Cooking Terms

Au jus - To serve with the natural juices or gravy.

Bake - Cook by dry heat in an oven; or to cook pancakes on a griddle.

Baking sheet - Good baking sheets (also called cookie sheets) are thick, and the best are insulated. Nonstick baking sheets can make life easier.

Baking (Pizza) stone - It is best to bake pizza and bread directly on a hot surface, and a baking stone provides the hot surface needed.

Barbecue - To roast meat slowly on a spit or grill over coals, or in the oven, basting frequently with a highly seasoned sauce.

Baste - To moisten foods during cooking with drippings, water or seasoned sauce, to prevent drying or to add flavor.

Beat - To work a mixture smooth with a regular, hard, rhythmic movement.

Blanch - To immerse fruits or nuts in boiling water to remove skins or make easy to peel; also, to dip fruits and vegetables in boiling water in preparation for canning, freezing or drying.

Blend - To mix two or more ingredients until smooth and uniform.

Blind bake - To bake a piecrust before it is filled to create a crisper crust. To prevent puffing and slipping during baking, the pastry is lined with foil and filled with pie weights, dry beans or uncooked rice. These are removed shortly before the end of baking time to allow the crust to brown.

Boil - Cook in boiling liquid in which bubbles rise vigorously to the surface. The boiling point of water is 212 F at sea level.

Braise - To brown meat or vegetables in small quantity of hot fat, then to cook slowly in small amount of liquid either in the oven or on top of the stove. Braising is an ideal way to prepare less-tender cuts of meat, firm fleshed fish and vegetables

Broil - Cook by exposure to direct heat under the broiler of a gas or electric range, in an electric broiler, or over an open fire.

Brown - To cook food quickly on top the stove (in fat or without fat), under a broiler, or in the oven to develop a richly browned, flavorful surface and help seal in the natural juices.

Brush - To spread food with butter or margarine or egg, using a small brush.

Butterfly - To split a food such as shrimp, boneless lamb leg or pork chop, horizontally in half, cutting almost but not all the way through, then opening (like a book) to form a butterfly shape. Butterflying exposes more surface area so the food cooks evenly and more quickly.

Candy - To cook fruit in a heavy sugar syrup until transparent, then drain and dry. Also, to cook vegetables with sugar or syrup to give a coating or glaze when cooked.

Caramelize - To melt sugar slowly over very low heat until sugar is liquid, deep amber in color and caramel flavored.

Chill - To refrigerate food or let it stand in ice or iced water until cold.

Chop - To cut food into small pieces with a knife or small cutting appliance.

Chow (Stir-fry) - A basic cooking method in Oriental kitchens. Generally a wok is used, but you may use a frying pan. The food is tossed about in a hot pan with very little oil, in a process not unlike saut ing.

Clarify - To clear a liquid, such as consomm , by adding slightly beaten egg white and egg shells; the beaten egg coagulates in the hot liquid and the particles which cause cloudiness adhere to it. The mixture is then strained.

Coat - To roll foods in flour, nuts, sugar, crumbs, etc., until all sides are evenly covered; or to dip first into slightly beaten egg or milk, then to cover with whatever coating is called for in a recipe.

Coats spoon - When a mixture forms a thin, even film on the spoon.

Coddle - To cook slowly and gently in water just below the boiling point. Eggs are frequently coddled.

Combine - To mix various ingredients together.

Cook - To prepare food by applying heat in any form.

Core - To remove the core or center of various fruits, such as apples, pears and pineapple, and vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage. Coring eliminates small seeds or tough and woody centers.

Correct the seasoning - To check for salt, pepper or herbs to make sure the dish has turned out as expected.

Cream - To rub, whip or beat with a spoon or mixer until mixture is soft and fluffy. Usually describes the combining of butter and sugar for a cake.

Crimp - To pinch or press dough edges - especially piecrust edges - to create a decorative finish and/or to seal two layers of dough so the filling does not seep out during baking. Edges of parchment or foil may also be crimped to seal in food and its juices during cooking.

Crisp - To make firm and brittle in very cold water or in refrigerator (lettuce or other greens, for example).

Curdle - To coagulate, or separate, into solids and liquids. Egg- and milk-based mixtures are susceptible to curdling if they are heated too quickly or combined with an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice or tomatoes.

Cut - To break up food into pieces, with a knife or scissors.

Cut in - To mix shortening with dry ingredients using a pastry blender, knife or fork. Usually applied to pastry making.

Deep-Fry - Cooking in enough fat to cover the food completely. The aim is to produce foods with a crisp golden-brown crust and a thoroughly cooked interior without letting them absorb too much fat. The kind, quantity and temperature of the fat are important in accomplishing this result.

Deglaze - After meats or vegetables have been browned, wine or stock is added to the pan over high heat, and the rich coloring that remains in the pan is gently scraped with a wooden spoon and combined with the wine or stock.

Devein - To remove the dark intestinal vein of a shrimp by using the tip of a sharp knife, then rinsing the shrimp in cold water.

Develop - Allow food to sit for a time before serving so the flavors have a chance to blend or brighten.

Devil - To coat with a hot seasoning, such as mustard or a hot sauce. Eggs are "deviled" when the yolk is mixed with highly spiced seasonings.

Dice - To cut food into small cubes of uniform size and shape, usually about 1/4 inch in size.

Dissolve - To make a liquid and a dry substance go into solution.

Dot - Scatter small amounts of specified ingredients, usually butter, or nuts, chocolate, etc. on top of food. This adds extra richness and flavor and helps promote browning.

Dredge - To sprinkle, coat or cover with flour, crumbs, cornmeal or other seasoned mixture.

Drizzle - To slowly pour a liquid, such as melted butter or a glaze in a fine stream, back and forth, over food.

Dust - To sprinkle a food or coat lightly with flour, sugar, cornmeal or cocoa powder.

Emulsify - To bind liquids that usually cannot blend smoothly, such as oil and water. The trick is to add one liquid, usually the oil, to the other in a slow stream while mixing vigorously. You can also use natural emulsifiers - egg yolks or mustard - to bind mixtures like vinaigrettes and sauces.

Ferment - To bring about a chemical change in foods or beverages. Beer, wine, yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar, cheese and yeast breads all get their distinctive flavors from fermentation.

Fillet - A strip or compact piece of boneless meat or fish.

Flambe - To sprinkle with brandy or liqueur and ignite and serve flaming.

Fold; Fold in - To combine two ingredients or two combinations of ingredients by two motions; cutting vertically through the mixture and turning over and over by sliding the implement (usually a rubber spatula or wire whisk) across the bottom of the mixing bowl with each turn.

Fork-tender - A degree of doneness for cooked vegetables and meats. You should feel just a slight resistance when food is pierced with a fork.

Fricassee - To cook pieces of fowl or meat by braising and serving with a thickened sauce.

Fry or Pan-Fry - To cook in a small amount of fat on top of the stove; also called "saut " and "pan-fry."

Garnish - To decorate any foods. Nuts, olives, parsley, citrus zest and so forth are called garnishes when used to give a finish to a dish.

Glace - To coat with a thin sugar syrup cooked to the crack stage.

Glaze - To cover with aspic; to coat with a thin sugar syrup; to cover with melted fruit jelly. Cold meats, fish, fruit, etc., are often glazed.

Grate - to rub on a grater to shred or flake.

Grill - See "Broil."

Hack - When cutting up chickens or thin boned meats, one "hacks" with a cleaver, thus cutting the meat into large bite-size pieces and retaining the bone. The presence of the bone will keep the meat moist during cooking.

Julienne - Food cut into very thin strips.

Knead - To work and press dough with the heels of your hands so the dough becomes stretched and elastic.

Lard - To insert strips or pieces of fat into uncooked lean meat for added flavor and moisture; or, slices of fat may be spread on top of uncooked lean meat, meatloaf or fish for the same purpose.

Leavening - Any agent that causes a dough or batter to rise. Common leaveners include baking powder, baking soda and yeast. Natural leaveners are air (when beaten into eggs) and steam (in popovers and cream puffs).

Liqueur - A sweet, high-alcohol beverage made from fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, or herbs infused with a spirit, such as brandy or rum. Traditionally served after dinner as a mild digestive, liqueurs can also be used in cooking.

Lukewarm - At a temperature of about 95 F. Lukewarm food will feel neither warm nor cold when sprinkled on or held to the inside of the wrist.

Marinate (Marinade) - To let foods stand in a marinade, usually an acid-oil mixture of oil and vinegar or wine, often flavored with spices and herbs.

Melt - To heat solid food, like sugar or fat, until it becomes liquid.

Mince - To cut with knife or scissors into very fine pieces.

Mix - To stir, usually with a spoon, until ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Pan-broil - To cook, uncovered, on a hot surface, usually a skillet. The fat is poured off as it accumulates.

Pan-fry - To cook or fry on top of the range in a hot, uncovered skillet with little or no fat. Steaks, chops, potatoes are frequently cooked this way.

Parboil - To boil until partially cooked.

Pare - To cut away coverings of vegetables and fruits.

Pasteurize - To sterilize milk by heating, then rapidly cooling it.

Peel - To strip or slip off outer coverings of some fruits or vegetables.

Pinch - The amount of a powdery ingredient you can hold between your thumb and forefinger -- about 1/16 teaspoon.

Pipe - To force a food (typically frosting or whipped cream) through a pastry tip to use as a decoration or garnish, or to shape dough, such as that for eclairs.

Pit - To remove the seed or pit.

Plank - To bake or broil meat, fish or vegetables on a wooden or metal plank.

Poach - To cook eggs, fish, chicken, fruit and other delicate foods in hot liquid (below the boiling point), being very careful that food holds its shape.

Pot-roast - To brown meat in a small amount of fat, then finish cooking in a small amount of liquid.

Pound - To flatten meats and poultry to a uniform thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. This ensures even cooling and also tenderizes tough meat by breaking up connective tissues. Veal and chicken cutlets are often pounded.

Preheat - To heat oven to stated temperature before using.

Prick - To pierce a food in many or a few places. You can prick a food in order to prevent buckling - an empty piecrust before it is baked, for example - or bursting - a potato before baking, or sausages before cooking.

Proof - To test yeast for potency: If you're not sure if yeast is fresh and active, dissolve it in warm water (105 to 115 F) with a pinch of sugar. If the mixture foams after 5 to 10 minutes, the yeast is fine to use. Proofing also refers to the rising stage for yeast doughs.

Punch down - To deflate yeast dough after it has risen, which distributes gluten (the elastic protein in flour that gives bread its strength) and prevents dough from over-rising. Punch your fist in the center of dough, then pull the edges toward the center.

Puree - To force vegetables, fruits and other foods through a fine sieve, food mill or ricer or blend in an electric blender or food processor to remove skins, seeds and so forth, and to produce a fine-textured substance.

Reconstitute - A procedure used for preparing dried foods, whereby the product is soaked in fresh water for a time.

Reduce - To evaporate some of the liquid in stock or sauce by boiling.

Render - To heat meat fat, cut into small pieces, until fat is separated from connective tissues. The clear fat is strained before being used in cooking. The crisp, brown bits left in the skillet - delicious but high in fat - are called cracklings.

Roast - Cook (Bake) by dry heat in an oven, on a spit in an oven, over charcoal, or in an electric rotisserie.

Roux - A blend of flour and oil or butter used to thicken sauces and gravies. The fat and flour are mixed together in equal amounts over heat. If a white roux is desired, the melting and blending are done over low heat for a few minutes. If a brown roux is desired, the flour is cooked in the fat to the desired degree of brown.

Rubbed - When whole-leaf herbs, such as sage or bay leaves, are crushed in the hands so that their oils are released, the herbs are then referred to as having been rubbed.

Saute - To fry lightly until golden and tender in a small amount of hot fat on top of range, turning frequently. From the French word that means "to jump."

Scald - To heat liquid just below the boiling point; milk has reached a scalding point when film forms on the surface.

Scallop - To arrange foods in layers in a casserole (such as scalloped potatoes), with a sauce or liquid, and then bake. Usually has a topping of bread crumbs.

Score - To cut narrow grooves or gashes part way through fat, in meats before cooking.; e.g., in steaks to prevent curling, or to cut diamond-shaped gashes through fat in ham just before glazing.

Scramble - To stir or mix foods gently while cooking, as eggs.

Sear - To cook at a very high temperature, either on top of range or in oven, for a short time in order to quickly form a brown crust on the outer surface of meat.

Shave - To cut wide, paper-thin slices of food, especially Parmesan cheese, vegetables, or chocolate. Shave off slices with a vegetable peeler and use as garnish.

Shirr - To break eggs into a dish with cream or crumbs, then bake.

Shot - A liquid measure that amounts to very little or to taste. A shot of wine is about 1 ounce, but a shot of Tabasco is less than 1/16 teaspoon.

Shred - To cut food into slivers or slender pieces, using a knife or shredder.

Shuck - To remove the shells of oysters, mussels or clams, or the husks of corn.

Sift - To put dry ingredients through a fine sieve.

Simmer - To cook in a liquid that is kept just below the boiling point; bubbles form slowly and break below the surface.

Skewer - A long, thin metal or wooden pin used to secure or suspend meat and/or vegetables during cooking. To thread foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, on a wooden or metal skewer so they hold their shape during cooking.

Skim - To remove fat or froth from the surface of a liquid, such as stock or boiling jelly.

Steam - To cook on a rack or holder over a small amount of boiling water in a tightly covered container.

Steep - To allow food, such as tea, to stand in hot liquid to extract flavor and/or color.

Sterilize - To heat in boiling water or steam for at least 20 minutes, until living organisms are destroyed.

Stew - To cook foods, in enough liquid to cover, very slowly - always below the boiling point.

Stir - To mix, usually with a spoon or fork, until ingredients are worked together.

Stir-fry (Chow) - A basic cooking method in Oriental kitchens. Generally a wok is used, but you may use a frying pan. The food is tossed about in a hot pan with very little oil, in a process not unlike saut ing.

Stock - A liquid in which vegetables or meat has been cooked.

Sweat - To saute over low heat with a lid on. This method causes steam and expedites the cooking time.

Temper - To heat food gently before adding it to a hot mixture so it does not separate or curdle. Often eggs are tempered by mixing with a little hot liquid to raise their temperature before they are stirred into a hot sauce or soup.

Tender-crisp - The ideal degree of doneness for many vegetables, especially green vegetables. Cook them until they are just tender but still retain some texture.

Terrine - A dish used for the cooking and molding of coarse-ground meat loaves. Also the meat itself. The dishes are found in many styles and materials.

Toast - To brown and dry the surface of foods with heat, such as bread and nuts.

Toss - To tumble ingredients lightly with a lifting motion, as in a salad.

Truss - To tie meat with metal or wooden pins or skewers, or string, to help meat hold its shape during cooking.

Whip - To rapidly beat eggs, heavy cream, etc., in order to incorporate air and expand volume.

Whisk - To beat ingredients (such cream, eggs, salad dressings, sauces) with a fork or the looped wire utensil called a whisk so as to mix or blend, or incorporate air.

Zest - To remove the colored peel of a citrus fruit. Use a grater, zester or vegetable peeler to remove the outermost part, avoiding the bitter white pith underneath. The peel itself is often referred to as zest.