cooking terms

Cooking Terms

Handy Table of Cooking Terms

Fancy an amuse-gueule freshly sautéed à point, maybe topped with a little vinaigrette? Hats off to the French – they’ve managed to corner a large chunk of the haute-cuisine cooking terms. Odd then, that despite their expertise, Jamie Oliver, one of the world’s most famous chefs comes from Essex, in England.

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Cooking TermsMeaning
à pointPerfectly cooked (for the French at least). Commonly used with steaks which are usually less rare than the French prefer.
Other expressions used in France when ordering steaks the way you like them are:
Bleu: VERY rare
Saignant: rare
À point: perfectly cooked, medium-rare
Bien cuit (& sometimes rosé): medium to well-done
Très bien cuit: very well-done steak
If all else fails, try carbonisé – carbonized! = exceptionally well done (but you’ll break the chef’s heart!)
al denteItalian for “to the tooth“. It describes pasta and other foods cooked so they still have some resistance when bitten.
amuse-gueule / amuse-boucheFrench for mouth-amuser. Small appetizers usually provided free by the chef.
antipastiItalian for “appetizer”.
aperitifAlcohol served as an appetizer before dinner.
au gratinDish sprinkled with cheese and browned in the oven before serving.
au jus
The meat juice or gravy which forms the basis for a sauce, typically for beef.
blanchPlunging raw vegetables, mushrooms or meat for 10 to 30 seconds first in boiling water then in cold water to stop the cooking process.
braiseCooking first with hot dry heat then finishing in liquid in a covered pot.
bread / coat with breadcrumbsRolling food in flour, moistening with egg wash (egg with milk or water) and then coating in breadcrumbs.
carvingCutting meat, fish or poultry into slices to get the optimum number of slices or portions.
chillQuickly cooling with ice cubes and/or cold water.
chopCut into irregular pieces.
coatCovering food with crumbs, flour etc.
colanderPerforated container for draining liquid.
compoteDessert made of fruit cooked with sugar and served cold.
coulisBrown or white thick sauce made from vegetables or fruit.
crystallizePreservation method for fresh fruit. The water content is reduced and the sugar content increased to at least 70%.
deglazingPouring water into a pan to soak up cooked residue from the bottom of a pan as the basis of a fond.
dégraisserTo skim the fat off soups and other dishes.
en papilloteDish wrapped and served in paper or foil.
flambéTo douse food with a spirit and light it. The food then takes on the flavor of the alcohol.
gratinateCoat with buttered crumbs or grated cheese and grill until there is a brown crust.
halalMeat slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. Also what foods are permitted.
hors d’oeuvreFrench for “appetizer”.
jellyPickled meat or fish in aspic jelly.
kosherFood or ingredients prepared according to Jewish dietary laws.
macerateSoaking food in a liquid to instill its flavor.
marinadeA liquid with herbs and spices in which foods are soaked before cooking.
marinateTo soak foods, usually raw fish or meat in a spicy, often acidic liquid to add flavor or tenderize the meat.
mincingTo chop meat very small or put it through a grinder (mincer).
organicFoodstuffs from living organisms grown exclusively with “natural” fertilizers and pesticides.
panadeMixture of starch and liquid added to e.g. ground meat to keep it moist during cooking.
pickleMethod of preserving foodstuffs with vinegar and salt.
pinchSmall amount that fits between two fingers.
poachGentle cooking method in hot (not boiling) water (75-95°). Used with vegetables, eggs and fish.
reduceTo cook a stock or sauce until water evaporates and leaves behind a concentrated liquid (reduction).
roastDry heat cooking on an open flame or oven used for slow cooking of larger food items.
sautéSautéing is dry-heat cooking done in a very hot pan with little oil to cook the food very quickly and brown the food’s surface. Only as much food is added to the pan as can move about freely and it must stay hot to avoid boiling the food. The food is kept moving throughout.
scaldTo heat a liquid just under the boiling point.
searBrowning food quickly on all sides with high heat.
seasonAdding salt, pepper, herbs, spices etc. to food to improve the flavor.
shredCutting or tearing into thin strips.
simmerGently cooking without boiling.
steamCooking food in a sealed container over hot water.
stewMeat and vegetables are usually sautéed then slow cooked (80°-100°) and served in their own liquid.
stir-fryCook food briefly with constant stirring, usually in a wok at a high heat and with a little oil.
strainPour food through a sieve to remove or separate larger pieces.
tallowFat from bovine animals, sheep, goats or deer.
thickenMake a thin liquid thicker with the help of binders (flour or similar). Especially for preparing sauces.
vinaigretteFrench salad dressing. Mixture of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices.
wokA round-bottomed cooking pan from Asia popular for stir-frying.

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