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.
Bubbling: When a pot of water or sauce reaches the boiling point and produces bubbles on the surface.
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.
Broiling: To cook your food directly below a heat source. Typically under high heat to make a crisp crusty outer layer yet keeping the inside moist.
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.
Deglaze: To remove the browned bits of food residue from the bottom of the pan by scraping the pan with a small bit of liquid. This adds flavor to dishes with the concentrated brown bits of food that stick to the bottom of your pan.
Dice: to cut food into small pieces or cubes that are uniform in size, normally 1/8″ wide to 3/4″ wide.
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.
Emulsified: When two liquids are combined to form one smooth mixture.
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.
Garnish: Something added to the top or plate of the finished dish for visual appeal. Think a nice piece of parsley or a lemon slice.
Grate: Use the large or small holes of your grater to shred foods.
Julienne: Cut into thin strips using a sharp knife.
Marinate: To soak your food in a tasty liquid that is seasoned with other ingredients. We often like to marinate meat in an acid type marinade (vinegar) to tenderize the meat.
Mince: cut foods into very tiny pieces so they typically will dissolve while cooking. Think garlic, onions and herbs.
Mix: Combine your ingredients together until well blended.
Packed: When you fill a measuring cup or spoon to the top and then that ingredient is then pushed down to make more room so you can add a little bit more. Think of brown sugar or chopped herbs.
Panfry: Cooking food in a pan that has just a small amount of fat vs. deep fry which has larger unhealthy amounts of fat. Meats are cooked in a small amount of oil/butter over medium-high heat.
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. A moist-heat cooking method that is preferred for delicate foods. 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.
Puree: to blend food so it turns paste like.
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.
Sear: Cooking food at high heat so that a brown crust is formed. This seals in the flavor and juices of meats. An example would be to cook both sides of a beef roast in oil until well browned before starting the cooking process.
Simmer: Cook slowly over low heat just below the bubbling boiling point. You will want to see slow tiny bubbles when you simmer.
Shred: Grating or tearing foods into long narrow pieces. Think shredded cheeses.
Softened: This is when you set food out on the kitchen counter like butter or cream cheese and let it come slowly to room temperature.
Shuck: To remove the outer layer or cover of food. Think of corn on the cob and shellfish.
Simmer: Reduce the heat to low right after your liquid begins to boil. Bubbles will rise to the top very slowly.
“To Taste”: Use as much or as little that tastes good to you. Think Salt!
Whisk: To beat or stir in a light rapid movement, typically circular. You should use a kitchen “whisk” to do this but you can us a fork.