Cooking Terms

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

Cooking Terms H-M

Posted by Unknown Thursday, November 1, 2012


A mixture of equal parts cream and milk. It has about 12 percent milk fat and cannot be whipped.


Haricot vert

French for "green string bean", these beans are particularly thin and tender.


Heavy cream

Also called heavy whipping cream. Heavy cream contains at least 46 perecent milk fat and is the richest cream available. It can be whipped to twice its volume.


Hoisin Sauce

A sauce, popular in Asian cooking, that brings a multitude of sweet and spicy flavors to a dish: fermented soybeans, molasses, vinegar, mustard, sesame seeds, garlic, and chiles. Look for hoisin sauce alongside the soy sauce in most supermarkets or in Asian markets.



Dried white or yellow corn kernels that have been soaked in lime or lye to remove the hull and germ. It is available canned or dried. Ground hominy is used to make grits.



A sweet, sticky sweetener that's produced by bees from floral nectar. Honey is now available in more than 300 varieties in the United States. Its flavor depends on the flowers from which the honey is derived; most honey is made from clover, but other sources include lavender, thyme, orange blossom, apple, cherry, buckwheat, and tupelo. Generally, the lighter the color, the milder the flavor. Store honey at room temperature in a dark place. If it crystallizes (becomes solid), reliquefy it by warming the honey jar slightly in the microwave oven or in a pan of very hot tap water. If the honey smells or tastes strange, toss it out.


Note that honey should not be given to children who are younger than one year old because it can contain trace amounts of botulism spores. These spores could trigger a potentially fatal reaction in children with undeveloped immune systems.


Hors d'oeuvre (or-DERV)

French term for small, hot or cold portions of savory food served as an appetizer.



To drizzle or spread baked goods with a thin frosting.


Indirect grilling

Method of slowly cooking food in a covered grill over a spot where there are no coals. Usually the food is placed on the rack over a drip pan, with coals arranged around the pan.


Jelly roll

Dessert made by spreading a filling on a sponge cake and rolling it up into a log shape. When other foods are shaped "jelly-roll-style," it refers to rolling them into a log shape with fillings inside.



The natural liquid extracted from fruits, vegetables, meats, and poultry. Also refers to the process of extracting juice from foods.



To work dough with the heels of your hands in a pressing and folding motion until it becomes smooth and elastic. This is an essential step in developing the gluten in many yeast breads.


Kosher salt

A coarse salt with no additives that many cooks prefer for its light, flaky texture and clean taste. It also has a lower sodium content than regular salt. Find it next to salt in the supermarket.



A product made from pork fat that is sometimes used for baking. It's especially noted for producing light, flaky piecrusts. Today, shortening is commonly used instead of lard.



Ingredients that are essential in helping batter and dough expand or rise during baking. If omitted, the baked products will be heavy and tough. See specific ingredients, such as yeast, baking powder, and baking soda, for more information.



A highly aromatic, lemon-flavored herb often used in Asian cooking. To use, trim the fibrous ends and slice what remains into 3- to 4-inch sections. Cut each section in half lengthwise, exposing the layers. Rinse pieces under cold water to remove any grit and slice the lemongrass thinly. In a pinch, substitute 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel for 1 tablespoon lemongrass.


Light cream

Also called coffee or table cream. It usually contains about 20 percent milk fat and cannot be whipped.



To gently swirl one food into another. Marbling is usually done with light and dark batters for cakes or cookies.



A product generally made from vegetable oil that was developed in the late 1800s as a substitute for butter. When baking, be sure to use a stick margarine that contains at least 80 percent fat. Check the nutritional information. It should have 100 calories per tablespoon.



A seasoned liquid in which meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or vegetables are soaked to flavor and sometimes tenderize them. Most marinades contain an acid, such as wine or vinegar.



To soak food in a marinade. When marinating foods, do not use a metal container, as it can react with acidic ingredients to give foods an off flavor. Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the kitchen counter. To reduce cleanup, use a plastic bag set in a bowl or dish to hold the food you are marinating. Discard leftover marinade that has come in contact with raw meat. Or if it's to be used on cooked meat, bring leftover marinade to a rolling boil before using to destroy any bacteria that may be present.



A fortified wine that can be either dry or sweet. Sweet Marsala is used both for drinking and cooking. Dry Marsala makes a nice pre-dinner drink.



To press or beat a food to remove lumps and make a smooth mixture. This can be done with a fork, potato masher, food mill, food ricer, or electric mixer.



To determine the quantity or size of a food or utensil.



To heat a solid food, such as chocolate, margarine, or butter, over very low heat until it becomes liquid or semi-liquid.


Milk and milk products


Varieties include:

Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a low-fat or fat-free milk to which a bacterial culture has been added. It has a mildly acidic taste. Sour milk, made from milk and lemon juice or vinegar, can be substituted in baking recipes.


Evaporated milk: Made from whole milk, canned evaporated milk has had about half of its water removed; it lends a creamy richness to many recipes, including pumpkin pie. Measure it straight from the can for recipes calling for evaporated milk; to use it in place of fresh milk, dilute it as directed on the can (usually with an equal amount of water) to make the quantity called for in the recipe. Evaporated milk is also available in low-fat and fat-free versions. Evaporated milk is not interchangeable with sweetened condensed milk.


Fat-free half-and-half: Made mostly from skim milk, with carrageenan for body, this product can bring a creamy flavor to recipes without added fat. Experiment using it in cornstarch or flour-thickened soup, sauce, and gravy recipes that call for regular half-and-half.


Light cream and half-and-half: Light cream contains 18 to 30 percent milk fat. Half-and-half is a mixture of milk and cream. They're interchangeable in most recipes; however, neither contains enough fat to be whipped.


Nonfat dry milk powder: When reconstituted, this milk product can be used in cooking.

Sour cream and yogurt: Sour cream is traditionally made from light cream with a bacterial culture added, while yogurt is made from milk with a bacterial culture added. Both are available in low-fat and fat-free varieties.


Sweetened condensed milk: This product is made with whole milk that has had water removed and sugar added. It is also available in low-fat and fat-free versions. Sweetened condensed milk is not interchangeable with evaporated milk or fresh milk.


Whipping cream: It contains at least 30 percent milk fat and can be beaten into whipped cream.


Whole, low-fat or light, reduced-fat, and fat-free milk: Because these milk types differ only in the amount of fat they contain and in the richness of flavor they lend to foods, they may be used interchangeably in cooking. Recipes in this cookbook were tested using reduced-fat (2 percent) milk.



To chop food into very fine pieces, as with minced garlic.



To stir or beat two or more foods together until they are thoroughly combined. May be done with an electric mixer, a rotary beater, or by hand with a wooden spoon.


To add enough liquid to a dry ingredient or mixture to make it damp but not runny.

Mortar and pestle

A set that includes a bowl-shape vessel (the mortar) to hold ingredients to be crushed by a club-shape utensil (the pestle).


To slowly heat a beverage, such as cider, with spices and sugar.

Mushrooms, dried

Dried mushrooms swell into tender, flavorful morsels. Simply cover them in warm water and soak them for about 30 minutes. Rinse well and squeeze out the moisture. Remove and discard tough stems. Cook them in recipes as you would fresh mushrooms. Popular choices include oyster, wood ear, and shiitake.

Mushrooms, fresh
A plant in the fungus family, mushrooms come in many colors and shapes, with flavors ranging from mild and nutty to meaty, woodsy, and wild.


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