Confusing Cooking Terms and What They Mean – Glossary of Cooking Terms
Do you sometimes watch those cooking shows on The Food Network and get confused about the difference between braising and basting? What about poaching and parboiling? Do you know the difference?
If these questions are stumping you then it’s time to take your cooking IQ to the next level. Here are our simple explanations for cooking terms that are often used in recipes and cooking shows.
I must say that we ourselves have learned a lot from cooking shows, but it took some time to figure out all the terms they used. We sure hope this helps the new cook a little bit to understand these basic terms.
Glossary of Cooking Terms:
Al dente: Cooking homemade pasta until tender but still firm.
Braise: Braising means cooking food slowly over a low heat in a small amount of liquid. This technique is normally used to cook large slabs of meat but chicken legs, chuck steak and pork chops can benefit from a good braising as well. Braising also goes very well with reduction to create an awesome dish!
Baste: If you’re the person who cooks your family’s Thanksgiving turkey, you’re already familiar with this one. To baste means to moisturize food during cooking so that the surface doesn’t dry out. You basically take the liquid that has been accumulating in the bottom of the cooking dish and pour it over your meat. Basting keeps the meat moist, juicy and tender.
Beat: Mix all your ingredients vigorously. Use a spoon, fork, wire whisk or electric mixer.
Blend: To combine two or more ingredients together until smooth or uniform. Can be done by hand or with an electric mixer.
Blackened: Seasoned fish or meats are cooked over high heat until charred. Popular with Cajun Cooking.
Blanch: To partially cook fruits or vegetables in hot water or steam. This method could be used to remove the skins from the fruit or vegetable.
Boil: To cook over moderate high heat until small bubble being to form. To bring to a “rolling boil” means the bubbles won’t go away when stirring vigorously.
Bread or Breading: Bread: You might be familiar with bread, the noun, but do you know what bread, the verb, means? When you’re cooking, to bread means to coat with crumbs like breadcrumbs or cornmeal crumbs.
Brine: To marinate in heavily salted water.
Brown: To cook food briefly at higher temperatures in a skillet or broiler to develop the rich brown color and taste.
Butterfly: To split thick pieces of foods in half like steak to cook them faster. When you cut the meat, don’t cut all the way through. When you fold over the pieces of meat it resembles a butterfly.
Caramelize: To caramelize, you heat sugar over a high heat until it turns to dark brown. Caramelize can also refer to cooking meat or vegetables over a high heat so that they release their natural sugars and brown. Caramelized onions are a favorite of mine. To caramelize onions just take two large yellow onions and cut them into thin slices. Melt a tablespoon of butter and olive oil in a skillet. Stir the onions until they are well coated. Cook for about 40-50 minutes stirring often.
Carve: To cut meat with a long sharp knife into slices.
Coat: To evenly cover or coat food with flour, breadcrumbs or butter before cooking.
Creme: Beat together a fat and a sugar until a smooth mixture is formed. Can beat the fat alone to form a airy consistency, butter or shortening.
Cube: Cut into squares about 1/2″ or larger.
Dredge: This is how you get that crispy skin on fried chicken. To dredge means to coat your food lightly with all-purpose flour, corn flour or breadcrumbs before frying.
Flambé: When you see chefs cook and a huge blue flame rise from the pan, that’s a flambé. You do this by adding liquor, normally brandy, to the pan. Many chefs do it to show off their skill. It also adds the flavor of the liquor to the food without leaving the alcohol content, so that your food doesn’t get you tipsy. Your drinks should do that.
Grate: Use the large or small holes of your grater.
Julienne: Cut into thin strips using a sharp knife.
Mix: Combine your ingredients together until well blended.
Parboil: Parboiling means to boil until partially cooked. Normally food that’s been parboiled is completed by another cooking method. This is very useful technique for stir-fries because the various ingredients have different cooking times. So, for example, if you parboil the broccoli for your stir-fry, you’ll be able to add it last and have it cooked in no time.
Poach: Poaching is a method of gently cooking poultry, eggs, fish or fruit by simmering it in a liquid until it’s cooked. The secret to poaching poultry and meat is to keep the heat low and to not allow the water to come to a boil. With eggs, on the other hand, you should bring the water to a boil, turn the heat off and then add the eggs. Pro-tip: to keep the eggs whites in tact, add a bit of vinegar to the water.
When you see those recipes that call for a few cups of diced cooked chicken, just use this method to cook the chicken quickly for the recipe. Use chicken broth instead of water and the chicken will turn out perfectly.
Reduce or Reduction: As the term implies, to reduce means to decrease the volume of a liquid in a pan by boiling over a high heat. This is a technique that is normally used to create sauces and gravies. The liquid in the pan starts to evaporate leaving behind a much more intense flavor in the sauce. I do love this one as it adds so much flavor!
Saute’: Cook foods over higher heat using a a spatula or a spoon to continuously toss the food as it cooks.
Simmer: Reduce the heat to low right after your liquid begins to boil. Bubbles will rise to the top very slowly.