40+ Cooking Terms

Cooking is an art form that not everyone can master. There are so many different cooking terms, and knowing them all can be a daunting task. In this blog post, we will take the time to explore some of the most common culinary vocabulary words in hopes that you will come away with a better understanding of what they mean!

Common Cooking Terms

  • Acidulate: to add acidity to foods with ingredients such as vinegar, citrus juice or wine.
  • Al dente: meaning “to the tooth,” these are pasta noodles that are cooked just enough to maintain their individual shape and flavor.
  • Bake blind: this is a phrase referring to the process of covering meat with dough or baking paper before it goes in the oven. This does two things- one, it keeps juices from running out and burning onto your pan while cooking; secondly, because you’re not opening up the oven too often (because then all those heat waves escape) you also end up preserving more moisture.
  • Baste: when food – such as chicken – is being prepared on a grill or barbecue, basting refers to brushing it periodically with marinade or other sauce for extra flavour.
  • Beat: as opposed to “cream” which means mixing butter into sugar until light and fluffy, beating by hand refers to the process of using a spoon or whisk to mix together wet ingredients like eggs, butter and sugar.
  • Blanch: this is another cooking term for boiling vegetables such as carrots in water until they’re just barely cooked through – it usually takes about two minutes. The reason for blanching is so that you can peel them more easily; however if you prefer crunchy veg then don’t bother!
  • Braise: an old-fashioned word for what we call “slow cook” these days – basically involves searing meat before simmering with a liquid (usually stock) for hours on end not because slow cooker recipes are hard but rather because people who weren’t home during the day often relied on their stove/oven to cook dinner.
  • Broil: to cook food – usually meat or fish – under intense heat, often with a grill on top these days people tend to use the word “grill” more frequently for both electric and gas cooking appliances. If you want something that heats up quickly in your oven then just swap out broiling pans for baking sheets!
  • Bruise: this is another term used when we’re talking about fresh herbs like thyme, parsley and oregano- basically means crushing them by hand so their flavour will come through better.
  • Caramelise: also known as sugar melting into a liquidy brown mass of goodness! This process can involve heating butter and sugar together over low heat until it’s just melted, stirring constantly or you could get a bit more adventurous and add some chicken stock to make it less sweet.
  • Cooking instructions: basically anything from “preheat oven,” to “add one egg.” Instructions like this tell us exactly what we need to do in order for our food (or other dishes) come out looking and tasting right! Sometimes there will be measurements listed with them, other times they will be less specific.
  • Crust: as in “crusty” bread, this is another term for something that’s been left on the counter too long (often because we forgot about it) aka overdone toast! If your pastry is getting too brown before baking, try brushing with an egg wash – this will form a sort of seal between crust and filling so that they don’t go soggy prematurely.
  • Deseed: to remove seeds from a fruit such as watermelon or tomato- usually by cutting them out one at a time and putting into the trash can instead of down the garbage disposal which would cause clogs! There are also seedless varieties of each fruit for those who prefer them.
  • Devein: when we talk about the inside of a shrimp, there’s always that vein running through which is tough and inedible so you’ll need to remove it with a small knife (or your finger if they’re really tiny). The word devein can also refer to removing seeds from other kinds of seafood like prawns or lobsters- just don’t forget to save the discarded bits!
  • Dilute: while we might use this term mostly as an adjective for things that are light in colour, such as “diluted juice” it can also mean adding water or stock into any liquids – think soups and sauces! This process is called ‘reducing’ and can also be used for meats or stocks.
  • Dust: as in the act of sprinkling a light layer of dry ingredients over wet ones, this is another cooking term that we use to add flavour without adding calories- think freshly ground black pepper on top! Another word you might see instead is ‘pinch’.
  • Emulsify: when oil (or any liquid) needs to be mixed into something else completely solid (like mayonnaise), try blending them together by hand first before removing from heat – it’s easier than using an electric mixer. This process will take about two minutes but just keep stirring so everything gets fully combined. Folding refers to lightly mixing both halves of batter together until they’re well blended; alternatively, you could try whisking them.
  • Fold: when we use the technique of ‘folding’ in baking, it means to gently mix together two ingredients and then pour this mixture back into the original container- such as folding egg whites into a cake batter or folded whipped cream with caramel bits! The word can also be used to describe how our hands move while sewing clothes.
  • Garnish: meaning ‘to decorate’, this term is often used when we want to add a little something extra on top of dishes like desserts and entrees it may be anything from chocolate shavings to fresh herbs (think about adding some rosemary on top of your roasted vegetables!)
  • Grease: usually refers to adding butter on top of something like a pan so that food will not stick but sometimes people might refer to greased hair (i.e.: hairspray) which is another way of saying “to comb your hair down.”
  • Knead: kneaded dough is one that’s been worked against itself until smooth and elastic. It’s one of the best ways to create light and fluffy bread crusts!
  • Marinate: this is a process that involves soaking meat in a mixture of herbs, spices, oil (or even alcohol!) so it becomes tenderized from all those flavours seeping into its pores. The word can also be used for other foods like vegetables or tofu- just keep them submerged in liquid until you plan on using them later.
  • Pare: when we use this cooking term as ‘paring’ something down’, it means removing any unnecessary bits such as peels or seeds before making a dish – think potatoes or carrots. Another way people might refer to paring away at things is “to cut off.”
  • Poach: this is a cooking technique that involves simmering food in water, stock or wine. It’s one of the best ways to make eggs and fish while retaining their natural flavours! There are also poached fruits like pears which can be soaked for up to an hour before adding into desserts such as cakes or pies.
  • Recipe: a list of ingredients and instructions for making something. A recipe is not necessarily written by the person who intends to make it, but is rather written by someone who intends to share it with others. Recipes are usually given in a list format, and may or may not include measurements.
  • Recipe book: this refers to either an electronic cookbook that can be accessed on the internet, or one of those old fashioned paper books that you keep in your kitchen! These books contain recipes from all sorts of cooking styles – some will only have desserts, while others might cover everything from appetizers to entrees. A recipe book can also refer specifically to historic dishes and how they were prepared centuries ago (in other words, pre-industrialized).
  • Recipe card: these cards come as part of packages for most boxed cake mixes. They often serve as reminder notes if you ever stop to wonder how much of each ingredient to add, or what the steps are. They’re also a handy way for children in homeschools to learn about cooking without making a mess!
  • Recipe software: these programs exist on your computer and contain recipes that you can access at any time. These are often programmed to track ingredients as well, so if you purchase an item while browsing the internet but forget it when you get home, this is where they’ll be stored.
  • Reduce: when we say ‘reducing’ something- it usually means boiling liquids down so all its liquid ingredients evaporate – think soups, stocks and sauces where you’ll need to keep stirring once it boils until the contents reduce by half. This will help with concentration of flavour too but do take care not to leave them on high heat because they may burn!
  • Scald: this word refers to heating milk just below the boiling point so that all the enzymes are still there but not burnt and will make it easier to digest. It’s used a lot in coffee or tea brewing too- just bring water up to 95 degrees Celsius before pouring over your ground beans or bags of leaves for about three minutes.
  • Sear: by cooking on top of high heat, this is another way to seal juices inside meat while also giving a nice crunchy texture – perfect for steak! Just remember only cook each side for about five minutes max otherwise it might dry out although you can always add sauce afterwards if desired.
  • Score: when we say ‘to score’ something like an eggplant (or any other vegetable), it means using either a knife or some form of tool such as a fork to make a pattern on the surface. This is done so that it can be cooked more easily using methods like grilling or roasting.
  • Season: this word refers to adding salt, pepper and other seasonings like paprika while cooking – but also when we say ‘to season’ someone in another context, it means teaching them new things! When you’re given a recipe with ingredients listed before instructions (i.e.: seasoning-salt), they should always come after something else rather than at the start of your list.
  • Shallow Fry: by frying food quickly over high heat which only reaches 160 degrees Celsius for less than five minutes, this will help seal all those flavours inside without overcooking or drying out meat.
  • Shuck: this word is typically used for seafood because once you’ve shucked off the top layer of shell, there’s actually a better chance of it retaining all its natural flavours.
  • Simmer: by boiling liquids at about 80 degrees Celsius or so, we can make sure that our ingredients don’t overcook and instead just dissolve in their own juices – perfect for soup bases! This cooling technique also means food will take less time to cook.
  • Steep: when steeping something like tea leaves which are usually dried first before being steeped (i.e.: herbal tea), it means soaking them in hot water until they’re boiled then removed from heat completely- the process takes around five minutes up to ten depending on how strong you want your tea to taste.
  • Stir: when we say ‘to stir’ something like a sauce or soup, it means stirring the liquid ingredients together in order to combine them. It’s also usually done with some sort of tool such as a whisk or wooden spoon- think about making tomato sauce! Stirring is one of the best ways to help season your dishes too because you can add flavour without needing salt and pepper if that’s not desired.
  • Stir Fry: this cooking technique involves frying food quickly over high heat which only reaches 160 degrees Celsius for less than five minutes so they don’t dry out – perfect for things like vegetables! One thing to note is always make sure you have enough oil once there’s not enough left, then stop cooking.
  • Whisk: a whisk is any tool with two handles that’s used to mix ingredients together, such as eggs or sauces. They usually have wires inside the structure so they can go through food easily- one of our favourites for making everything from scrambled eggs to soups!

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