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How to Understand Food and Cooking Terms Meanings

Updated on November 1, 2017
tlcs profile image

I love to cook when time is available. I hope you like these recipes.

Come unstuck with a term in a recipe that you are using?

There is nothing worse when your cooking and using a recipe book when you come across a term that you have not seen before and you find yourself scratching your head not knowing what it means is there?

That made me think that perhaps a dictionary of cooking terms could be come quite useful for some of us who do not understand some of the sayings that are used in cook books.

Hopefully these terms and explanations that I have found out may help the less knowing cooks of us!

So many terms used in cooking that some of us are not aware of the meaning!
So many terms used in cooking that some of us are not aware of the meaning! | Source

A for Al Dente, Aspic and Au Gratin

Al dente - The texture of pasta once cooked - firm to the bite.

Aspic - Used to mould or garnish savory dishes it is a clear jelly made form the cooked juices of meat or fish.

Au Gratin - By covering a cooked dish with breadcrumbs or a sauce this method is used for finishing the dish and then by browning under the grill or oven.

Bouquet Garni - Small bunch of herbs
Bouquet Garni - Small bunch of herbs | Source

B is for Bain-Marie, Bake Blind, Bard, Baste, Blanch, Blood Heat , Braise and Boquet Garni

Bain-Marie - Is a shallow pan of cold or tepid water with a smaller pan placed in the water. Uses are to cook or keep hot sauces, baked custards or egg dishes without the over heating that makes them curdle.

Bake Blind - To bake a pastry case without it's filling.

Bard - To cover lean meat, game or poultry with strips of pork fat or fat bacon during cooking to prevent drying out.

Baste - Is to ladle hot fat or liquid over food during cooking, especially roast potatoes.

Bind - To hold a dry mixture together by working a liquid, egg or melted fat into it.

Blanch - To steep food in boiling water in order to soften, clean or whiten it, or to remove strong flavors, or to make the skin easier to peel.

Blood Heat - A temperature of 37C. Food at this heat feels lukewarm to the fingertips.

Braise - To cook meat or vegetables slowly in a steam covered pot with a little water or stock.

Bouquet Garni - A small bunch of herbs used to flavor soups and stews. It is tied with cotton or put in a muslin bag and removed from the pot before serving.

Mushroom Soup with Croutons
Mushroom Soup with Croutons | Source

C for Carrageen, Casserole, Clarified Fat, Consomme, Coral, Creaming, Croutes, Croutons, Curd, Curdle and Cure

Carrageen - An edible seaweed, also known as Irish moss, found along Ireland's rocky Atlantic cost. It is used as a vegetable or to set jellies.

Casserole - An ovenproof cooking vessel with a lid also the stew cooks in it.

Clarified Fat - Butter, or other fat that has been heated and strained to remove impurities or sediment.

Consomme - A clear soup.

Coral - Orange shellfish roe.

Creaming - Working together a mixture such as fat and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy, like whipped cream.

Croutes - Slices or fingers of fried or toasted bread, used as a base for serving savoury mixtures or as a garnish.

Croutons - Small cubes of fried bread used to garnish soups and dishes served with a sauce.

Curd - The semi-solid part of curdled milk. But lemon curd is lemon rind and juice cooked with sugar, eggs and butter to a spreading consistency.

Curdle - To separate milk into solid and liquid by heating and adding acid or rennet. It is the first stage in cheese making. Milk, some sauces, soups, egg dishes and cream mixtures separate into solid and liquid because of overheating or the action of acid.

Cure - To preserve meat or fish by drying, salting or smoking.

Deep frying fries
Deep frying fries | Source

D is for Deep Fry, Devil, Double Boiler or Saucepan, Dredge and Dripping

Deep Fry - To fry food by immersing in hot fat or oil.

Devil - To prepare meat, poultry or fish with sharp, hot seasonings before grilling or roasting.

Double Boiler or Saucepan - A two part saucepan with a top pan fitted into a lower one that holds simmering water. Used for slow, gentle cooking.

Dredge - To sift flour or sugar evenly over food.

Dripping - Fat extracted from meat during roasting, or from animal fat rendered down.

Escalope with creamy sauce, Yummy!
Escalope with creamy sauce, Yummy! | Source

E for Escalope

Escalope - A thin slice of meat, usually veal, often fried in breadcrumbs.

This video shows you how to make the old fashioned British Faggot - Not a pretty sight at first, but they do taste lovely, I promise!

Fine herbs in a platter
Fine herbs in a platter | Source

F is for Faggot, Fines Herbes, Fish Kettle, Fold In, Fool, Forcemeat, Forcing Bag and Fricassee

Faggot - A small savoury cake made from pork offal, onion and bread, usually baked. Also another name for a bouquet garni.

Fines Herbes - Finely chopped mixed herbs.

Fish Kettle - An oval or oblong pan with a lid and an inner detachable grid for poaching fish.

Fold in - To incorporate ingredients such as flour or whisked egg whites into a mixture without letting air escape. Use a metal spoon to cut through the mixture, slide it along the bottom of the bowl, then lift and turn the mixture over the ingredients to be folded in. Continue until all are incorporated.

Fool - A cold sweet dish made from whipped cream or custard, or both, and fruit puree.

Forcemeat - Stuffing for meat, fish or vegetables.

Forcing Bag - A funnel-shaped cotton or nylon bag with a nozzle through which chreamy mixtures can be piped into designs.

Fricassee - A white stew.

Bacon cured
Bacon cured | Source

G for Galantine, Glaze, Green Bacon and Griddle

Galantine - A mixture of cooked meats or poultry set in their own jelly and served cold.

Glaze - To brush liquid over food to give it a glossy appearance. Use a meat glaze for meat, and egg and or milk for bread and pastry.

Green Bacon - Bacon that has been cured in brine only. It does not keep as well as bacon that has been further cured by smoking.

Griddle - A flat metal plate for baking bread or cakes over a fir or on top of a stove, also known as a girdle.

H is for Hull

Hull - to remove the green stalk and cup (calix) from fruits such as strawberries, or the pods from peas or broad beans.

I am finding it difficult to find a cooking term for I and J any suggestions would be helpful

I haven't managed to find any cooking terms for I and J, if you know of any please let me know.

Softened Butter
Softened Butter | Source

K for Kneaded Butter

Kneaded Butter - Softened butter mixed with flour, used to thicken soups, stocks or sauces.

Lights - Offal with vegetables
Lights - Offal with vegetables

L is for Larding, Liaison and Lights

Larding - Threading small strips of fat (lardons) into the surface of lean meat to prevent it drying out during roasting. It is done with a larding needle, which has a clip at one end. Anchovies can sometimes be used as lardons.

Liaison - A thickener for sauces and soups.

Lights - The lungs from an animal carcass, sold as offal.

This video give you step by step instructions on how to make meringues, enjoy!

Meringues - Mmm...
Meringues - Mmm... | Source

M for Mandolin, Marinate, Marsala, Mask, Meringue, Mornay, Mousse and Mull

Mandolin - A vegetable slicer with an adjustable blade.

Marinate - To steep meat or fish in a seasoned liquid (marinade) to flavor or tenderize it.

Marsala - A sweet Italian wine drunk as an aperitif or used in cooking.

Mask - To cover food with sauce.

Meringue - Whisked egg white mixed with sugar and baked as a pie topping or small confection.

Mornay - A cheese sauce used to coat fish, egg or vegetable dishes.

Mousse - A cream dish lightened with beaten egg whites, stiffened with gelatin and given a sweet or savory flavoring.

Mull - To heat and also spice or flavor ale and wine.

N and O I have found no cooking terms for these either

If you know of any cooking terms for N and O please let me know.

Have you ever come unstuck with a term in a cookery book

Have you ever been in the middle of cooking something that you have taken from a cookery book and found a term that you had not heard of before?

See results
Cooked pot roast
Cooked pot roast | Source

P is for Parboil, Patty tin, Pectin, Pie Funnel, Pluck, Poach, Pot roast, Pottage and Puree

Parboil - To partially cook food by boiling, usually to preserve it or keep it moist, before completing cooking by another method.

Patty Tin - A moulded tin for baking a batch of small cakes.

Pectin - A substance in fruit that cases the pulp to set.

Pie Funnel - A funnel used to support a pastry lid.

Pluck - An offal mixture.

Poach - To cook food in steam, raised on a rack above a small amount of liquid in a covered pot.

Pottage - A thick stew cooked in a pot over an open fire, a staple British food for centuries.

Puree - Raw or cooked food crushed to a very smooth texture through a sieve or in an electric blender.

Roasted Chicken (My favorite!)
Roasted Chicken (My favorite!) | Source

R for Ramekin, Reduce, Render, Rennet, Roast , Roe and Roux

Ramekin - A small baking vessel, usually earthenware or china, for cooking individual savoury dishes.

Reduce - To thicken, concentrate the flavor, or lessen the quantity of a stock or sauce by boiling rapidly to evaporate some of its water content.

Render - To extract the fat from raw meat trimmings by slow heating.

Rennet - A substance from the stomach lining of a calf, used to curdle milk in cheese-making.

Roast - To cook meat by direct heat from a fire or by radiant heat in an oven.

Roe - The eggs from a female fish (hard roe), or the reproductive glands of a male fish (soft roe).

Roux - Fat and flour cooked together over a gentle heat, used as a sauce thickener.

This video shows you how to roast a chicken

Souffle with sponge
Souffle with sponge | Source

S is for Saddle, Saltpetre, Sauté, Score, Sea Salt, Seasoned Flour, Simmer, Souffle, Souse, Stock, Strong Flour and finally Suet

Saddle - The undivided loin from a meat carcass.

SaltPetre - A chemical (potassium nitrate) used in very small amounts as a preservative in curing meat.

Sauté - To fry food rapidly in a small amount of fat until evenly browned, shaking the pan to toss and turn the contents.

Score - To make shallow cuts on the surface of food so that heat can penetrate during cooking.

Sea Salt - Strong-flavored salt from evaporated sea water, used in cooking.

Seasoned Flour - Flour with salt and pepper mixed in, used to dust meat and fish before frying or stewing

Simmer - To keep liquid just below boiling point, with only faint ripples showing on the surface.

Souffle - A baked sweet or savory dish thickened with egg yolks and with whipped egg whites folded in just before cooking.

Souse - To cover food, generally fish, with a mixture of vinegar, spices and water, and usually to cook it in the mixture.

Stock - Liquid that has absorbed the flavor of the fish, meat or vegetables cooked in it.

Strong Flour - Flour made from hard wheat that forms a strong elastic dough. Used mainly in bread-making.

Suet - Dry, firm fat surrounding the loins and kidneys in beef or mutton.

thickening sauce with cake
thickening sauce with cake | Source

T for Thickening and Truss

Thickening - A preparation such as flour and butter, egg yolk or cream used to thicken and bind sauces and soups.

Truss - To tie and skewer the legs and wings of poultry or game before roasting.

U is for, any suggestions welcome

I'm not able to think of anything for U, any ideas let me know.

vol-au-vent or croissante or puff pastry case with a lid
vol-au-vent or croissante or puff pastry case with a lid | Source

V for Vanilla sugar and Vol-Au-Vent

Vanilla Sugar - Sugar given a vanilla flavor.

Vol-Au-Vent - A puff-pastry case with a lid, that can be given a savory filling after cooking.

And finally this recipe shows you how to make vol - au - vents, for any of you out there who would like to give it a go! You can fill them with sweet or savory

W is for Whey

Whey - The liquid part of curdled milk.

X and Y not aware of any cooking terms are you?

I'm not aware of any cooking terms for X and Y if you know any let me know.

Zest from citrus fruit
Zest from citrus fruit | Source

Z for Zest

Zest - The outer rind of citrus fruits, containing characteristic flavoring oils. To obtain the flavor, grate or pare the rind thinly, avoiding the pith.

The fact is that sometime when we use recipes the cooking terms used can cause problems for the less experienced cooks

If you haven't been cooking for long there is nothing worse than not knowing the terms referred to in cooking is there?

I constantly have come across recipes with terms that I have never heard of and that is why I wrote this article.

I hope it proves to be useful to some of you and if you can find any terms beginning with I, N, O, Q, U, X and Y please let me know, I look forward to reading any comments you may have.

Please leave a comment I would love to hear from you.

© 2015 Trudy Cooper


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    • tlcs profile imageAUTHOR

      Trudy Cooper 

      4 years ago from Hampshire, UK

      Thank you Romanian, some of the alphabet have no terms if you think of any let me know please, glad you enjoyed it.

    • Romanian profile image


      4 years ago from Oradea, Romania

      Your dictionary it's awesome. I was curious about some terms before and now I found the meaning. Keep up good work!


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