culinary vocabulary

Culinary Vocabulary

Cooking has its own terminology, and understanding the various words commonly found in cook books will guide you through any recipe. Whether you’ve been cooking for years or are just starting out, a good grasp on culinary vocabulary can go a long way.

AL DENTE: An Italian term describing cooked pasta that has a slight resistance to the bite without being mushy. The Heavenly Chicken with Angel Hair Pasta recipe includes this description.

BASTE: To moisten foods during cooking with pan drippings or a sauce to add flavor and prevent drying. Many people choose to baste their turkey while cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

BLANCH: To immerse in rapidly boiling water and allow to cook slightly. Blanched foods, like vegetables, have a bright color and a firm texture.

BLEND: To incorporate two or more ingredients thoroughly, by hand or with a mixer or blender. Our Irresistible Flan recipe uses a blender, but you can hand mix it with a whisk.

BRAISE: Using a combination of dry and moist heat, dry being when the meat is seared at a high heat and moist when it’s gently cooked in a liquid. This cooking method is ideal with tougher cuts of meat like pot roast.

BROIL: To cook under strong, direct heat. Many ovens have a “broil” setting, often used for meat or browning the top of a casserole.

CREAM: To soften a fat, especially butter, by beating it at room temperature. For example, butter and sugar creamed together makes a smooth, soft paste. This method is often used when making cookies or Chocolate-Zucchini Cupcakes.

DEGLAZE: To dissolve the thin glaze of juices and brown bits on the surface of a pan in which food has been fried, sauteed or roasted. To do this, add liquid and stir and scrape over high heat which adds flavor to the liquid for use as a sauce.

DICE: To cut food in small cubes of uniform size and shape.

GRATIN: A gratin is a topping, often breadcrumbs or grated cheese, that forms a brown crust when placed under a hot broiler.

GRILL: To cook on a grill over intense heat.

JULIENNE: To cut vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into thin strips.

MARINATE: To flavor and moisturize pieces of meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables by soaking them in or brushing them with a liquid mixture of seasonings known as a marinade.

MINCE: To cut or chop food into extremely small pieces.

PINCH: A pinch is the small amount you can hold between your thumb and forefinger. Often recipes calling for spices use this measurement.

PLUMP: To soak dried fruits in liquid until they swell. Dried fruit is usually plumped before adding to baked goods.

REDUCE: To boil down to reduce the volume.

ROAST: To cook by dry heat in an oven.

SAUTE: To cook and/or brown food in a small amount of hot fat.

SEAR: To brown very quickly by intense heat. This method develops flavor and improves appearance. 

SHRED: To cut or tear in small, long, narrow pieces.

STEAM: To cook using steam. A small amount of boiling water is in the bottom of a pan with the food on top in a small basket or in direct contact.

STEW: To simmer slowly in a small amount of liquid for a long time.

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