Culinary Dictionary – Cooking Terms and Meaning

Culinary Dictionary – Cooking Terms and Meaning

Confused over the culinary terms??? I agree, you are all well-qualified and no doubt about your OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlanguage skills. But, did you know that these bunch of words could mean different in a kitchen?! Well, when I was a newbie to cooking, I had a hard time figuring it out. :( And I believe a novice cook may find it bit daunting as well! Sometimes…even an experienced cooks duck-out when they come across some terms that they are not familiar with! They just wonder “does it really means what I think it means?” There are more than 5000 +  culinary terms which describes ingredients, methods of cooking, and the kitchen tools. While other terms are names of appetizers, entrees and desserts. So, today…I present my meticulous job on Culinary Dictionary that is widely used in Indian kitchen for you all. :) Hope this post will help you understand the recipes in a much brighter light. :)

Cooking Glossary – Terms and Meanings

Cooking Terms


Aerate To pass food through a fine mesh, so that the larger pieces or lumps stay on the sieve. This process makes the flown-flour to be incorporated with air.
Age To get food older under controlled conditions. Examples: Aged meat, cheese, wine etc.
Adjust To taste food while cooking and to add seasonings or flavoring agents according to one’s wish.
Al dente Italian for “to the tooth,” described perfectly cooked pasta. It just means tender but yet offers a slight resistance when bitten.
Bake To cook food, covered or uncovered, using the direct or dry heat oven.
Baste To brush a liquid over food. For example basting a sauce or butter to cover the roasted meat, during cooking to keep them moist.
Batter An uncooked wet mixture, which could be spooned or poured to cook. It could be of heavy chunky consistency to very thin watery consistency.
Beat To actively whisk with a spoon or an electric mixer until smooth.
Bind To combine two or more ingredients together, in order to hold the morsels in place.
Blacken To cook a dish for a prolonged period to develop a rich blackened surface.
Bias Slice To slice vegetables in a slant 45-degrees angle.
Brown To cook food quickly to develop a richly browned flavorful surface.
Blanch To partially cook vegetables, fruits and nuts in boiling water or steam to intensify color and flavor. Sometimes, even to free the pulp from skin.
Blend To combine two or more ingredients to smooth or uniformly mix. Can be done using an appliance or with spoons.
Bone To remove bone from the meat or even fish.
Braise To cook food in a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan in a stove top method or in an oven. Best way to cook flaky fish.
Brew To pass steam over the strong ingredients and collect the percolated water, which is very potent.
Broil To cook food in a direct heat in a broiler. Preheat the oven, but not the dish, racks or the pan…to avoid food sticking to the pan.
Brush To give a glaze to the food using a brush.
Burn To char something up intentionally for flavor.
Butterfly To split a food, such as shrimps or prawns. Cutting almost but not all the way through, almost like an open book.
Carve To cut or slice the cooked meat into serving portions.
Can To preserve the foods and placing them in glass, ceramic or metal containers to prolong shelf-life.
Caramelize The process through which the natural sugars in foods becomes brown and flavorful. Caramelizing could be hastened with the addition of sugar.
Char To blacken the food a little to enhance grilled flavor.
Chill To place the food in a refrigerator until its completely cool.
Chop To cut food roughly into small, irregular pieces.
Chunk To cut foods into irregular shapes, larger than cubes.
Churn To use a long stick and rock the food until it separates into two mediums. Usually to buttermilk, where the process pushes out fatty layer to stay on the top.
Clarify To remove the solids from the liquids, so its clear enough.
Coddle To cook gently, below the boiling point.
Crumble To break the food into small pieces, not necessarily uniform pieces.
Congeal To turn liquid into solid by chilling.
Core To remove the center of various fruits, which eliminated seeds or tough woody centers.
Cream To beat a fat, like butter until fluffy. Its a technique to ship air into the fat.
Cure To treat food by one of the different methods for preservation purpose.
Curdle To coagulate or separate into solids and liquids.
Crimp To pinch or press the dough edges, to create a seal or decorative finish.
Dash If the recipe calls for a ‘dash’ of ingredient, it is somewhat relative. However, the most accurate amount appears to be 1/16 of a teaspoon. Literally, you add an ingredient “in a dash”.
Debone To remove bones from the meat.
Decorate To finish the food with other edibles stuff for an visual appeal.
Deep Fry To cook food by submerging in hot oil.
Deglaze To add a liquid to the pan, in which meat was done previously to prepare a a quick sauce using the left-over crust and seasonings.
Devil To add a spicy ingredient to food.
Dice To cut into small uniform pieces.
Dissolve To cause a dry substance to pass into the solution in a liquid.
Dip To immerse the food in the liquid (usually for flavor).
Dough To prepare a tough consistency mass of ingredients, prior to cooking.
Dredge To lightly coat food with a dry ingredients, typically bread crumbs or flour. It develops a delicious crisp exterior after frying.
Drizzle To slowly pour a liquid, such as clarified butter to bring a uniform glaze.
Devein To remove the dark intestine (gut) of a shrimp, though its guts…it is widely perceived as vein due to the very thin appearance.
Defrost To thaw food.
Dust To sprinkle very lightly with a dry ingredients, typically dry working flour while kneading.
Emulsify To bind liquids that usually can’t blend smoothly otherwise. For example a fat and water. Its a trick to add one by one in slow steam.
Egg Wash Is a mixture of eggs yolks / whites mixed with water or milk. Which is used to baste the breads, pies or puffs before baking. It conceals, acts like a seal and give a glaze to the dish.
Ferment To bring about a chemical change in food and beverages; The change itself is caused by the bacteria or yeast. Its much like ‘controlled spoilage’. :)
Fillet As a verb, to remove the bones from the meat or fish. A fillet is a piece of meat after it has been boned.
Fricassee To cook by braising; usually applied to fowl or rabbit.
Filter To pass the liquid through a sieve or even percolate through a steamer and bring a desired liquid on the other end.
Flavor To enrich the food with flavoring agents, like spices and herbs.
Flip To turn over the food, such as pancakes to finish cooking on the other side.
Floret To cut vegetables like broccoli and cauliflowers into small clusters.
Fold To incorporate a light-airy mixture (like an beaten egg whites) with a heavier mixture (cake batter).
Fluff To disturb the food using fork to make it airy and soft.
Freeze To leave the food in a freezer.
Frost To cover a cake or cookie with an icing.
Froth To beat a beverage until the bubbles or foam forms on the surface.
Fry To cook food in hot oil, until brown and crisp.
Garnish To enhance finished foods with flavor or visual appeal by using other edible products on the plate.
Gel To use a specific ingredient to seal the food. Like egg whites, oil or even water.
Glaze To process of dipping or brushing, usually with sugar based liquid to bring out a shiny finish to the foods.
Grate To rub the food in a micro-plane, or alternatively use food processor to yield a fine grated result. The size of the grate depends and varies, according to the recipes.
Grease To coat food or the utensils with fat or oil to prevent food from sticking.
Grill To cook food on a rack over a direct heat source, such as charcoal.
Grind To process foods finely in a grinder. The advantage of grinding your own stuff is that you have total control over the texture from fine to coarse.
Heat To apply a heat source to warm the food or utensils.
Hull It actually means to remove the outer husk of the grains, in culinary terms however…it means to remove unwanted stalks, stems and leaves.
Infuse To steep an aromatic ingredient in hot liquid until the flavor has been extracted. Teas are infusions.
Inject To force liquid into the foods to enhance flavor, more often to moisten the meat.
Imbibe Where the lentils or legumes suck enough liquid, when soaked in the liquid.
Juice To extract the liquid from the fruits or vegetables.
Julienne To cut food, especially vegetables into thin matchsticks thickness and about 2 inches long.
Knead To work dough until its smooth, either by pressing with hands or in a food processor. It develops the gluten in the flour, an elastic tendency.
Layer To arrange a food one over the other.
Leaven Any agent that causes a dough or batter to raise. Common leavening agents are baking soda, salt or yeast.
Lukewarm Neither cold not hot, approximately warm enough to touch…typically like one’s body temperature.
Marinate To flavor or tenderize a food by letting it to soak in a liquid, usually acidic juices.
Mash To crush a food into smooth evenly textured state.
Melt To apply heat or sometimes even the room temperature would be enough to bring the solid food to loosen up a little. The consistency varies from ingredient to ingredient.
Mince To chop into tiny, irregular pieces.
Pare To cut away the skin of the meat, fruits or vegetables. A small knife is used for this purpose, called ‘paring knife’.
Par boil To cook a food partially in boiling water. Thereby it retains some freshness and nutrients.
Pasteurize To sterilize milk by heating and then rapidly cooking it.
Pinch To amount of a powdery ingredients that could be held between your thumb and forefinger.
Poach To cook food gently in simmering liquid; where the liquid should be large enough to hold the food and it should dry out that easily.
Pound To flatten meat to an uniform thickness using a kitchen hammer or rolling pin. This gives out a nice uniform crust to the dish.
Peel To remove the other skin or rind from vegetables and fruits.
Percolate To pass the steam through a potent ingredient, which yields a strong liquid.
Pit To remove the seed from the fruits.
Pop To make the food bulge into 2-3 folds.
Pickle To preserve the food (meat, vegetables or fruits) in a brine.
Prick To pierce a food in a few or many places to prevent bursting.
Puree To form a smooth mixture by whirling food, usually a fruit or vegetable, in a blender.
Pat To gently press the food to remove moisture or to flatten it.
Plump To soak the dry fruits in liquids to make them swell.
Pulp The inner core of the fruits or vegetables, without skin. Or to crush the food into paste.
Pipe To force a food through a pastry tip to use as a decoration or a garnish.
Reduce To rapidly boil a liquid down to a thicken, so that the much liquid is evaporated.
Roast To cook food in the oven, in an uncovered pan, so the dry air circulates to bring out an brown exterior to the dish.
Refresh To run cold water over a food that has been previously boiled or par-boiled to further stop the cooking process.
Reconstitute To restore condensed or concentrated foods to its original strength by adding liquids.
Refrigerate To leave the food in the refrigerator.
Render To heat a solid fat (usually animal fat) over a low heat until it is melted.
Rind To describe the outer skin of the citrus fruits.
Roll To use a rolling pin to flatten the dough or to gather the food to form a desired shape.
Rub To apply seasoning mixture to the surface of the meat or food.
Quarter To cut or divide into four equal parts.
Saute A French term ‘sautey’ meaning ‘to jump’, it refers to the style of shaking the wok. Its a method to cook food quickly in a small amount of hot-fat in a skillet.
Scald To heat milk until tiny bubbles just begin to appear around the edges of the kettle or pan. Its not a complete boil, so use this method to only pasteurized milk.
Sear To brown the surface of the meat quickly in a hot pan to enrich flavor.
Shred To cut, tear or grate in a such a way that the vegetable or meat looks like thin strips.
Seed To remove the seeds from the vegetables.
Stir-constantly To stir during the entire time of cooking.
Stock The well-flavored broth that is made by simmering meat or poultry, fish or vegetables with herbs spices and vegetables.
Scoop To take a ladle full of moist food stuff.
Score To cut shallow slices, along the surface of the meat, to tenderize. To peel of a vegetable, can also be scored for a decorative look.
Scramble To stir gently with a fork or spoon while cooking. Eggs are often scrambled.
Season To apply flavoring agents, such as spices, salt or herbs.
Separate To divide into half or two equal parts.
Sieve To pass the grains or flour through a mesh to yield an uniform or clean ingredient. Where the impurities or lumps gather on the top of the mesh, which is easily discarded.
Shell To remove the tough non-edible cover of a vegetable or seafood.
Sift To pass ingredients such as flour through a fine mesh to remove lumps or impurities or for uniformity.
Simmer To cook liquid gently, alone with other ingredients, over the low-medium heat, well below the boiling point for a considerable duration.
Skim To remove fat or froth from the surface of a liquid.
Skin To peel off the outer skin of a vegetable or meat.
Slice To cut into thin, flat pieces.
Sliver To cut into long, thin strips.
Set To test for done texture, when the surface of the food is firm to touch.
Smoke To apply smoke (from a burning wood or charcoal) to irradiate the food and enhance flavor and its widely used in preserving fish or meat.
Soak To leave the food in a liquid medium until it is completely immersed. And usually they imbibe a lot, so enough liquid is recommended according to the ingredients and quantities…you choose to soak.
Shave To use a peeler to shave the foods, like chocolates or cheese.
Sprinkle To scatter lightly.
Steam To cook on a rack, above the boiling liquid with a well-covered lid.
Steep To soak dry ingredients, such as spices, tea and coffee in a hot liquid.
Stew To cook either by boiling or simmering with a heavy lid for along period of time.
Stir-fry To fry small pieces and small portion over a high heat.
Strain To pass liquid or moist ingredients through a colander, sieve or cheesecloth to hold and remove the solid lumps.
Stuff To fill the cavity of a poultry or vegetables with a well-seasoned mixture prior to cooking.
Snip To finely cut with kitchen scissors.
Sweat To cook vegetables in small amount of fat, in a low heat with heavy lid…until juices form and the vegetable begin to brown.
Tenderize To make the food be little tender, either by using tenderizing agents like marinades or its a style of cooking and sometimes, even the right kind of procurements help to tenderize certain foods.
Toast To apply heat and dry-out all the moisture present in the food.
Thread To arrange the foods in a skewer stick.
Truss To secure the poultry using a skewer or threads to hold its shape, while cooking.
Turn Flip over the food to the other side to cook.
Trim To lightly cut the edges.
Temper To hat food gently before adding it to a hot mixture so it doesn’t separate or curdle the entire dish.
Toss To lift and drop pieces of food quickly and gently, to ensure uniform coating.
Whip To beat an ingredient or mixture rapidly, adding air and increasing volume.
Wash To wash with running tap water.
Wedge To cut into large slices.
Warm Apply heat to the food.
Whisk To beat ingredients or mixture rapidly, adding air and increasing volume. Whip with whisk or egg beater.
Wilt To heat food until it limps, such as green leafy vegetables.
Zap To cook something in a microwave quickly.
Zest To grate the colored peel of the citrus fruits. Sometimes, the peel itself is also called zest. 

3 Responses so far.

  1. Asiya Omar says:

    Thanks for sharing Malar.

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