Cooking Terminology

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If you’re cooking for the first time, it can be daunting to open a cookbook or read a blog recipe only to come across unfamiliar terms. In this article, you will find a glossary of the most common cooking and baking terms. This list will help you decipher your recipes and boost your confidence in the kitchen.

Al dente: When pasta is cooked for a shorter period of time so that it is just firm.

Bake: To cook food using dry heat with an oven.

Barbecue: To cook food over an open fire, grill, or coals.

Baste: To moisten food with liquid while it is cooking to add flavor and prevent the dish from drying out.

Beat:  To mix ingredients quickly using a mixer, whisk, or spoon.

Bias: To cut food on a diagonal to increase the food’s surface area and speed up browning and cooking time.

Blanch:  To put vegetables or fruits into boiling water for a short period of time before moving them into a bowl of ice water. This helps to increase the produce’s flavor, enhance color, or help remove skins.

Blend: to mix ingredients thoroughly using a mixer, blender, or whisk.

Boil: To cook in water above 212°F or 100°C.

Bone: To remove any bones from meat.

Braise: To cook meat or vegetables by browning them in a pan before simmering or baking.

Bread: To coat meat or vegetables in bread crumbs, flour, or cornmeal before cooking.

Brine: To soak meat in a salt water solution or rub salt directly onto meat.

Broil: To cook meat or vegetables under high direct heat in an oven.

Brown: To cook food over high heat on stovetop to enhance flavor and keep the food juicy.

Felix Wolf / Pixabay

Butterfly: To cut meat through the center without completely cutting the meat in half. This helps to speed up the cooking time.

Candy: To coat with sugar.

Caramelize: To cook sugar until it has browned or to cook food slowly until it turns brown.

Chiffonade: To cut leafy vegetables into thin strips.

Deglaze: To add liquid to a pan to loosen the brown residue of cooked food.

Dice: To cut food into ¼ inch cubes.

Double boiler: A pot made up of two stacked saucepans: water is placed in the lower pan to boil, and the top pan is used to cook the food. Double boilers can also be made with a heat-safe bowl that can be fit on top of a sauce pan. Double boilers are needed to gently cook food that is easily overcooked or denatured by high heat.

Dredge: To coat raw food with flour, bread crumbs, crackers, or cornmeal.

Drippings: The fats and juices released from cooking meat.

Dutch oven: A pot with a thick lining and lid that evenly distributes heat. It can be used on stove top and in the oven to cook stews, soups, braises, sauces, and bake bread.

Emulsify: To whisk or blend two ingredients that normally would not mix, such as olive oil and vinegar.

Fold: To carefully stir air-filled ingredients into a separate mixture by stirring under and over. This helps to ensure that few air bubbles are lost.

Giblets: The organ meats of poultry.

Grease: To rub oil, butter, or another fat into a cooking dish or baking pan to prevent food from sticking inside.

Julienne: To cut meat or vegetables into long and thin strips

Knead: To push, stretch, and fold dough usually to develop gluten, the protein structure that adds texture and shape.

Morning Bird Photo / Pixabay

Leavening: A rising agent added to food to help it rise. Agents include air, steam, yeast, baking soda, and baking powder.

Marinate: To soak foods in seasoned liquids so that they take on more flavor.

Mince: To cut food into very small and uniform pieces. Mincing involves cutting the food much smaller than you would if you diced or chopped the food.

Parboil: To cook partially by boiling.

Pith: The pale sponge-like lining on the rind of citrus fruits.

Poach: To cook food over lower heat while it is submerged in liquid that is barely simmering.

Proof: To rest dough so that it can rise before being baked. It also means to activate yeast by combining it with water until the mixture begins to bubble.

Puree: To mix or blend food until it is liquid.

Reconstitute: To soak dried food in water to rehydrate it.

Reduce: To boil down a sauce or liquid to thicken it and enhance the flavor.

Render: To preserve the fat drippings out of meat cooked over low heat.

Rind: The hard and thick outer layer of fruits or cheeses.

Roast: To cook large pieces of meat or vegetables under dry heat and uncovered.

Roux: A paste made from cooked flour and fat used to thicken a sauce.

Sauté/Panfry: To cook food over high heat with a small amount of oil in a pan or skillet.

Scald: To heat a liquid until it begins to bubble along the edges of a pot, but has not come to a full boil.

Sear: To quickly brown the surface of meat with high heat.

Score: To shallowly cut the surface of dough to allow steam to escape while food is baking. For meats, it allows marinades the penetrate through.

Simmer: To cook food in liquid that is below boiling. The bubbles are low and gentle.

Skewer: A thin wooden or metal rod that holds meat and vegetables together for roasting, grilling, or broiling.

Rita E / Pixabay

Skim: To remove foam or fat from the surface of a liquid.

Steam: To cook food in a steamer or a pot with a tiny amount of water.

Steep: To soak herbs or coffee in hot water, resulting in the liquid taking on the flavor of the herbs or coffee.

Stew: To cook food combined with liquid in a pot with a cover over low heat.

Stir-fry: To cook food that has been cut into small pieces over high heat while constantly stirring.

Stock: The strained liquid from bones, meats, herbs, and/or vegetables that has cooked in water over low heat for several hours. The liquid is used to flavor soups, stews, and sauces.

Tenderize: To pound or pierce meat so that it becomes more tender.

Truss: To tie a whole chicken, turkey, or other poultry using twine or skewers so that it cooks evenly.

Whip: To incorporate air into food by beating the food with a mixer or whisk.

Yeast: A microbe used to convert starches and sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Yeast is used to leaven goods, brew beer, and make wine.

Zest: To grate the outer peel of a citrus fruit to use for flavor.

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