An A-Z of common cooking terms: Trying recipes can be challenging without knowing some common cooking-related terms. If you are a beginner or just confused about some culinary terminologies, our glossary of common cooking terms is here to help you out. Some of the most common are defined here.
Al dente: To cook food until just firm, usually referring to pasta, but can include vegetables, rice, & beans too.
Bake: Cook food using dry heat without exposure to a flame.
Baste: To pour melted fat or juices over meat or other foods while cooking in order to keep it moist.
Batter: A mixture of flour, liquid, and sometimes with other ingredients of a thin, creamy, consistency.
Beat: To stir vigorously in a circular motion to make a smooth mixture, using a whisk, spoon, mixer, or food processor.
Blanch: Food is briefly immersed in boiling water followed by ice water to soften, stop enzyme action, or loosen the skin.
Blend: To combine together thoroughly two or more ingredients by hand, with a blender, or by using an electric mixer.
Boil: To heat a liquid until many bubbles appear on the surface.
Braise: To cook first by sauteing the food in butter or oil, then gently simmering in a small amount of liquid over low heat for a long period of time.
Broil: To expose food to direct radiant heat either on a grill over live coals or below a gas burner or electric coil.
Brown: To cook the food over high heat (usually on the stove-top) to give it a brown color.
Caramelize: To heat sugar until it melts and becomes a syrup.
Chop: To cut foods into fine or coarse cut pieces, usually specified by the recipe.
Coat: To cover a food with or dipping it into an ingredient such as flour, egg, breadcrumbs, or sauce.
Cream: To beat ingredients solid fat until soft, smooth and fluffy.
Cube: Cut food into small pieces, usually about ⅓ to ½ inch.
Curdle: To break or separate a liquid food by acid or excessive heat.
Dash: A liquid measurement which is approximately ⅛ teaspoon.
Dice: To cut into small pieces of equal size so that the food is evenly cooked.
Dollop: A small amount of a soft semi-solid food item placed on top of another food.
Dough: A thick mixture of flour and liquid and sometimes with other ingredients that form a soft, thick mass.
Dredge: To lightly coat food with a dry mixture prior to cooking, usually with flour, cornmeal, or bread crumbs, to be pan-fried or sautéed.
Dress: To coat wet or moist foods with a sauce with dry ingredients such as salad. Also sometimes denotes a special method of preparation, that looks as attractive as possible.
Drizzle: To pour liquid in a thin stream or to fall in fine drops over a food, usually melted butter, oil, syrup, or melted chocolate.
Dust: To coat lightly with powdery ingredients, such as confectioners’ sugar or cocoa.
Fillet: A boneless piece of meat, poultry, or fish.
Flambe: To drizzle a flammable spirit such as alcohol over food while cooking, to create a burst of flame.
Fold: Gently combine light and airy ingredients with a heavier one, using an over-and-under motion.
Fry: To cook in hot fat or oil either by shallow-frying with a small quantity of fat or by deep-frying with a sufficient amount of fat by covering the food completely.
Garnish: An edible decoration added to a savory or sweet dish to improve its appearance.
Glaze: To coat foods with mixtures such as jellies or sauces.
Grate: Creates tiny pieces of food, best for things like cheese to melt quickly or a vegetable used in a sauce.
Grease: To coat the interior of a pan or dish with shortening, oil, or butter to prevent food from sticking during cooking.
Grind: To reduce hard food such as pulses, lentils, rice, and so forth, to a fine or coarse paste in a grinder or blender.
Julienne: Cutting vegetables until long, thin strips, approximately 1/4 inch thick and 1 inch long.
Knead: The process of mixing dough with the hands or a mixer
Marinate: To soak in a sauce or flavoured liquid for a long period of time, usually meat, poultry or fish.
Mince: To cut as small as possible, most commonly used with garlic.
Pan Fry: Cook larger chunks of food over medium-heat, flipping once only.
Parboil: To partially cook by boiling, usually to prepare the food for cooking by another method.
Patty: A small individual pie
Poach: To cook gently over very low heat, in barely simmering water just to cover.
Pinch: An amount that could literally pinch between your forefinger and thumb. Which is somewhere between 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoon.
Puree: To mash or grind food until completely smooth.
Roast: To cook food using dry heat, whether an open flame, oven, or other heat sources.
Rub in: To incorporate the ingredients using the fingertips.
Saute: To cook small pieces of food in an open pan with hot oil, usually to prevent it from sticking.
Scald: To heat a liquid until just below the boiling point.
Sear: To cook the surface of meat or seafood over high heat until a browned crust forms in order to seal in the meat’s juices.
Seasoning: The process of adding salts, herbs, spices to food to enhance the flavor.
Shred: Cutting food into thin slices or pieces using a sharp knife, food processor, or grater.
Sift: To shake a dry ingredient through a sieve or flour sifter to remove lumps.
Simmer: Bring a pot to a boil, then reduce the heat until there are no bubbles.
Skewer: Fasten together pieces of food compactly on a specially designed long pin or stick for cooking.
Skim: To remove fat or foam from the surface of a liquid.
Slice: To cut vertically down into thin, uniform pieces, thickness sometimes specified by the recipe.
Smidgen: It is half a pinch which is approximately 1/32 teaspoon.
Steam: To cook food separate from the boiling water but has direct contact with the steam. Such as on a rack or in a steamer set over boiling or simmering water.
Steep: To soak a dry ingredient in a liquid just under the boiling point to soften it and extract the flavor.
Stew: To cook solid food ingredients covered over low heat in a liquid for a substantial period of time.
Stir: To mix with circular action, usually with a spoon, fork, or spatula.
Whip: To beat food with a whisk or mixer to incorporate air and increase volume.
Whisk: To beat ingredients rapidly with a fork or a whisk into a light mixture.
Zest: The outer, coloured peel of a citrus fruit.