Cookbook Lingo: 101 Terms & Definitions

This is a collection of terms gathered through the years from cookbooks, magazines, recipe instructions and long-forgotten resources. If you find yourself having to look up definitions fairly often, you can print this off then put it in a plastic sleeve and hang it on the inside of a cupboard door (out of sight but right at your fingertips when needed).

  1. Bain-marie: A French double boiler or a large open vessel half-filled with hot water in which saucepans are placed to keep contents nearly at boiling point.
  2. Bake: To cook by dry heat in the oven.
  3. Baste: To moisten food while cooking with juices from the pan or other liquid. The liquid is ladled over the food to prevent dryness and add flavor.
  4. Beat: To mix with quick, even, over-and-over motion with a spoon, whip or rotary beater.
  5. Bind: This is to bind together the ingredients and complete the making of a sauce. Bind with egg, butter, cream. Binding is simply a holding together to prevent curdling or separation of the sauce and to complete the texture.
  6. Blanch: To scald quickly; e.g. pouring boiling water over almonds to loosen skins.
  7. Blend: To mix thoroughly two or more ingredients.
  8. Boil: To cook in liquid at boiling temperature–bubbles should be breaking on the surface of the liquid and steam should be given off.
  9. Braise: To brown meat or vegetables in a small amount of hot fat or liquid and then covered and cooked slowly either in juices or in small amount of added liquid on top of range or in oven.
  10. Bread: To coat with flour, then dip into slightly diluted beaten egg or milk. Can also be given a final coat with bread, cereal or cracker crumbs.
  11. Broil: To cook by searing the surface with direct heat under a broiler or over hot coals.
  12. Brown: To briefly fry meat, poultry, etc., in a little hot fat until brown on the outside.
  13. Brush: To coat an object very lightly with a liquid such as melted shortening, milk, egg yolk or thin icing, using a pastry brush.
  14. Caramelize: To melt sugar slowly over low heat until it becomes brown in color and a sharp characteristic flavor develops.
  15. Chill: To refrigerate until thoroughly cold.
  16. Chop: To cut in fine or coarse pieces with a knife, chopper or scissors.
  17. Clarify: To make a liquid (ie. melted butter) clear by skimming away or filtering out fat or other impurities.
  18. Coat: To cover thoroughly with a fine film of flour, crumbs, etc.
  19. Coddle: To cook slowly and gently in liquid just below the boiling point.
  20. Compote: Is made by gently poaching fruit in a syrup and serving chilled or hot. A sweetened, stewed fruit left whole or in pieces.
  21. Condiments: Food seasonings such as salt, pepper, vinegar, spices.
  22. Cool: To let stand at room temperature until no longer warm.
  23. Cream: To work one or more ingredients until soft and creamy. Applied to fat and sugar.
  24. Crumble: To crush food (crisp bacon, bread, etc.) with fingers until it is coarse crumbs.
  25. Crush: To break up solids such as ice or crackers by force.
  26. Cut In: To mix evenly a solid fat into dry ingredients (ie. shortening and flour) by chopping with two knives or a pastry blender.
  27. Dash: A quick shake of a seasoning less than 1/8th of a teaspoon.
  28. Deep Fry: To cook in enough hot fat or oil to cover and float food.
  29. Dice: To chop in small cubes.
  30. Dip: To immerse briefly in liquid.
  31. Dissolve: To cause a dry substance to dissolve into solution in a liquid.
  32. Dollop: A heaped-up mound of whipped cream (or sour cream, etc.) spooned on a food to garnish it.
  33. Drain: To remove liquid from a food by placing it in a colander or sieve or by using a lid.
  34. Dredge: To sift a light coating over food with flour or sugar.
  35. Drippings: The juice and fat left in a pan after roasting or frying meat or poultry.
  36. Dust: To sprinkle lightly with flour or sugar.
  37. Fillet: A piece of meat, poultry or fish without bones.
  38. Flake: To break food into small pieces with a fork.
  39. Flour: To coat lightly with flour (ie. fruit, nuts, cake tins).
  40. Flute: To make decorative indentations around edge of pies and pastries.
  41. Fold In: To combine ingredients with a gentle up-and-over motion–cutting down through and bringing up close to bowl then folding over before cutting down through again. Usually used to combine a mixture with beaten egg whites or whipped cream so that air is not lost from the whipped material.
  42. French Fry: Same as Deep Fry (above).
  43. Fricassee: To cook by braising; usually applied to fowl, rabbit or veal cut into pieces.
  44. Garnish: To decorate with colorful and contrasting food.
  45. Ghee: The clear yellow liquid obtained by melting unsalted butter and discarding the sediment settled on the bottom.
  46. Glace: To coat with a thin sugar syrup cooked to the “crack” stage.
  47. Glaze: To coat with a smooth mixture to give food a glossy appearance.
  48. Grate: To cut into fine particles by rubbing against a grater.
  49. Gratin (Au Gratin): A dish covered with crumbs and cheese and baked either in the oven or under a broiler.
  50. Grease: To rub and coat the inside of a baking pan with fat before pouring in food or batter.
  51. Grill: To cook on a rack over hot coals or other direct heat. Same as broil.
  52. Grind: To reduce to particles in a grinder, blender or food processor.
  53. Ice: To cover the surface of a cake or pastry with fondant, frosting or whipped cream.
  54. Julienne: To cut meat, vegetables or fruit into long matchlike strips.
  55. Knead: To work dough with the hands by folding it over on itself and pushing down and away with the heels of the hands in a rhythmic motion, turning the dough one quarter turn after each pushing and folding motion.
  56. Lard or Larding: To lard is the process of drawing through poultry and meat thin strips of salt pork or bacon. It is done with a larding needle and the object is to add fat and succulence to the meat or fish and to overcome any possible dryness.
  57. Marinate: To let food stand in a seasoned sauce called a marinade to tenderize and increase flavor.
  58. Mash: To reduce food to a smooth consistency by pressing it with a potato masher and then beating the food with a spoon.
  59. Mask: To just cover or coat the top of food in reference to sauce, mayonnaise.
  60. Melt: To change to a liquid state (ie. melt chocolate, butter, etc.).
  61. Mince: To cut with knife or scissors into very fine pieces.
  62. Mix: To combine ingredients until evenly blended; usually by stirring.
  63. Oven-poach: To bake a dish of food by setting it in a larger dish containing water.
  64. Panbroil: To cook uncovered in a hot frying pan, ungreased or very lightly greased, pouring off the fat as it accumulates.
  65. Parboil: To boil in water until partially cooked. The cooking is usually completed by another method.
  66. Pare: Remove outer covering or skin with knife.
  67. Peel: To strip off or pull away outer covering of fruit or vegetable.
  68. Pinch: As much of an ingredient as can be held between thumb and index finger (1/16 teaspoon).
  69. Pipe: To decorate a food item (cakes, vegetables, etc.) with a pastry bag and tube.
  70. Poach: To cook gently in liquid at simmering point so that food retains its shape.
  71. Pound: To break down and crush a food by hitting it repeatedly.
  72. Preheat: To heat oven, fry pan, etc., to the correct cooking temperature before adding the food.
  73. Prick: To pierce with a fork or skewer.
  74. Puree: To put food through a sieve, blender or processor to produce the thick pulp or paste with juice.
  75. Reduce: To rapidly boil down the volume of a liquid to concentrate flavor.
  76. Render: To extract clear fat from the fat parts of meat or poultry.
  77. Rice: To put cooked food through a vegetable or fruit press.
  78. Roast: To cook meat in an uncovered pan by dry heat in an oven.
  79. Roux: A blend of fat and flour used to thicken sauces, soups, and gravies.
  80. Rub: To press against a surface with fingertips; to rub seasonings into meat, etc.
  81. Sauté: To brown in a small quantity of fat.
  82. Scald: To heat just below boiling point. To pour boiling water over vegetables, etc., draining at once or allowing to stand for a few minutes.
  83. Score: To cut shallow slits or gashes in surface with a knife or fork.
  84. Sear: To brown the surface of meat by a short application of intense heat–used to develop flavor and improve appearance, although shrinkage is increased.
  85. Shred: To cut into long, thin strips with a knife or shredder.
  86. Sift: To put one or more ingredients through a fine sieve.
  87. Simmer: To cook in liquid just below the boiling point.
  88. Skim: To spoon off fat or scum on the surface of stews, soups, etc. To remove cream from the top of milk.
  89. Sliver: To cut into long thin pieces with a knife (ie. almonds).
  90. Sponge: A batter made with yeast in it.
  91. Steam: To cook covered, directly over boiling water or in a tightly covered utensil called a steamer.
  92. Steep: To let stand for a few minutes in water that has just been boiled to enhance flavor and color.
  93. Stew: To simmer in a small quantity of liquid for a long time.
  94. Stir: To mix food materials with a circular motion for the purpose of blending or securing a uniform consistency.
  95. Stir Fry: To cook in a frypan or wok over high heat in a small amount of fat, tossing or stirring constantly.
  96. Thicken: To add a thickening agent such as flour, cornstarch, egg yolks, etc.
  97. Toast: To brown with dry heat in an oven or toaster.
  98. Truss: To tie poultry into shape before roasting so that it will hold its shape while cooking.
  99. Until Set: Until a liquid has become firm, usually applied to a gelatin mixture.
  100. Well: A hole made in the middle of dry ingredients into which liquid is poured before mixing.
  101. Whip: To beat with a fork, whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer used to incorporate air and increase volume.

Fun Kitchen Goodies: Free Printable Recipe Cards – A Nice Collection plus these treats–21 Free Kitchen, Household & Crafty Printables and Ideas for Organizing Recipes.

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    • Christense Andersen

    What’s the difference between ghee and clarified butter?

    • TipNut

    They’re the same Christence :).

    • Bunny

    I was just reading your definitions of cooking terms. Condiments can also refer, more often, to extra ingredients offered such as mustard, catsup, relish, chopped onions, etc.

    • Donna Black

    In old time recipe what do they mean by prince bear, papa bear and baby bear?

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