Kitchen Terms simplified
Adobo sauce: Of Mexican origin, this dark-red, rather piquant sauce (or paste) is made from ground chiles, herbs and vinegar. It’s used as a marinade as well as a serving sauce. Chipotle chiles are often marketed packed in adobo sauce.
Al Dente: An Italian phrase meaning “to the tooth,” used to describe pasta or other food that is cooked until it offers only a slight resistance when bitten into, but which is not soft or overdone.
Aromatics: Any of various plants, herbs and spices (such as bay leaf, ginger or parsley) that impart a lively fragrance and flavor to food and drink.
Bake: To cook food in an oven, there by surrounding it with dry heat. It’s imperative to know the accurate temperature of an oven. Because most of them bake either hotter or cooler than their gauges read, an oven thermometer is vital for accurate temperature readings.
Baste: To spoon or brush food as it cooks with melted butter or other fat, meat drippings or liquid such as stock. A bulb baster can also be used to drizzle the liquid over the food. In addition to adding flavor and color, basting keeps meats and other foods from drying out. Fatty roasts, when cooked fat side up, do not need basting.
Beat: To stir rapidly in a circular motion. Generally, 100 strokes by hand equals about 1 minute by electric mixer.
Béchamel: Also called by its Italian name, balsamella, this basic French white sauce is made by stirring milk into a butter-flour roux. The thickness of the sauce depends on the proportion of flour and butter to milk. The proportions for a thin sauce would be 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour per 1 cup of milk; a medium sauce would use 2
tablespoons each of butter and flour; a thick sauce, 3 tablespoons each. Béchamel, the base of many other sauces, was named after its inventor, Louis XIV’s steward Louis de Béchamel.
Blanch: To plunge food (usually vegetables and fruits) into boiling water briefly, then into cold water to stop the cooking process. Blanching is used to firm the flesh, to loosen skins (as with peaches and tomatoes) and to heighten and set color and flavor (as with vegetables before freezing).
Blend: n.A mixture of two or more flavors combined to obtain a particular character and quality, as in wines, teas and blended whiskey; v.To mix two or more ingredients together with a spoon, beater or electric blender until combined.
Blind Baked: An English term for baking a pastry shell before it is filled. The shell is usually pricked all over with a fork to prevent it from blistering and rising. Sometimes it’s lined with foil or parchment paper, then filled with dried beans or rice, or metal or ceramic pie weights. The French sometimes fill the shell with clean round pebbles. The weights and foil or parchment paper should be removed a few minutes before the baking time is over to allow the crust to brown evenly.
Boil: “Bring to a boil” refers to heating a liquid until bubbles break the surface (212°F for water at sea level). The term also means to cook food in a boiling liquid. A “full rolling boil” is one that cannot be dissipated by stirring.
Braise: A cooking method by which food (usually meat or vegetables) is first browned in fat, then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid at low heat for a lengthy period of time. The long, slow cooking develops flavor and tenderizes foods by gently breaking down their fibers. Braising can be done on top of the range or in the oven. A
tight-fitting lid is very important to prevent the liquid from evaporating.
Brine: A strong solution of water and salt used for pickling or preserving foods. A sweetener such as sugar or molasses is sometimes added to brine.
Broil: To cook food directly under or above the heat source. Food can be broiled in an oven, directly under the gas or electric heat source, or on a barbecue grill, directly over charcoal or other heat source.
Brown: To cook quickly over high heat, causing the surface of the food to turn brown while the interior stays moist. This method not only gives food an appetizing color, but also a rich flavor. Browning is usually done on top of the stove, but may also be achieved under a broiling unit.
Bruise: In cooking, to partially crush an ingredient in order to release its flavor. Bruising a garlic clove with the flat side of a knife crushes without cutting it.
Butterfly: In cooking, to split a food (such as shrimp) down the center, cutting almost but not completely through. The two halves are then opened flat to resemble a butterfly shape.
Caramelize: To heat sugar until it liquefies and becomes a clear syrup ranging in color from golden to dark brown (from 320° to 350°F on a candy thermometer). Granulated or brown sugar can also be sprinkled on top of food and placed under a heat source, such as a broiler, until the sugar melts and caramelizes. A popular custard dessert finished in this fashion is Crème Brulee. Caramelized sugar is also referred to as
Chinois: A metal conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh, used for pureeing or straining. The mesh is so fine that a spoon or pestle must be used to press the food through it.
A small cut of meat taken from the rib section and including part of the rib. Pork, veal and lamb chops are the most popular; v. Using quick, heavy blows of a knife or cleaver to cut food into bite-size (or smaller) pieces. A food processor may also be used to “chop” food. Chopped food is more coarsely cut than minced food.
Coat: In cooking, this term refers to covering food with an outer “coating.” It can mean dipping or rolling food (such as chicken) in seasoned bread crumbs or flour. The food can be dipped into beaten eggs before being coated with the dry mixture. Coating food in this manner usually precedes frying. A semi-liquid, such as mayonnaise or
sauce, can also be used to coat food.
Coulis: 1.A general term referring to a thick puree or sauce, such as a tomato coulis. 2. The word can also refer to thick, pureed shellfish soups. 3. Originally, the term coulis was used to describe the juices from cooked meat.
Cream: v. To beat an ingredient or combination of ingredients until the mixture is soft, smooth and “creamy.” Often a recipe calls for creaming a fat, such as butter, or creaming a mixture of butter and sugar. When creaming two or more ingredients together, the result should be a smooth, homogeneous mixture that shows neither separation nor
evidence of any particles (such as sugar). Electric mixers and food processors make quick work of what used to be a laborious, time-consuming process. n. The higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk
Crepe: The French word for “pancake,” which is exactly what these light, paper-thin creations are. They can be made from plain or sweetened batters with various flours, and used for savory or dessert dishes. Dessert crêpes may be spread with a jam or fruit mixture, rolled or folded and sometimes flamed with brandy or liqueur. Savory crêpes are filled with various meat, cheese or vegetable mixtures — sometimes topped with a complementary sauce — and served as a first or main course.
A British dessert in which raw fruit is topped with a crumbly pastry
mixture and baked; v. To break food up (usually with the fingers) into small pieces, such as “crumbled” bacon.
Crush: To reduce a food to its finest form, such as crumbs, paste or powder. Crushing is often accomplished with a mortar and pestle, or with a rolling pin.
Cube: 1. To cut food (such as meat or cheese) into 1/2-inch cubes. Cubes of food are larger than diced or mirepoix. 2. A term also used to describe tenderizing meat with an instrument that leaves cube-shaped imprints on the surface
Curdle: To coagulate, or separate into curds and whey. Soured milk curdles, as do some egg-and milk-based
sauces when exposed to prolonged or high heat. Acids such as lemon juice can also cause curdling in some mixtures.
Cure: To treat food (such as meat, cheese or fish) by one of several methods in order to preserve it. Smoke-curing is generally done in one of two ways. The cold-smoking method (which can take up to a month, depending on the food) smokes the food at between 70° to 90°F. Hot-smoking partially or totally cooks the food by treating it at temperatures ranging from 100° to 190°F. Pickled foods are soaked in variously
flavored acid-based brines. Corned products (such as corned beef) have also been soaked in brine — usually one made with water, salt and various seasonings. Saltcured foods have been dried and packed in salt preparations. Cheese curing can be done by several methods, including injecting or spraying the cheese with specific bacteria or by wrapping the cheese in various flavored materials. Some of the more common cured foods are smoked ham, pickled herring and salted fish.
Cut In: To mix a solid, cold fat (such as butter or shortening) with dry ingredients (such as a flour mixture) until the combination is in the form of small particles. This technique can be achieved by using a pastry blender, two knives, a fork or fingers (which must be cool so as not to melt the fat). A food processor fitted with a metal blade does an excellent job of cutting fat into dry ingredients, providing the mixture is not overworked into a paste.
Deep-Fry: To cook food in hot fat that is deep enough to completely cover the item being fried. The oil or fat used for deep-frying should have a high smoke point (the point to which it can be heated without smoking). For that reason, butter and margarine are not good candidates for frying; shortening, lard and most oils are. The temperature
of the fat is all-important and can mean the difference between success and disaster. Fat at the right temperature will produce a crisp exterior and succulent interior. If it’s not hot enough, food will absorb fat and be greasy; too hot, and it will burn. An average fat temperature for deep-frying is 375°F, but recipes differ according to the characteristics
of each food. To avoid ruined food, a special deep-fat thermometer should be used. Most thermometers used for deep-fat are dual-purpose and also used as candy thermometers. Though special deep-fat fryers fitted with
wire baskets are available, food can be deep-fried in any large, heavy pot spacious enough to fry it without crowding. To allow for bubbling up and splattering, the container should be filled no more than halfway full with oil. Fat or oil used for deep-frying may be reused. Let it cool, then strain it through cheesecloth and funnel into a bottle or other tightly sealed container before refrigerating.
Deglaze: After food (usually meat) has been sautéed and the food and excess fat removed from the pan, deglazing is done by heating a small amount of liquid in the pan and stirring to loosen browned bits of food on the bottom. The liquid used is most often wine or stock. The resultant mixture often becomes a base for a sauce to accompany the food cooked in the pan.
Degrease: Using a spoon to skim fat from the surface of a hot liquid, such as soup, stock or gravy. Another way to degrease is to chill the mixture until the fat becomes solid and can be easily lifted off the surface.
Dice: To cut food into tiny (about 1/8-to 1/4-inch) cubes.
Dissolve: To incorporate a dry ingredient (such as sugar, salt, yeast or gelatin) into a liquid so thoroughly that no grains of the dry ingredient are evident, either by touch or sight.
Double Boiler: A double-pan arrangement whereby two pots are formed to fit together, with one sitting partway inside the other. A single lid fits both pans. The lower pot is used to hold simmering water, which gently heats the mixture in the upper pot. Double boilers are used to warm or cook heat-sensitive food such as custards, delicate sauces and chocolate.
Dredge: To lightly coat food to be fried, as with flour, cornmeal or bread crumbs. This coating helps brown the food. Chicken, for example, might be dredged with flour before frying.
Dust: 1. In cooking, this term refers to lightly coating a food with a powdery ingredient such as flour or confectioners’ sugar. 2. A term used to describe inferior, coarsely crushed tea leaves.
egg Wash: Egg yolk or egg white mixed with a small amount of water or milk. It’s brushed over breads, pastry and other baked goods before baking to give them color and gloss.
emulsion: A mixture of one liquid with another with which it cannot normally combine smoothly — oil and water being the classic example. Emulsifying is done by slowly (sometimes drop-by-drop) adding one ingredient to another while at the same time mixing rapidly. This disperses and suspends minute droplets of one liquid throughout the
other. Emulsified mixtures are usually thick and satiny in texture. Mayonnaise (an uncooked combination of oil, egg yolks and vinegar or lemon juice) and HOLLANDAISE SAUCE (a cooked mixture of butter, egg yolks and vinegar or lemon juice) are two of the best-known emulsions.
enchilada: This Mexican specialty is made by rolling a softened corn tortilla around a meat or cheese filling. It’s served hot, usually topped with a tomato-based salsa and sprinkled with cheese.
Fold: A technique used to gently combine a light, airy mixture (such as beaten egg whites) with a heavier mixture (such as whipped cream or custard). The lighter mixture is placed on top of the heavier one in a large bowl. Starting at the back of the bowl, a rubber spatula is used to cut down vertically through the two mixtures, across the bottom of the bowl and up the nearest side. The bowl is rotated a quarter turn with each series of strokes. This down-across-up-and-over motion gently turns the mixtures over on top of each other, combining them in the process.
Fry: v. To cook food in hot fat over moderate to high heat. DEEP-FRIED food is submerged in hot, liquid fat. Frying (also called pan frying) or refers to cooking food in a lesser amount of fat, which doesn’t cover the food. There is little difference in these two terms, though sautéing is often thought of as using less fat and being the faster of the two methods. n. 1. A special (usually outdoor) occasion at which fried foods are served, such as a fish fry. 2. The young of fish.
A decorative, edible accompaniment to finished dishes, from appetizers to desserts. Garnishes can be placed under, around or on food, depending on the dish. They vary from simple sprigs of parsley or exotically carved vegetables on plated food, to croutons in soup, to chocolate leaves on top of chocolate mousse. Garnishes should not only be appealing to the eye, but should also echo or complement the flavor of the dish. v. To decorate or accompany a dish with a garnish.
Glaze: n. A thin, glossy coating for both hot and cold foods. A savory glaze might be a reduced meat stock or Aspic, whereas a sweet glaze could be anything from melted jelly to a chocolate coating. An egg wash brushed on pastry before baking to add color and shine is also called a glaze. v. To coat food with a thin, liquid, sweet or savory mixture that will be smooth and shiny after setting.
Grate: To reduce a large piece of food to small particles or thin shreds by rubbing it against a coarse, serrated surface, usually on a kitchen utensil called a grater. A food processor fitted with the metal blade can also be used to reduce food to small bits or, fitted with the shredding disc, to long, thin strips. The food to be grated should be firm, which in the case of cheese can usually be accomplished by refrigeration. Grating food makes it easier to incorporate with other foods.
Grease/Butter: v. To rub the surface of a pan — such as a griddle, muffin pan or cake pan — with grease or with grease or shortening before lightly dusting it with flour. The flour coating is applied by sprinkling the pan with flour, then inverting it and tapping the bottom of the pan to remove any excess flour. grease n. Any rendered animal fat, such as bacon, beef or chicken fat.
1. A heavy metal grate that is set over hot coals or other heat source and used to cook foods such as steak or hamburgers. 2. A dish of food (usually meat, such as Mixed Grill cooked on a grill. grill v. To prepare food on a
grill over hot coals or other heat source. The term barbecue is often used synonymously with grill.
hollandaise: This smooth, rich, creamy sauce is generally used to embellish vegetables, fish and egg dishes, such as the classic Eggs Benedict. It’s made with butter, egg yolks and lemon juice, usually in a double boiler to prevent overheating, and served warm.
Julienne: n. Foods that have been cut into thin, matchstick strips. The food (such as a potato) is first cut into 1/8inch-thick slices. The slices are stacked, then cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips. The strips may then be cut into whatever length is desired. If the object is round, cut a thin slice from the bottom so it will sit firmly and not roll on the work surface. Julienne is most often used as a garnish. julienne v. To cut food into very thin strips.
Jus: The French word for “juice,” which can refer to both fruit and vegetable juices, as well as the natural juices exuded from meat. Jus de citron is “orange juice,” while jus de viande means “juices from meat.” A dish (usually meat) that is served au jus is presented with its own natural juices.
Knead: A technique used to mix and work a dough in order to form it into a cohesive, pliable mass. During kneading, the network of gluten strands stretches and expands, thereby enabling a dough to hold in the gas bubbles formed by a leavener (which allows it to rise). Kneading is accomplished either manually or by machine — usually a large mixer equipped with a dough hook (some machines have two dough hooks) or a food processor with a plastic blade. By hand, kneading is done with a pressing-folding-turning action performed by pressing down into the dough with the heels of both hands, then pushing away from the body. The dough is folded in half and given a quarter turn, and the process is repeated. Depending on the dough, the manual kneading time can range anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes (or more). Well-kneaded dough is smooth and elastic.
Leavener: Agents that are used to lighten the texture and increase the volume of baked goods such as breads, cakes and cookies. Baking powder, baking soda and yeast are the most common leaveners used today. When mixed with a liquid they form carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which cause a batter or dough to rise during (and sometimes before) the baking process. Some foods, such as Angel Food Cake and Sponge Cake, are leavened by the air beaten into egg whites. When heated, the egg whites cook and set, trapping the air inside and creating a light, airy cake.
Macerate: To soak a food (usually fruit) in a liquid in order to infuse it with the liquid’s flavor. A spirit such as brandy, rum or a Liqueur is usually the macerating liquid.
Marinade: A seasoned liquid in which foods such as meat, fish and vegetables are soaked (marinated) in order to absorb flavor and, in some instances, to be tenderized. Most marinades contain an acid (lemon juice, vinegar or wine) and herbs or spices. The acid ingredient is especially important for tough cuts of meat because it serves as a tenderizer. Because most marinades contain acid ingredients, the marinating should be done in a glass, ceramic or stainless-steel container — never in aluminum.
Marinate: To soak a food such as meat, fish or vegetables in a seasoned liquid mixture called a Marinade. The purpose of marinating is for the food to absorb the flavors of the marinade or, as in the case of a tough cut of meat, to tenderize. Because most marinades contain acid ingredients, the marinating should be done in a glass, ceramic or stainless-steel container — never in aluminum. Foods should be covered and refrigerated while they’re marinating. When fruits are similarly soaked, the term used is Macerate.
Melt: Using heat to convert food (such as butter or chocolate) from a solid to a liquid or semiliquid.
Mince: To cut food into very small pieces. Minced food is in smaller pieces than chopped food.
Mornay: A Béchamel sauce to which cheese, usually Parmesan and Swiss, has been added. It’s sometimes varied by the addition of fish or chicken stock or, for added richness, cream or egg yolks. Mornay sauce is served with eggs, fish, shellfish, vegetables and chicken.
Mortar and Pestle: A mortar is a bowl-shaped container and a pestle is a rounded, batlike instrument. As a pair, the mortar and pestle are used for grinding and pulverizing spices, herbs and other foods. The pestle is pressed against the mortar and rotated, grinding the ingredient between them until the desired consistency is obtained. The mortar and pestle are usually made from the same material, generally marble, hardwood, porcelain or stoneware. The Mexican term for mortar and pestle is MOLCAJETE Y TEJOLETE.”
Parboil: To partially cook food by boiling it briefly in water. This timesaving technique is used in particular for dense foods such as carrots. If parboiled, they can be added at the last minute with quick-cooking ingredients (such as bean sprouts and celery) in preparations such as Stir-Fries. The parboiling insures that all the ingredients will complete cooking at the same time.
Poach: To cook food gently in liquid just below the boiling point when the liquid’s surface is beginning to show some quivering movement. The amount and temperature of the liquid used depends on the food being poached. Meats and poultry are usually simmered in stock, fish in Court-Bouillon and eggs in lightly salted water, often with a little vinegar added. Fruit is often poached in a light Sugar Syrup. Poaching produces a delicate flavor in foods, while imparting some of the liquid’s flavor to the ingredient being poached.
Proof: n. A term used to indicate the amount of alcohol in liquor or other spirits. In the United States, proof is exactly twice the percentage of alcohol. Therefore, a bottle of liquor labeled “86 Proof” contains 43 percent alcohol. proof v. To dissolve yeast in a warm liquid (sometimes with a small amount of sugar) and set it aside in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes until it swells and becomes bubbly. This technique proves that the yeast is alive and active and therefore capable of leavening a bread or other baked good.
Roast: n. 1. A piece of meat — such as a Rib Roast— that’s large enough to serve more than one person. Such a meat cut is usually cooked by the roasting method. 2. Food, usually meat, that has been prepared by roasting. Roast v. To oven-cook food in an uncovered pan, a method that usually produces a well-browned exterior and ideally a moist interior. Roasting requires reasonably tender pieces of meat or poultry. Tougher pieces of meat need moist cooking methods such as braising.
Roll out: A baking term that describes the technique of using a rolling pin to flatten a dough (such as for a pie crust or cookies) into a thin, even layer.
Roux: A mixture of flour and fat that, after being slowly cooked over low heat, is used to thicken mixtures such as soups and sauces. There are three classic roux — white, blond and brown. The color and flavor is determined by the length of time the mixture is cooked. Both white roux and blond roux are made with butter. The former is cooked just until it begins to turn beige and the latter until pale golden. Both are used to thicken cream and white sauces and light soups. The fuller-flavored brown roux can be made with butter, drippings or pork or beef fat. It’s cooked to a deep golden brown and used for rich, dark soups and sauces. Cajun and Creole dishes use a lard-based roux, which is cooked (sometimes for almost an hour) until a beautiful mahogany brown. This dark, nutty-flavored base is indispensable for specialties like Gumbo.
saté/satay: An Indonesian favorite consisting of small marinated cubes of meat, fish or poultry threaded on skewers and grilled or broiled. Saté is usually served with a spicy peanut sauce. It’s a favorite snack food but is also often served for an appetizer and sometimes as a main dish.
sauté: To cook food quickly in a small amount of oil in a skillet or sauté pan over direct heat.
shred: To cut food into narrow strips, either by hand or by using a grater or a food processor fitted with a shredding disk. Cooked meat can be separated into shreds by pulling it apart with two forks.
simmer: To cook food gently in liquid at a temperature (about 185°F) low enough that tiny bubbles just begin to break the surface.
steam: A method of cooking whereby food is placed on a rack or in a special steamer basket over boiling or simmering water in a covered pan. Steaming does a better job than boiling or poaching of retaining a food’s flavor, shape, texture and many of the vitamins and minerals.
stew: n. Any dish that is prepared by stewing. The term is most often applied to dishes that contain meat, vegetables and a thick soup-like broth resulting from a combination of the stewing liquid and the natural
juices of the food being stewed. stew v. A method of cooking by which food is barely covered with liquid and simmered slowly for a long period of time in a tightly covered pot. Stewing not only tenderizes tough pieces of
meat but also allows the flavors of the ingredients to blend deliciously.
Any dish of food that has been prepared by the stir-fry method.
stir-fry v. To quickly fry small pieces of food in a large pan over very high
heat while constantly and briskly stirring the food. This cooking technique,
which is associated with Asian cooking and the Wok, requires a minimum
amount of fat and results in food that is crisply tender.
sweat: A technique by which ingredients, particularly vegetables, are cooked in a small amount of fat over low heat. The ingredients are covered directly with a piece of foil or parchment paper, then the pot is tightly covered. With this method, the ingredients soften without browning, and cook in their own juices.
Velouté: One of the five “mother sauces,” velouté is a stock-based white sauce. It can be made from chicken or veal stock or fish Fumet thickened with white Roux. Enrichments such as egg yolks or cream are sometimes also added. Velouté sauce is the base for a number of other sauces.
Whip: v. To beat ingredients, such as egg whites, cream, etc., thereby incorporating air into them and increasing their volume until they are light and fluffy.
Zest: The perfumy outermost skin layer of citrus fruit (usually oranges or Different varieties of citrus zest lemons), which is removed with the aid of a Citrus Zester, paring knife or Vegetable Peeler. Only the colored portion of the skin (and not the white pith) is considered the zest. The aromatic oils in citrus zest are what add so much flavor to food. Zest can be used to flavor raw or cooked and sweet or savory dishes.