food at intervals during cooking to moisten and flavour it.

  • beat: to make a mixture smooth with rapid and regular motions using a spatula, wire whisk or electric mixer; to make a mixture light and smooth by enclosing air.

  • beurre manié: equal quantities of butter and flour mixed together to a smooth paste and stirred bit by bit into a soup, stew or sauce while on the heat to thicken. Stop adding when desired thickness results.

  • bind: to add egg or a thick sauce to hold ingredients together when cooked

  • blanch: to plunge some foods into boiling water for less than a minute and immediately plunge into iced water. This is to brighten the colour of some vegetables; to remove skin from tomatoes and nuts.

  • blend: to mix 2 or more ingredients thoroughly together; do not confuse with blending in an electric blender

  • boil: to cook in a liquid brought to boiling point and kept there

  • boiling point: when bubbles rise continually and break over the entire surface of the liquid, reaching a temperature of 100°C (212°F). In some cases food is held at this high temperature for a few seconds then heat is turned to low for slower cooking. See simmer.

  • bouquet garni: a bundle of several herbs tied together with string for easy removal, placed into pots of stock, soups an stews for flavour. A few sprigs of fresh thyme, parsley and bay leaf are used. Can be purchased in sachet form for convenience.

    Cooking Terms - C

  • caramelise: to heat sugar in a heavy-based pan until it liquefies and developes a caramel colour. Vegetables such as balanced carrots and sautéed onions may be sprinkled with sugar and caramelized.

  • chill: to place in the refrigerator or stir over ice until cold.

  • clarify: to make a liquid clear by removing sediments and impurties. To melt far and remove any sediment.

  • coat: to dust or roll food items in flour to cover the surface before the food is cooked. Also, to coat in flour, egg and breadcrumbs

  • cool: to stand at room temperature until some or all heat is removed, eg, cool a little, cool completely.

  • cream: to make creamy and fluffy by working the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon, usually refers to creaming butter and sugar or margarine. May also be creamed with an electric mixer.

  • croutons: small cubes of bread, toasted or fried, used as an addition to salads or as a garnish to soups an stews.

  • crudite: raw vegetable sticks served with a dipping sauce

  • crumb: to coat foods in flour, egg and breadcrumbs to form a protective coating for foods which are fried. Also adds flavour, texture and enhances appearances.

  • cube: to cut into small pieces with six even sides, eg, cubes of meat

  • cut in: to combine fat and flour using 2 knives scissor fashion or with a pastry blender, to make pastry.

    Cooking Terms - D

  • deglaze: to dissolve dried out cooking juices left on the base and sides of a roasting dish or frying pan. Add a little water, wine or stock, scrape and stir over heat until dissolved. Resulting liquid is used to make a flavoursome gravy or added to a sauce or casserole.

  • degrease: to skim fat from the surface of cooking liquids, eg, stocks, soups, casseroles.

  • dice: to cut into small cubes.

  • dredge: to heavily coat with icing sugar, sugar, flour or cornflour.

  • dressing: a mixture added to completed dishes to add moisture and flavour, eg. Salads, cooked vegetables.

  • drizzle: to pour in a fine thread-like stream moving over a surface.

    Cooking Terms - E & F

  • egg wash: beaten egg with milk or water used to brush over pastry, bread dough or biscuits to give a sheen and golden brown colour.

  • essence: a strong flavoring liquid, usually made by distillation Only a few drops are needed to flavour.

  • fillet: a piece of prime meat, fish or poultry which is boneless or has all bones removed.

  • flake: to separate cooked fish into flakes, removing any bones and skin, using 2 forks.

  • flame: to ignite warmed alcohol over food or to pour into a pan with food, ignite then serve.

  • flute: to make decorative indentations around the pastry rim before baking.

  • fold in: combining of a light, whisked or creamed mixture with other ingredients. Add a portion of the other ingredients at a time and mix using a gentle circular motion, over and under the mixture so that air will not be lost. Use a silver spoon or spatula.

    Cooking Terms - G & H

  • glaze: to brush or coat food with a liquid that will give the finished product a glossy appearance, and on baked products, a golden brown colour.

  • grease: to rub the surface of a meta or heatproof dish with oil or fat, to prevent the food from sticking.

  • herbed butter: softened butter mixed with finely chopped fresh herbs and re-chilled. Used to serve on grilled meats and fish.

  • hors d’ouvre: small savoury foods served as an appetizer, popularly known today as ‘finger food’.

    Cooking Terms - I & J

  • infuse: to steep foods in a liquid until the liquid absorbs their flavour.

  • joint: to cut poultry and game into serving pieces by dividing at the joint

  • julienne: to cut some food, eg, vegetables and processed meats into fine strips and length of matchsticks. Used for inclusion in salads or as a garnish to cooked dishes.

    Cooking Terms - K & L

  • knead: to work a yeast dough in a pressing, stretching and folding motion with the heel of the hand until smooth and elastic to develop the gluten strands. Non-yeast doughs should be lightly and quickly handled as gluten development is not desired.

  • line: to cover the inside of a baking tine with paper for the easy removal of the cooked product from the baking tin.

    Cooking Terms - M

  • macerate: to stand fruit in a syrup, liqueur or spirit to give added flavour.

  • marinade: a flavoured liquid, into which food is placed for some time to give it flavour and to tenderise. Marinades include an acid ingredient such as vinegar or wine, oil and seasonings.

  • mask: to evenly cover cooked food portions with sauce, mayonnaise or savoury jelly.

    Cooking Terms - P

  • pan-fry: to fry foods in a small amount of fat or oil, sufficient to coat the base of the pan.

  • parboil: to boil until partially cooked. The food is then finished by some other method.

  • pare: to peel the skin from vegetables and fruit. Peel is the popular term but pare is the name given to the knife used; paring knife.

  • pith: the white lining between the rind and flesh of oranges, grapefruit and lemons.

  • pit: to remove stones or seeds from olives, cherries, dates.

  • pitted: the olives, cherries, dates etc, with the stone removed, eg, purchased pitted dates.

  • poach: to simmer gently in enough hot liquid to almost cover the food so shape will be retained.

  • pound: to flatten meats with a meat mallet; to reduce to a paste or small particles with a mortar and pestle.

    Cooking Terms - S

  • simmer: to cook in liquid just below boiling point at about 96to cook in liquid just below boiling point at about 96°C (205°F) with small bubbles rising gently to the surface.

  • skim: to remove fat or froth from the surface of simmering food.

  • stock: the liquid produced when meat, poultry, fish or vegetables have been simmered in water to extract the flavour. Used as a base for soups, sauces, casseroles, etc. Convenience stock products are available. Click on the link for some great chicken stock recipes.

  • sweat: to cook sliced onions or vegetables, in a small amount of butter in a covered pan over low heat, to soften them and release flavour without browning.





This list of cooking terms is not intended to be comprehensive but includes many common terms used in recipes on this website.

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