Cooking Terms

Here is a quick reference to common cooking terms we use.

Cooking Terms A-G

Posted by Unknown Thursday, November 1, 2012
Al dente
Italian for "to the tooth." It describes pasta
that is cooked until it offers a slight resistance when bitten into, rather
than cooked until soft.

Almond paste
A creamy mixture made of ground, blanched almonds and sugar
that's often used as a filling in pastries, cakes, and confections. For best
baking results, use an almond paste without syrup or liquid glucose.

Anchovy paste
A mixture of ground anchovies, vinegar, and seasonings.
Anchovy paste is available in tubes in the canned fish or gourmet section of
the supermarket.

Artificial sweeteners
A category of sugar substitutes that have no nutritional
value. Because they have unique attributes, they should not be substituted for
other sweeteners unless a recipe calls for them specifically.

A brightly-colored salad green with a slightly bitter,
peppery mustard flavor. It is also called rocket and resembles radish leaves.

To cook food, covered or uncovered, using the direct, dry
heat of an oven. The term is usually used to describe the cooking of cakes,
other desserts, casseroles, and breads.

Baking ammonia
A compound also known as hartshorn powder that was once used
as a leavening agent. It's most often used in Scandinavian baking and is
available at pharmacies and through mail order. Cream of tartar is an acceptable
substitute, although cookies made with it are less crisp than those made with
baking ammonia. If you use baking ammonia for baking, use caution when opening
the oven door because irritating ammonia-like fumes may be produced.

Baking powder
A combination of dry acid, baking soda, and starch that has
the ability to release carbon dioxide in two stages: when liquid ingredients
are added and when the mixture is heated.

Baking soda
A chemical leavening agent that creates carbon dioxide and
is used in conjunction with acidic ingredients, such as buttermilk, sour cream,
brown sugar, or fruit juices, to create the bubbles that make the product rise.

Balsamic vinegar
Syrupy and slightly sweet, this dark-brown vinegar is made
from the juice of the white Trebbiano grape. It gets its body, color, and
sweetness from being aged in wooden barrels.

Basmati rice
An aromatic, long grain brown or white rice from India and
California. Basmati rice is nutty and fluffy. Use as you would regular long
grain rice.

To moisten foods during cooking or grilling with fats or
seasoned liquids to add flavor and prevent drying. In general, recipes in this
cookbook do not call for basting meat and poultry with pan juices or drippings.
That's because basting tools, such as brushes and bulb basters, could be
sources of bacteria if contaminated when dipped into uncooked or undercooked
meat and poultry juices, then allowed to sit at room temperature and used later
for basting.

An uncooked, wet mixture that can be spooned or poured, as
with cakes, pancakes, and muffins. Batters usually contain flour, eggs, and
milk as their base. Some thin batters are used to coat foods before deep

Bean sauce, bean paste
Popular in Asian cooking, both products are made from
fermented soybeans and have a salty bean flavor. Japanese bean paste is called

Bean threads
Thin, almost transparent noodles made from mung bean flour.
They also are called bean noodles or cellophane noodles.

To make a mixture smooth by briskly whipping or stirring it
with a spoon, fork, wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer.

To slice a food crosswise at a 45-degree angle.

A popular Cajun cooking method in which seasoned fish or
other foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until
charred, resulting in a crisp, spicy crust. At home, this is best done outdoors
because of the large amount of smoke produced.

To partially cook fruits, vegetables, or nuts in boiling
water or steam to intensify and set color and flavor. This is an important step
in preparing fruits and vegetables for freezing. Blanching also helps loosen
skins from tomatoes, peaches, and almonds.

To combine two or more ingredients by hand, or with an
electric mixer or blender, until smooth and uniform in texture, flavor, and

To cook food in liquid at a temperature that causes bubbles
to form in the liquid and rise in a steady pattern, breaking at the surface. A
rolling boil occurs when liquid is boiling so vigorously that the bubbles can't
be stirred down.

A bouillon cube is a compressed cube of dehydrated beef,
chicken, fish, or vegetable stock. Bouillon granules are small particles of the
same substance, but they dissolve faster. Both can be reconstituted in hot
liquid to substitute for stock or broth.

Bouquet garni
A bundle of fresh herbs usually thyme, parsley, and bay leaf
used to add flavor to soups, stews, stocks, and poaching liquids. They are
often tied inside two pieces of leek leaf or in a piece of cheesecloth.

To cook food slowly in a small amount of liquid in a tightly
covered pan on the range top or in the oven. Braising is recommended for
less-tender cuts of meat.

A coating of crumbs, sometimes seasoned, on meat, fish,
poultry, and vegetables. Breading is often made with soft or dry bread crumbs.

A soft, creamy cheese with an edible white rind. Brie from
France is considered to be the best in the world.

Heavily salted water used to pickle or cure vegetables,
meats, fish, and seafood.

To cook food a measured distance below direct, dry heat.
When broiling, position the broiler pan and its rack so that the surface of the
food (not the rack) is the specified distance from the heat source. Use a ruler
to measure this distance.

The strained clear liquid in which meat, poultry, or fish has
been simmered with vegetables and herbs. It is similar to stock and can be used
interchangeably with it. Reconstituted bouillon can also be used when broth is

To cook a food in a skillet, broiler, or oven to add flavor
and aroma and develop a rich, desirable color on the outside and moistness on
the inside.

For rich flavor, butter is usually the fat of choice. For
baking, butter is recommended rather than margarine for consistent results.
Salted and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably in recipes; however, if
you use unsalted butter, you may want to increase the amount of salt in a

To split food, such as shrimp or pork chops, through the
middle without completely separating the halves. Opened flat, the split halves
resemble a butterfly.

A food, usually a fruit, nut, or citrus peel, that has been
cooked or dipped in sugar syrup.

To brown sugar, whether it is granulated sugar or the
naturally occuring sugars in vegetables. Granulated sugar is cooked in a
saucepan or skillet over low heat until melted and golden. Vegetables are
cooked slowly over low heat in a small amount of fat until browned and smooth.

The buds of a spiny shrub that grows from Spain to China.
Found next to the olives in the the supermarket, capers have an assertive
flavor that can best be described as the marriage of citrus and olive, plus an
added tang that comes from the salt and vinegar of their packaging brine. While
the smaller buds bring more flavor than the larger buds, both can be used
interchangeably in recipes.

To cut or slice cooked meat, poultry, fish, or game into
serving-size pieces.

A thin 100-percent-cotton cloth with either a fine or coarse
weave. Cheesecloth is used in cooking to bundle up herbs, strain liquids, and
wrap rolled meats. Look for it among cooking supplies in supermarkets and
specialty cookwareshops.

In cooking, this French word, meaning "made of
rags," refers to thin strips of fresh herbs or lettuce.

Chili oil
A fiery oil, flavored with chile peppers, that's used as a

Chili paste
A condiment, available in mild or hot versions, that's made
from chile peppers, vinegar, and seasonings.

To cool food to below room temperature in the refrigerator
or over ice. When recipes call for chilling foods, it should be done in the

In general, six types of chocolate are available at the
Milk chocolate is at least 10-percent pure chocolate with
added cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids.

Semisweet and bittersweet chocolate can be used
interchangeably. They contain at least 35-percent pure chocolate with added
cocoa butter and sugar.
Sweet chocolate is dark chocolate that contains at least
15-percent pure chocolate with extra cocoa butter and sugar.

Unsweetened chocolate is used for baking and cooking rather
than snacking. This ingredient contains pure chocolate and cocoa butter with no
sugar added.
Unsweetened cocoa powder is pure chocolate with most of the
cocoa butter removed. Dutch-process or European-style cocoa powder has been
treated to neutralize acids, making it mellower in flavor.

White chocolate, which has a mild flavor, contains cocoa
butter, sugar, and milk solids. Products such as white baking bars, white
baking pieces, white candy coating, and white confectionery bars are sometimes
confused with white chocolate. While they are often used interchangeably in
recipes, they are not truly white chocolate because they do not contain cocoa

To cut foods with a knife, cleaver, or food processor into
smaller pieces.

Chorizo (chuh-REE-zoh)
A spicy pork sausage used in Mexican and Spanish cuisine.
Spanish chorizo is made with smoked pork, and Mexican chorizo is made with
fresh pork.

A condiment often used in Indian cuisine that's made of
chopped fruit (mango is a classic), vegetables, and spices enlivened by hot
peppers, fresh ginger, or vinegar.

Clarified butter
Sometimes called drawn butter, clarified butter is best
known as a dipping sauce for seafood. It is butter that has had the milk solids
removed. Because clarified butter can be heated to high temperatures without
burning, it's also used for quickly browning meats. To clarify butter, melt the
butter over low heat in a heavy saucepan without stirring. Skim off foam, if
necessary. You will see a clear, oily layer on top of a milky layer. Slowly
pour the clear liquid into a dish, leaving the milky layer in the pan. The
clear liquid is the clarified butter; discard the milky liquid. Store clarified
butter in the refrigerator up to 1 month.

To evenly cover food with crumbs, flour, or a batter. Often
done to meat, fish, and poultry before cooking.

Coconut milk
A product made from water and coconut pulp that's often used
in Southeast Asian and Indian cooking. Coconut milk is not the clear liquid in
the center of the coconut, nor should it be confused with cream of coconut, a
sweetened coconut concoction often used to make mixed drinks such as piña

Cooking oil
Liquids at room temperature made from vegetables, nuts, or
seeds. Common types for general cooking include corn, soybean, canola,
sunflower, safflower, peanut, and olive. For baking, cooking oils cannot be
used interchangeably with solid fats because they do not hold air when beaten.

Couscous (KOOS-koos)
A granular pasta popular in North Africa that's made from
semolina. Look for it in the rice and pasta section of supermarkets.

To beat a fat, such as butter or shortening either alone or
with sugar, to a light, fluffy consistency. May be done by hand with a wooden
spoon or with an electric mixer. This process incorporates air into the fat so
baked products have a lighter texture and a better volume.

Crème fraîche
A dairy product made from whipping cream and a bacterial
culture, which causes the whipping cream to thicken and develop a sharp, tangy
flavor. If you can't find crème fraîche in your supermarket, you can make a
substitute by combining 1/2 cup whipping cream (do not use ultra-pasteurized
cream) and 1/2 cup dairy sour cream. Cover the mixture and let it stand at room
temperature for two to five hours or until it thickens. Cover and refrigerate
for up to one week.

To pinch or press pastry or dough together using your
fingers, a fork, or another utensil. Usually done for a piecrust edge.

A term that describes the state of vegetables that have been
cooked until just tender but still somewhat crunchy. At this stage, a fork can
be inserted with a little pressure.
Fine particles of food that have been broken off a larger
piece. Crumbs are often used as a coating, thickener, or binder, or as a crust
in desserts. Recipes usually specify either soft or fine dry bread crumbs,
which generally are not interchangeable.

To smash food into smaller pieces, generally using hands, a
mortar and pestle, or a rolling pin. Crushing dried herbs releases their flavor
and aroma.

To cause semisolid pieces of coagulated protein to develop
in a dairy product. This can occur when foods such as milk or sour cream are
heated to too high a temperature or are combined with an acidic food, such as
lemon juice or tomatoes.

Curry paste
A blend of herbs, spices, and fiery chiles that's often used
in Indian and Thai cooking. Look for curry paste in Asian markets. Curry pastes
are available in many varieties and are sometimes classified by color (green,
red, or yellow), by heat (mild or hot), or by a particular style of curry (such
as Panang or Masaman).

Cut in
To work a solid fat, such as shortening, butter, or
margarine, into dry ingredients. This is usually done with a pastry blender,
two knives in a crisscross fashion, your fingertips, or a food processor.

Refers to a small amount of seasoning that is added to food.
It is generally between 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoon. The term is often used for
liquid ingredients, such as bottled hot pepper sauce.

To cook food by completely covering with hot fat.
Deep-frying is usually done at 375 degrees.

Adding a liquid such as water, wine, or broth to a skillet
that has been used to cook meat. After the meat has been removed, the liquid is
poured into the pan to help loosen the browned bits and make a flavorful sauce.

Demi-glace (DEHM-ee-glahs)
A thick, intense meat-flavor gel that's often used as a
foundation for soups and sauces. Demi-glace is available in gourmet shops or
through mail-order catalogs.

To immerse food for a short time in a liquid or dry mixture
to coat, cool, or moisten it.
Direct Grilling
Method of quickly cooking food by placing it on a grill rack
directly over the heat source. A charcoal grill is often left uncovered, while
a gas grill is generally covered.

To stir a solid food and a liquid food together to form a
mixture in which none of the solid remains. In some cases, heat may be needed
in order for the solid to dissolve.

Double boiler
A two-pan arrangement where one pan nests partway inside the
other. The lower pot holds simmering water that gently cooks heat-sensitive food
in the upper pot.

A term referring to a whole fish, with or without scales,
that has had its internal organs removed. The term "drawn butter"
refers to clarified butter.

To coat a food, either before or after cooking, with a dry
ingredient, such as flour, cornmeal, or sugar.

Fish or game that has had guts (viscera) removed. In the
case of fish, gills are removed, the cavity is cleaned, and the head and fins
remain intact. The scales may or may not be removed.

Drip pan
A metal or disposable foil pan placed under food to catch
drippings when grilling. A drip pan can also be made from heavy-duty foil.

To randomly pour a liquid, such as powdered sugar icing, in
a thin stream over food.

To lightly coat or sprinkle a food with a dry ingredient,
such as flour or powdered sugar, either before or after cooking.

Egg roll skins
Pastry wrappers used to encase a savory filling and make egg
rolls. Look for these products in the produce aisle of the supermarket or at
Asian markets. Egg roll skins are similar to, but larger than, wonton skins.

Egg whites, dried
Pasteurized dried egg whites can be used where egg whites
are needed; follow package directions for reconstituting them. Unlike raw egg
whites, which must be thoroughly cooked before serving to kill harmful
bacteria, pasteurized dried egg whites can be used in recipes that do not call
for egg whites to be thoroughly cooked. Keep in mind that meringue powder may
not be substituted, as it has added sugar and starch. Find dried egg whites in
powdered form in the baking aisle of many supermarkets and through mail-order

Keep in mind that you should avoid eating foods that contain
raw eggs. Eggs should be cooked until both the yolk and white are firm;
scrambled eggs should not be runny. Cook casseroles and other dishes that
contain eggs until they register 160 degrees F on a food thermometer. If you
have a recipe that calls for the eggs to be raw or undercooked (such as Caesar
salads and homemade ice cream), use shell eggs that are clearly labeled as
having been pasteurized to destroy salmonella; these are available at some
retailers. Or use a widely available pasteurized egg product. If you have a
recipe that calls for egg whites to be raw or undercooked, use pasteurized
dried egg whites or pasteurized refrigerated liquid egg whites.

For cake recipes, allow eggs to stand at room temperature
for 30 minutes before using. If the cake recipe calls for separated eggs,
separate them immediately after removing them from the refrigerator and use
them within 30 minutes. For all other recipes, use eggs straight from the

To combine two liquid or semiliquid ingredients, such as oil
and vinegar, that don't naturally dissolve into each other. One way to do this
is to gradually add one ingredient to the other while whisking rapidly with a
fork or wire whisk.

Extracts, oils
Products based on the aromatic essential oils of plant
materials that are distilled by various means. In extracts, the highly
concentrated oils are usually suspended in alcohol to make them easier to
combine with other foods in cooking and baking. Almond, anise, lemon, mint,
orange, peppermint, and vanilla are some commonly available extracts.
Some undiluted oils are also available, usually at
pharmacies. These include oil of anise, oil of cinnamon, oil of cloves, oil of
peppermint, and oil of wintergreen. Do not try to substitute oils for ground
spices in recipes. Oils are so concentrated that they're measured in drops, not
teaspoons. Oil of cinnamon, for example, is 50 times stronger than ground
cinnamon. You can, however, substitute 1 or 2 drops of an oil for 1/2 teaspoon
extract in frosting or candy recipes.

Fats, oils
See specific ingredients, such as butter, margarine,
shortening, lard, or cooking oil.

Fava bean
A tan, flat bean that looks like a large lima bean. It is
available dried, canned, and, occasionally, fresh.

A tangy, crumbly Greek cheese made of sheep's or goat's

A piece of meat or fish that has no bones. As a verb, fillet
refers to the process of cutting meat or fish into fillets.

Fish Sauce
A pungent brown sauce made by fermenting fish, usually
anchovies, in brine. It's often used in Southeast Asian cooking.

To gently break food into small, flat pieces.

Flavored oils
Commercially prepared oils flavored with herbs, spices, or
other ingredients, including avocado, walnut, sesame, hazelnut, and almond. In
addition to using them in recipes when called for, try brushing them over
grilled vegetables or bread, or experiment with them in your favorite
vinaigrette recipe.

An imitation extract made of chemical compounds. Unlike an
extract or oil, a flavoring often does not contain any of the original food it
resembles. Some common imitation flavorings available are banana, black walnut,
brandy, cherry, chocolate, coconut, maple, pineapple, raspberry, rum, strawberry,
and vanilla.

A milled food that can be made from many cereals, roots, and
seeds, although wheat is the most popular. Store flour in an airtight container
in a cool, dry place. All-purpose flour may be stored for up to 8 months. Bread
flour, cake flour, gluten flour, whole wheat flour, and other whole grain
flours may be stored up to 5 months. For longer storage, refrigerate or freeze
the flour in a moisture- and vaporproof container. Bring chilled flour to room
temperature before using in baking. Here are the types of flour most commonly
used in cooking:

All-purpose flour: This flour is made from a blend of soft
and hard wheat flours and, as its name implies, can be used for many purposes,
including baking, thickening, and coating. All-purpose flour usually is sold
presifted and is available bleached or unbleached. Bleached flour has been made
chemically whiter in appearance. Some cooks prefer the bleached flour to make
their cakes and bread as white as possible, while other cooks prefer their flour
to be processed as little as necessary. Both bleached and unbleached flour are
suitable for home baking and can be used interchangeably.

Bread flour: This flour contains more gluten than
all-purpose flour, making it ideal for baking breads, which rely on gluten for
structure and height. If you use a bread machine, use bread flour instead of
all-purpose flour for best results. Or use all-purpose flour and add 1 or 2
tablespoons of gluten flour (available in supermarkets or health food stores).
Cake flour: Made from a soft wheat, cake flour produces a
tender, delicate crumb because the gluten is less elastic. It's too delicate
for general baking, but to use it for cakes, sift it before measuring and use 1
cup plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour for every 1 cup all-purpose flour

Gluten flour: Because whole-grain flours are low in gluten,
some whole-grain bread recipes often call for a little gluten flour to help the
finished loaf attain the proper texture. Sometimes called wheat gluten, gluten
flour is made by removing most of the starch from high-protein, hard-wheat
flour. If you can't find gluten flour at a supermarket, look for it at a health
food store.

Pastry flour: A soft wheat blend with less starch than cake
flour. It is used for making pastry.

Self-rising flour: An all-purpose flour with salt and a
leavener, such as baking powder, added. It is generally not used for making
yeast products.
Specialty flours: Specialty flours, such as whole wheat,
graham, rye, oat, buckwheat, and soy, generally are combined with all-purpose
flour in baking recipes because none has sufficient gluten to provide the right
amount of elasticity on its own.

Flour (verb)
To coat or dust a food or utensil with flour. Food may be
floured before cooking to add texture and improve browning. Baking utensils
sometimes are floured to prevent sticking.

To make a decorative impression in food, usually a piecrust.

A method of gently mixing ingredients without decreasing
their volume. To fold, use a rubber spatula to cut down vertically through the
mixture from the back of the bowl. Move the spatula across the bottom of the
bowl, and bring it back up the other side, carrying some of the mixture from
the bottom up over the surface. Repeat these steps, rotating the bowl one-fourth
of a turn each time you complete the process.

Food coloring
Liquid, paste, or powdered edible dyes used to tint foods.

To cut meat away from the end of a rib or chop to expose the
bone, as with a lamb rib roast.

To apply a cooked or uncooked topping, which is soft enough
to spread but stiff enough to hold its shape, to cakes, cupcakes, or cookies.

To cook food in a hot cooking oil or fat, usually until a
crisp brown crust forms. To panfry is to cook food, which may have a very light
breading or coating, in a skillet in a small amount of hot fat or oil. To
deep-fat fry (or French fry) is to cook a food until it is crisp in enough hot
fat or oil to cover the food. To shallow fry is to cook a food, usually breaded
or coated with batter, in about an inch of hot fat or oil. To oven fry is to
cook food in a hot oven, using a small amount of fat to produce a healthier

The strongly scented, pungent bulb of a plant related to an
onion. A garlic clove is one of the several small segments that make up a
garlic bulb. Elephant garlic is larger, milder, and more closely related to the
leek. Store firm, fresh, plump garlic bulbs in a cool, dry, dark place; leave
bulbs whole because individual cloves dry out quickly. Convenient substitutes
are available; for each clove called for in a recipe use either 1/8 teaspoon
garlic powder or 1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic.

To add visual appeal to a finished dish.

A dry ingredient made from natural animal protein that can
thicken or set a liquid. Gelatin is available in unflavored and flavored forms.
When using, make sure the gelatin powder is completely dissolved.

To dissolve one envelope of unflavored gelatin: Place
gelatin in a small saucepan and stir in at least 1/4 cup water, broth, or fruit
juice. Let it stand 5 minutes to soften, then stir it over low heat until the
gelatin is dissolved.

Do not mix gelatin with figs, fresh pineapple (canned
pineapple is not a problem), fresh ginger, guava, kiwifruit, and papaya, as
these foods contain an enzyme that prevents gelatin from setting up.

Some recipes call for gelatin at various stages of gelling.
"Partially set" means the mixture looks like unbeaten egg whites. At
this point, solid ingredients may be added. "Almost firm" describes
gelatin that is sticky to the touch. It can be layered at this stage.
"Firm" gelatin holds a cut edge and is ready to be served.

The edible internal organs of poultry, including the liver,
heart, and gizzard. (Although sometimes packaged with the giblets, the neck is
not part of the giblets.) Giblets are sometimes used to make gravy.

The root of a semitropical plant that adds a spicy-sweet
flavor to recipes (also called gingerroot). Ginger should be peeled before
using. To peel, cut off one end of the root and use a vegetable peeler to
remove the brown outer layer in strips. To grate ginger, use the fine holes of
a grater. To mince ginger, slice peeled ginger with the grain (lengthwise) into
thin sticks. Stack the sticks in a bundle and cut them finely. Ginger stays
fresh two or three weeks in the refrigerator when wrapped loosely in a paper
towel. For longer storage, place unpeeled ginger in a freezer bag and store in
freezer. Ginger will keep indefinitely when frozen, and you can grate or slice
the ginger while it's frozen. In a pinch, ground ginger can be used for grated
fresh ginger. For 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, use 1/4 teaspoon ground

Crystallized ginger
A confection made from pieces of ginger (gingerroot) cooked
in a sugar syrup, then coated with sugar. Also known as candied ginger. Store
in a cool, dry, dark place.

Glacé (gla-SAY)
The French term for "glazed" or
"frozen." In the United States, it describes a candied food.

A thin, glossy coating. Savory glazes are made with reduced
sauces or gelatin; sweet glazes can be made with melted jelly or chocolate.

An elastic protein present in flour, especially wheat flour,
that provides most of the structure of baked products.

To rub food, such as hard cheeses, vegetables, or whole
nutmeg or ginger, across a grating surface to make very fine pieces. A food
processor also may be used.

To coat a utensil, such as a baking pan or skillet, with a
thin layer of fat or oil. A pastry brush works well to grease pans. Also refers
to fat released from meat and poultry during cooking.

To mechanically cut a food into smaller pieces, usually with
a food grinder or a food processor.

The word gumbo is from an African word meaning
"okra." This creole stew contains okra, tomatoes, and onions as well
as various meats or shellfish such as shrimp, chicken, or sausage. It is
thickened with a roux.


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