Cooking Terms

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

Cooking Terms T-Z

Posted by Unknown Thursday, November 1, 2012




A flavoring agent, often used in Middle Eastern cooking, that's made from ground sesame seeds. Look for tahini in specialty food shops or Asian markets.



A dark, thin sauce made from soybeans. Tamari is a slightly thicker, mellower cousin of soy sauce and is used to flavor Asian dishes. In a pinch, substitute soy sauce.


Tamarind paste

A thick, tart, brown Asian flavoring that comes from the fruit of a tamarind tree.



Food substances used to give a thicker consistency to sauces, gravies, puddings, and soups. Common thickeners include:


Flour and cornstarch: All-purpose flour and cornstarch are starches commonly used to thicken saucy mixtures. Cornstarch produces a more translucent mixture than flour and has twice the thickening power. Before adding one to a hot mixture, stir cold water into a small amount. You can also combine either flour or cornstarch with cold water in a screw-top jar and shake until thoroughly blended. It is critical that the starch-water mixture be free of lumps to prevent lumps in your sauce or gravy.


Quick-cooking tapioca: This is a good choice for foods that are going to be frozen because, unlike flour- and cornstarch-thickened mixtures, frozen tapioca mixtures retain their thickness when reheated.


Tip: When using tapioca as a thickener for crockery cooking and freezer-bound foods, you can avoid its characteristic lumpy texture by grinding the tapioca with a mortar and pestle before adding to the recipe.



The process of browning, crisping, or drying a food by exposing it to heat. Toasting coconut, nuts, and seeds helps develop their flavor. Also the process of exposing bread to heat so it becomes browner, crisper, and drier.


Dried tomatoes

Sometimes referred to as sun-dried tomatoes, these shriveled-looking tomato pieces boast an intense flavor and chewy texture. They're available packed in olive oil or dry. Follow recipe directions for rehydrating dry tomatoes. If no directions are given, cover with boiling water, let stand about 10 minutes or until pliable, then drain well and pat dry. Snip pieces with scissors if necessary. Generally, dry and oil-packed tomatoes can be used interchangeably, though the dry tomatoes will need to be rehydrated, and the oil-packed will need to be drained and rinsed.



A small, thin, flat bread, popular in Mexican cooking, that is made from corn or wheat flour and usually is wrapped around a filling. To warm and soften flour tortillas, wrap a stack of 8 to 10 in foil and heat in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes.



To mix ingredients lightly by lifting and dropping them using two utensils.



A liquid extract made from the seed of an orchid. Imitation vanilla, an artificial flavoring, makes an inexpensive substitute for vanilla. They can be used interchangeably in our recipes.



White wine that has been fortified and flavored with herbs and spices. Dry vermouth is white and is used as a before-dinner drink or in nonsweet drinks, such as a martini. Sweet vermouth is reddish brown and can be drunk straight or used in sweet mixed drinks. Vermouth often is used as a cooking ingredient.



A sour liquid that is a byproduct of fermentation. Through fermentation the alcohol from grapes, grains, apples, and other sources is changed to acetic acid to create vinegar.



A Japanese horseradish condiment with a distinctive, pale lime-green color and a head-clearing heat (at least if used in significant amounts). Wasabi is available as a paste in a tube or as a fine powder in a small tin or bottle. It's often used to flavor fish.



When liquid separates out of a solid food, such as jellies, custards, and meringues.



To beat a food lightly and rapidly using a wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer in order to incorporate air into the mixture and increase its volume.


Wonton wrappers

Stuffed savory Asian pastries. The wrappers, paper-thin skins used to make wontons, can be found in the produce aisle or in Asian markets. Wonton wrappers are similar to, but smaller than, egg roll skins.



A tiny, single-celled organism that feeds on the sugar in dough, creating carbon dioxide gas that makes dough rise. Three common forms of yeast are:


Active dry yeast: This is the most popular form; these tiny, dehydrated granules are mixed with flour or dissolved in warm water before they're used.

Bread-machine yeast: This highly active yeast was developed especially for use in doughs processed in bread machines.


Quick-rising active dry yeast (sometimes called fast-rising or instant yeast): This is a more active strain of yeast than active dry yeast, and it substantially cuts down on the time it takes for dough to rise. This yeast is usually mixed with the dry ingredients before the warm liquids are added. The recipes in this book were tested using active dry yeast.


The colored outer portion of citrus fruit peel. It is rich in fruit oils and often used as a seasoning. To remove the zest, scrape a grater or fruit zester across the peel; avoid the white membrane beneath the peel because it is bitter.


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