Here is my complete glossary of cooking terms and definitions. This list is here for you to reference at any time and will hopefully help you increase culinary knowledge to be easily able to cook from scratch!
Cooking, like any skill, has its own language and terms and sometimes they can be confusing. What is the difference between air frying and deep frying, sautéing and stir frying and how the heck do you fold in the ingredients?
Whether you are new to cooking or an old pro, this list will help you if you happen to stumble across something unfamiliar. We are constantly adding and updating this list, however, if there is something that you don't see on here, feel free to contact me so I can help you out and add it to the list for others!
- Al Dente - In Italian this phrase means "to the tooth" and typically refers to pasta or rice that is cooked through but still firm or has a slight bite to it.
- Air Fry - To cook in a quick-heating countertop convection oven or Air Fryer. The food is not actually fried, but super crispy and healthier than deep frying.
- Aromatics - Ingredients added to dishes to add aroma and flavor, such as herbs, spices or vegetables.
- Assemble - To put together separate components of something.
- Bake - To cook by dry heat, typically in an oven, at moderate temperatures.
- Baking Dish - Usually a ceramic dish used to bake or cook food in the oven. Also called a casserole dish.
- Baking Sheet - A flat, metal sheet that sometimes have a rim and are used to bake or cook food in the oven. Also called a cookie sheet or sheet pan.
- Barbecue - A meal or gathering in which food is cooked outdoors over an open fire or grill. See grilling.
- Baste - Pour juices or fat over food, while it's cooking, to keep it moist and flavored.
- Batter - A pourable mixture used for things like pancakes, muffins and quick breads prior to baking them.
- Beat - To mix vigorously using a spoon, spatula, whisk, stand mixer or hand mixer.
- Bechamel - A sauce made from a roux that has been thickened with milk.
- Bench Scraper - Flat, rectangular piece of steel with a handle on one edge. Used to divide, portion, scoop or transfer dough. Sometimes called a bench knife or dough scraper.
- Blanch - Quickly cook vegetables in boiling water for a short time.
- Blend - Combine ingredients quickly together until smooth and uniform in color and texture using a blender or hand mixer.
- Blender - An electric mixing machine used to puree, blend or liquify. High speed blenders can puree things smoother than regular blender.
- Boil - To cook food immersed in rapidly bubbling liquid.
- Boiling Point - The point at which liquid or water will boil when heated, which is 212˚ at sea level.
- Braise - To cook food in a small amount of liquid or fat in a pot or pan that is covered with a lid.
- Bread - Covering moistened or battered food in a dry mixture of flour, starch and seasonings that is usually coarse in texture.
- Brine - A liquid used to immerse foods in to infuse flavor, tenderize and moisturize.
- Broil - To cook foods in the oven at a high heat using only the top heating elements.
- Broth - A savory liquid made from cooking meat and/or vegetables in water for a short period of time. Typically used in soups, sauces and gravy.
- Brown - The process of cooking food, to remove some of the fat to give it a brown, flavorful crust.
- Brush - To cover food in an even layer of liquid by applying it with a pastry brush.
- Butterfly - To cut food, such as meat horizontally, but not entirely in half, so it opens like a book.
- Can - To place food in jars or cans and heat to a specific temperature to preserve it.
- Casserole Dish - See "Baking Dish".
- Caramelize - To heat granulated sugar or sugar in food to a certain temperature to remove the water from it and break down the sugars and produce a sweet, nutty, buttery flavor and dark brown color.
- Carve - To cut portions of meat for serving.
- Chef's Knife - Multi purpose kitchen knife used in food preparation that is typically 6-10 inches long. Also called a cook's knife.
- Chiffonade - To cut leafy foods, such as herbs or lettuces into thin strips.
- Chill - To cool foods thoroughly in the refrigerator without freezing them.
- Chop - To cut food into bite sized pieces that are approximately ¼ inch in size. Less precise than dicing.
- Chunk - Meat or vegetables that have been cut into large, thick pieces.
- Clarify - Removing solids from a mixture until it becomes clear.
- Coat - To cover food in a thin layer of something. Can also be a sauce covering the back of a spoon in a thin layer.
- Colander - A perforated plastic or metal bowl used to drain foods that have been cooked in liquid, such as pasta or vegetables.
- Combine - To stir ingredients together at low speed with a spoon, spatula, stand mixer or hand mixer.
- Convection Oven - An oven that circulates air around the inside of the oven to cook foods quickly and encourage browning and crisping.
- Cookie Scoop - A metal, spring-loaded kitchen tool used to evenly portion out dough or batter to maintain even size and consistency for baking.
- Cooling Rack - A metal wire rack that allows air to circulate freely to allow baked goods to cool quickly and prevent them from becoming soggy.
- Core - To remove the rough outer skin and seeds from fruits and vegetables.
- Cream - To beat fat, such as butter, with sugar at high speed using a hand mixer or stand mixer until well blended and light in color.
- Cross Contaminate - Spreading bacteria from one food to another by using unwashed kitchen tools and surfaces when preparing raw foods.
- Crumble - To break food that is easily broken apart into smaller pieces.
- Crush - Pressing, grinding or pounding food into a fine powder or paste.
- Cube - To cut solid foods into squares with even sides.
- Cut In - To incorporate butter into flour by smashing it with a pastry cutter, fork or knife until it becomes little clumps covered in flour.
- Dash - This old time cooking measurement roughly works out to ⅛ of a teaspoon.
- Deep Fry - To cook food, fully immersed in fat at moderate heat.
- Debone - To remove the bones from meat, fish or poultry before cooking.
- Deglaze - Adding liquid, such as broth or alcohol to a pan or pot after cooking meat or vegetables in fat. This releases the stuck on browned bits from the bottom of the pan and incorporates it into the liquid to add flavor.
- Dice - To cut food into small pieces that are uniform in size and more precise than chopping.
- Dilute - The process of thinning a liquid by adding more liquid to it to reduce the concentration, quality, flavor or strength.
- Dip - The process of putting food into something, like liquid, quickly to coat.
- Divided - This means the ingredient will be added to the recipe, in parts at different times.
- Dollop - A large scoop of soft or sticky food, such as whipped cream or peanut butter.
- Double Boiler - A cooking device that consists of two pans that fit on top of each other so the food can be cooked slowly in the top pan over the bottom pan of boiling water.
- Dough - A mixture of unbaked flour, liquid and other ingredients that is thicker then a batter and not able to be poured.
- Drain - To pour the liquid or fat from food through a colander or strainer after cooking, such as pasta.
- Dredge - To lightly coat food with dry ingredients such as flour, cornmeal or breadcrumbs.
- Drippings - The fat and juices that drip out of meat after roasting or cooking it.
- Drizzle - To pour a thin stream of liquid, such as a sauce or glaze over food.
- Dry Ingredients - All of the ingredients in the recipe that do not have any moisture.
- Dust - Lightly sprinkling a layer of something, such as powdered sugar or flour.
- Dutch Oven - A large cast iron or enameled pot with a lid that is perfect for stews, soups or braising meat.
- Emulsify - Mixing two ingredients that typically don't mix together at high speed until they become a homogenous liquid, such as oil and water.
- Espagnole - A brown sauce that is thickened by a roux and made from brown stock, mirepoix and tomatoes.
- Fillet - A boneless cut of fish or meat.
- Flambé - A cooking procedure where alcohol is added to a pan and lit on fire.
- Flip - To cook something on one side and then turn over and cook on the other side.
- Fold - The process of mixing a light ingredient into a heavier ingredient by gently mixing in a folding motion.
- Food Mill - A kitchen device used to grind or puree sauces, soups or potatoes.
- Food Processor - A small kitchen appliance with flat, wide blades that can be used for mixing, puréeing, slicing, shredding, grating and chopping.
- Frost - To cover a cake or cupcake in a sugary substance, such as icing or frosting.
- Fry - See "Deep Frying".
- Ganache - A mixture of equal parts of cream and chocolate that is mixed together into a smooth substance for sauces, candy, glazes and more.
- Garnish - An edible substance used to decorate a dish such as fresh herbs.
- Glaze - A sauce that is cooked down so the sugars caramelize and get sticky so it adheres to whatever you apply it to.
- Golden Brown - Cooking something until it has a deep golden color, but is not burned.
- Grate - To rub food against a grater to shred it into smaller pieces.
- Grater - A kitchen tool covered in different size holes with slightly raised edges used for grating foods.
- Grease - To coat a pot or pan in some sort of fat, such as butter, oil or shortening to prevent the food you are cooking from sticking to it.
- Griddle - A large flat, heated surface used for cooking that is usually square or rectangular in shape.
- Grilling, Direct - Cooking food on a grill, directly over the heat source.
- Grilling, Indirect - Cooking food on a grill, on a cooler part that is away from the heat source.
- Grind - The process of breaking down solid food into smaller particles using a meat grinder, spice mill or a coffee grinder.
- Hand Mixer - An electric handheld mixing tool with removable beaters and variable mixing speeds.
- Heavy Bottomed Pot or Pan - A pot or pan with a sturdy base that will prevent food from overcooking and burning.
- Hollandaise - An emulsified sauce comprised of egg yolks, lemon juice and butter that is most commonly served over eggs, meat and seafood.
- Immersion Blender - A hand held blender at the end of the stick that can be immersed into soups and sauces to blend them. It is not as powerful as a counter top or high powered blender but makes blending hot liquid ingredients much easier.
- Infuse - To let an aromatic sit in liquid that is hot or cold to flavor it.
- Julienne - To cut food finely into small matchstick sized pieces.
- Knead - To work or massage dough with your hands before baking to develop the gluten in it.
- Leavening - The process of adding a substance, such as yeast, baking soda or baking powder to dough or other baked goods that enables the dough or batter to rise.
- Macerate - Adding liquid to fresh or dried fruit and allowing it to sit to break down or soften the fruit.
- Mandoline Slicer - A flat surfaced device with a sharp blade that allows you to quickly and easily slice fruits and vegetables.
- Marinate - Letting ingredients sit in a flavorful liquid substance to flavor and tenderize it.
- Measuring Cup, Dry - A metal or plastic cup used to measuring ingredients that do not contain moisture, such as rice, flour, pasta or sugar.
- Measuring Cup, Liquid - A glass or plastic cup with a spout used to measure pourable liquid ingredients such as milk, water, oil and honey.
- Meat Mallet - A hammer like tool used to pound meat to tenderize it and thin it out.
- Melt - A cooking process that heats a solid into a liquid.
- Meringue - A mixture of beaten eggs whites and sugar that is whipped at high speed to form a light, fluffy substance used for pies, cookies and cakes.
- Microplane - A mini grater with fine, razor sharp edges that is used for zesting or fine grating.
- Mince - To cut food into very small pieces so that it allows strongly flavored ingredients, such as garlic or fresh herbs to be evenly distributed throughout the dish.
- Mirepoix - A flavor base used in a variety of soups, sauces and stews that is made from a combination of onions, celery and carrots that are diced and sautéed in oil or butter.
- Mix - A general term used to describe combining ingredients together by stirring.
N - P
- Offset Spatula - A blunt, thin metal flexible tool used to frost cookies and cakes.
- Packed - Pressing the ingredient into the measuring cup or spoon to remove all of the air pockets. Typically used with brown sugar.
- Pan Fry - To cook food in a pan with it submerged in a small amount of fat.
- Pan Sear - This cooking method is done at high heat and used just to caramelize the surface of the food and create a crust, but not completely cook it through.
- Parboil - The process of shortly cooking food immersed in rapidly bubbling liquid so it is only partially cooked.
- Parchment Paper - Paper that is cut into individual sheets or in a roll to be used to line sheet pans to prevent sticking.
- Paring Knife - A short knife that is approximately 3-4 inches long and used to easily do more delicate work, such as peeling or doing more intricate cutting.
- Pastry Brush - A brush used to brush things like a glaze or egg wash on baked good or other foods.
- Pastry Cutter - A kitchen tool used to work fat into flour for baked goods. Also called a pastry blender.
- Peel - To remove the skin or rind from fruit or vegetables using a paring knife or vegetable peeler.
- Pipe - To squeeze frosting or other paste like substances through a piping bag or plastic bag to create a decoration or special shape.
- Pit - The seed or stone in the middle of certain foods such as olives, peaches, plums cherries, nectarines, avocados and apricots
- Pith - The spongy white tissue that lines the rind of citrus fruits.
- Pinch - This old time cooking measurement roughly works out to 1/16 of a teaspoon.
- Poach - The process of gently cooking food such as fish, chicken or vegetables in liquid that is heated to just below the boiling point.
- Pound - To hit meat forcefully with a meat mallet or rolling pin to thin it out and tenderize it.
- Pressure Cook - To cook food in liquid in a special pot, such as an Instant Pot, that is sealed to form pressure that allows the heat to go above normal boiling point which accelerates cooking.
- Proof - The fermentation process in which dough is left to rise for a second time before baking.
- Puree - To blend into a small paste or sauce or a food that has been blended smooth.
- Quarter - To cut food into four equal pieces.
- Quick Bread - A bread that uses baking powder or baking soda to leaven it, instead of yeast.
- Reconstitute - The process of rehydrating dehydrated foods by adding them to water or other liquids.
- Reduce - Boiling or simmering a liquid so it evaporates to create less volume and a more concentrated flavor.
- Reheat - To make something warm or hot again using a microwave, stovetop or oven.
- Render - A cooking technique where the fat on meat, such as bacon or pork, is heated so that it melts off of the meat to make it crisp.
- Rest - To allow meat to sit after cooking so the juices reabsorb into the meat so that it stays juicy and doesn't dry out.
- Ricer - A kitchen tool with small holes in it for which cooked potatoes or other soft foods can be pressed through it to create smaller pieces similar to the size of a grain of rice.
- Rind - The tough outer skin found on certain fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses.
- Rise - The process in which dough expands due to the carbon dioxide that is produced by the yeast or other leavening agents in it.
- Roast - Cooking foods at a high temperature using hot, dry air so the surface is browned and they develop more flavor.
- Roasting Pan - A large deep sided pan used for roasting large meats in the oven.
- Roasting Rack - A rack that sits inside of a roasting pan to hold the meat so the air is able to circulate completely around the meat.
- Roux - Equal parts of flour and fat that are cooked together to form a paste that is used to thicken sauces, soups and stews.
- Rub - A mixture of spices or herbs that is applied to food to add flavor.
- Santoku Knife - This knife is similar to chef's knife, but with a less pronounced tip with a more curved spine at the top and between 5-7 inches in length.
- Sauce Pan - A small deep sided pot with one long handle that is typically used for cooking liquids on the stovetop.
- Sauce Pot - A deep side pot with two short handles on the side that is used for sauces or small amount of soup or stews.
- Sauté - To cook quickly over high heat in a small amount of fat.
- Sauté Pan - A straight sided pan that has a large surface area making it ideal for searing meats.
- Scald - To heat a liquid to just below the boiling point, by gently bringing the temperature up, but stopping just before it boils.
- Score - To cut slits on the surface of food for decoration, to absorb flavor or to allow fat to drain.
- Sear - Browning food, with or without fat, by sautéing or grilling over high heat.
- Season - Adding flavorings to food to enhance its taste.
- Serrated Knife - A knife with saw-like notches or teeth formed into one side of the blade surface that enables it to cut through surfaces of food easily without damaging it. Also called a bread knife.
- Set/Partially Set - Meaning the state at which the liquid form of the food turns partially or fully to a solid such as in custards, gelatins or puddings.
- Shave - To make very thin slices of food, typically done with either a mandoline slicer or vegetable peeler.
- Sheet Pan - See "Baking Sheet".
- Shock - To quickly stop cooking a food that has been blanched, by immersing it into ice water.
- Shred - To scrape food across the shredding surface of a box grater to create strips.
- Sieve - A basket made of metal fine-mesh weave with a handle attached.
- Sift - The process of breaking up lumps and aerating dry ingredients by using a sieve or sifter.
- Sifter - A kitchen utensil with a mesh bottom used to sift dry ingredients.
- Silicone Baking Mat - A non-stick baking surface made from high quality, food-grade silicone that is used on baking sheets to prevent food from sticking to it.
- Silicone Spatula - A flexible rubber spatula made up of high quality, food-grade silicone that is heat resistant. Perfect for mixing thick batters or sauces or for scraping the sides of bowls, pots or pans.
- Simmer - To heat a liquid until it bubbles gently, but not rapidly.
- Skillet - A pan with a flat wide based and flared rounded sides that is sometimes called a frying pan.
- Skim - To remove the fat from the top of a liquid using a spoon or skimmer.
- Slice - Means to cut against the grain into thin, uniform pieces.
- Sliver - A very thin slice of food cut with a sharp knife.
- Slow Cook - Cooking food at low heat for a long amount of time. Typically done in a Crock Pot or dutch oven.
- Smoke - To infuse food with smoke made from wood, either with hot smoke which cooks the food or cold smoke, which does not.
- Snip - Using kitchen scissors to cut or cut off a piece of food, remove sections or create slits.
- Soft Peaks - Peaks that do not hold their shape and immediately flop over when you hold a beater up with the mixture on it.
- Sous Vide - A cooking method using water heated by an immersion circulator to cook the food.
- Spatchcock - Splitting open a whole chicken or turkey and removing the back bone to allow it to lay flat for cooking.
- Spatula - A broad, flat, flexible blade used to mix, spread or lift foods.
- Stand Mixer - A heavy duty electric mixer attached to a stand that sits on a counter top and includes various attachments for mixing batters, doughs and more.
- Steam - A cooking method that uses moist heat by boiling water that vaporizes into steam that heats the food and cooks it. Typically done with a steamer basket or food steamer.
- Steep - To allow dry ingredients to sit in liquid so that it takes on the flavor of the dry ingredients, such as in tea or coffee.
- Stew - To cook foods by simmering or slow boiling.
- Stiff Peaks - Peaks that do not hold their shape and stick straight up in the air when you hold a beater up with the mixture on it.
- Stir - To move a spoon or spatula around to mix ingredients together.
- Stir Fry - To cook foods quickly in a little bit of fat while stirring briskly.
- Stock - A savory liquid, similar to broth, but with the addition of bones cooked with meat and vegetables in water for a long period of time. Typically used in soups, sauces and gravy.
- Stock Pot - A large pot for cooking liquids such as broth or stocks or for boiling pasta.
- Strain - To pour food through a fine mesh sieve or strainer to remove unwanted parts to create a more smooth, refined product.
- Stuff - An edible substance or mixture placed inside another food item.
- Sweat - To gently cook food in fat to soften it, but not brown it. Also, to leach out extra moisture from an item by covering it in salt.
- Tenderize - The process of making meat more tender by using a process or adding something to it to break down the connective tissue.
- Thaw - Warming a frozen food to a state where there is no residual ice.
- Thermometer, Candy - A heatproof thermometer that is specifically marked with temperatures for candy making.
- Thermometer, Instant Read - A thermometer that can be inserted into cooked food to quickly read the temperature on a digital display or on a dial.
- Thermometer, Infrared - A laser type thermometer that allows you to take the temperature of the surface of food or material it is being pointed at. Perfect for checking the temperature of liquids and cooking surfaces.
- Thermometer, Probe or Meat - An oven proof thermometer with a probe on it that is inserted into meat and left in to constantly monitor the temperature of the meat during cooking.
- Thin - See "Dilute".
- Toast - To make food crisp, hot and browned by heat.
- Toss - To mix ingredients lightly by gently lifting it up and dropping it.
- Trim - The process of removing excess or unwanted pieces of food from it.
- Truss - A technique of tying up a whole chicken or turkey so the wings and legs stay close to the body to encourage even cooking.
U - W
- Veloute - A savory sauce made from a roux and light colored sauce.
- Wedge - To cut food into large slices that may be irregular in shape.
- Wet Ingredients - All of the ingredients that contain moisture.
- Whisk - To mix or beat with a whisk.
- Whip - To incorporate air into an ingredient by beating or whisking it rapidly.
- Wilt - The process of warming delicate ingredients until they just barely cook, such as spinach, fresh herb or arugula.
X - Z
- Zest - The outer most part of citrus fruit or the process of removing the outer most layer of citrus fruit typically by using a microplane.