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 Terms Meaning
à point Perfectly 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 dente Italian for “to the tooth“. It describes pasta and other foods cooked so they still have some resistance when bitten.
Amuse-gueule / amuse-bouche French for mouth-amuser. Small appetizers usually provided free by the chef.
Antipasti Italian for “appetizer”.
Aperitif Alcohol served as an appetizer before dinner.
Au gratin Dish 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.
Blanch Plunging raw vegetables, mushrooms or meat for 10 to 30 seconds first in boiling water then in cold water to stop the cooking process.
Braise Initially cook using hot dry heat then cover in liquid and finish in a covered pot.
Bread / coat with breadcrumbs Rolling food in flour, moistening with egg wash (egg with milk or water) and then coating in breadcrumbs.
Carving Cutting meat, fish or poultry into slices to get the optimum number of slices or portions.
Chill Quickly cooling with ice cubes and/or cold water.
Chop Cut into irregular pieces.
Coat Covering food with crumbs, flour etc.
Colander Perforated container for draining liquid.
Compote Dessert made of fruit cooked with sugar and served cold.
Coulis Brown or white thick sauce made from vegetables or fruit.
Crystallize Preservation method for fresh fruit. The water content is reduced and the sugar content increased to at least 70%.
Deglazing Pouring water into a pan to soak up cooked residue from the bottom of a pan as the basis of a fond.
Dégraisser To skim the fat off soups and other dishes.
En papillote Dish wrapped and served in paper or foil.
Flambé To douse food with a spirit and light it. The food then takes on the flavor of the alcohol.
Gratinate Coat with buttered crumbs or grated cheese and grill until there is a brown crust.
Halal Meat slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. Also what foods are permitted.
Hors d’oeuvre French for “appetizer”.
Jelly Pickled meat or fish in aspic jelly.
Kosher Food or ingredients prepared according to Jewish dietary laws.
Macerate Soaking food in a liquid to instill its flavor.
Marinade A liquid with herbs and spices in which foods are soaked before cooking.
Marinate To soak foods, usually raw fish or meat in a spicy, often an acidic liquid is used to add flavor and/or tenderize meat.
Mincing To chop meat very small or put it through a grinder (mincer).
Organic Foodstuffs from living organisms grown exclusively with “natural” fertilizers and pesticides.
Panade Mixture of starch and liquid added to e.g. ground meat to keep it moist during cooking.
Pickle Method of preserving foodstuffs with vinegar and salt.
Pinch Small amount that fits between two fingers.
Poach Gentle cooking method in hot (not boiling) water (75-95°). Used with vegetables, eggs and fish.
Reduce To cook a stock or sauce until water evaporates and leaves behind a concentrated liquid (reduction).
Roast Dry heat cooking on an open flame or oven used for slow cooking of larger food items.
Sauté Sautéing 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.
Scald To heat a liquid just under the boiling point.
Sear Browning food quickly on all sides with high heat.
Season Adding salt, pepper, herbs, spices etc. to food to improve the flavor.
Shred Cutting or tearing into thin strips.
Simmer Gently cooking without boiling.
Steam Cooking food in a sealed container over hot water.
Stew Meat and vegetables are usually sautéed then slow cooked (80°-100°) and served in their own liquid.
Stir-fry Cook food briefly with constant stirring, usually in a wok at a high heat and with a little oil.
Strain Pour food through a sieve to remove or separate larger pieces.
Tallow Fat from bovine animals, sheep, goats or deer.
Thicken Make a thin liquid thicker with the help of binders (flour or similar). Especially for preparing sauces.
Vinaigrette French salad dressing. Mixture of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices.
Wok A round-bottomed cooking pan from Asia popular for stir-frying.

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