Cooking Terms Glossary

04/10/2012 10:13

A helpful guide


AL DENTE ~ An Italian term meaning 'to the tooth'. Pasta is cooked tender, but still firm.


BLEND ~ Combining ingredients until smooth and uniform in texture, flavour, and colour.

BRAISE ~ a method of cooking that is used for tougher cuts of meat to make them tender. The food is cooked slowly in liquid or stock in a casserole, in an oven with a tight-fitting lid to ensure that the minimum amount of liquid is lost through evaporation.

BEAT ~ A method of vigorously agitating using a spoon, whisk, electric mixer or fork, to combine ingredients evenly, to soften and blend ingredients or to incorporate air into a mixture.

BLANCH ~ to immerse raw fruit or vegetables briefly in boiling water and immediately plunging it into cold water. This retards the action of the chemical substance in vegetables called enzymes. These enzymes cause spoilage of both colour and flavour.

BAIN-MARIE ~ a water bath made by putting a pan or bowl of food over a pan of hot water which should be kept at just below boiling point. A bain marie is used to keep delicate sauces and soups hot without further cooking. A bain marie can also be used in the oven for cooking delicate dishes such as crème caramel, or custards in bread & butter puddings - the item is placed in a shallow tray with water up to two-thirds of the cooking vessel. The food cooks gently and evenly.

BOIL ~ Heating liquid, which causes a constant production of bubbles that rise and break the surface.

BASTE ~ To moisten meat, poultry or game during cooking, usually when roasting, by spooning over with the cooking juices from the cooking vessel.

BOUQUET GARNI ~ A classic flavouring in French cooking the bouquet garni is a selection of herbs. The herbs may be simply tied together or combined in a small muslin bag. Used in stocks, sauces and soups and casseroles to add flavour, it is then discarded when a dish is cooked. The herbs can be a combination of various different types and they may be fresh or dried. A typical combination consists of thyme, bay leaves, parsley and marjoram. Woody herbs are good to use because they can withstand long, slow cooking methods.

BAKING BLIND ~ 'Baking Blind' is the process used to pre-cook a pastry crust without the filling. You would usually do this where the proposed filling to the crust either - does not require cooking, does not require as much time to cook as the pastry, or if the filling is too liquid, this would make the crust too soggy if you were to attempt to cook the pastry with the filling inside it. Simply line the pastry case with foil or greaseproof paper, and fill it with dried beans, peas or any dried pulses would do. The weight of them keeps the base of the pastry flat and strong during the cooking. Bake the case for about 10-15 minutes, then remove the paper or foil and bake until golden.



CARAMELIZE ~ The process of causing sugar or the natural sugars in food to darken to a golden brown and develop a rich flavor by cooking on a constant heat.

CHOP ~ To cut food into small even-sized pieces using a knife.

COAT ~ Covering a food with, or dipping it into, an ingredient such as flour or sauce. To cover with a thin layer of flour, sugar, nuts, crumbs, seeds, or spices.

COAT THE BACK OF SPOON ~ refers to the consistency of a smooth sauce, such as a white sauce or custard. To obtain the required thickness, stir the sauce in the pan with a spoon and then turn the spoon over. When the sauce coats the back of the spoon the required consistency is reached.

CREAMING ~ To beat together mixtures of fat (butter) and sugar together, to soften to a pale and 'soft dropping' consistency.



DICE ~ To cut into small cubes. Usually in 1/8 to 1/4 inch squares.

DESEED ~ To remove the seeds from fruit or vegetables. This is usually carried out using a small sharp knife.  To deseed a chilli, slice lengthways and scrape out the white strip (hottest part) and seeds with a teaspoon.

DEGLAZE ~  To heat a liquid, usually stock or wine, with the cooking juices that are left in the pan or roasting tin after cooking meat, to make a sauce or gravy.

DUSTING ~ To sprinkle lightly with a dry ingredient - to dust a dessert with icing sugar to   decorate.

DRIZZLE ~ Pouring a thin stream of an ingredient on top of other food.


DREDGING ~ To sprinkle a mixture generously with a dry ingredient, such as icing sugar or flour, using either a sieve or a 'dredger pot'.



EMULSIFY ~  To combine two liquid ingredients that do not naturally dissolve into each other, such as oil and vinegar. This is done by slowly adding one ingredient to the other while mixing rapidly with a whisk.


FRY ~ Cooking food in hot fat over moderate to high heat. Deep-frying requires that the food be submerged in the hot fat.

FOLD IN  ~ a method of combining a creamed mixture with dry ingredients, or to incorporate whisked egg whites, so that as little air is knocked out as possible. Use a metal spoon and working as gently as possible to fold through the dry ingredients in a figure of eight movement.


GLAZE ~ To brush a coating over sweet and savoury dishes usually before they are baked. A glaze gives a glossy appearance and sometimes improves the flavour of a dish. Beaten egg and milk are used to glaze pastries and breads. Syrups and jams can be brushed over a cake top or buns for an attractive finish.


INFUSE ~ to impart the flavour of something into warm liquid.


JULIENNE ~ Cutting food into thin sticks about two inches long. May be used as a garnish or in stir-fry.


KNEADING ~ To work dough either with your hands, or with a dough hook. Kneading makes the dough smooth, pilable and elastic.

KNOCKING BACK ~ The second kneading,usually done after the dough has been left to rise and before shaping.The purpose-knocking out any air bubbles from the dough, to ensure a even-textured result.



MELT ~ To apply heat to a solid ingredient to turn it into a liquid.

MARINADE  ~ A process of flavouring food by soaking in a liquid or dry mixture.



PEEL ~ Removing the outer covering or skin of fruit and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, oranges.

PUREE ~ to blend until smooth

POACH ~ cook in hot liquid, usually water or stock.

PARBOIL ~ To boil for a specified time without fully cooking the food, the cooking process is then completed using another method.

PROVING ~ A term used in bread making. To leave the Bread dough to rise after shaping, usually in a warm place. Bread dough is usually left to rise twice during the bread making process, the second time it is left to rise or prove until it is doubled in size and then it is ready for baking. This is done to give the finished bread a good rise and light even texture.

PREHEAT~ To heat oven to desired temperature before beginning to cook.



ROAST ~ to cook food in an oven, or to give colour to food by cooking in a pan on the stove.

REST ~ To allow cooked meat to sit for before serving. Once the meat is cooked, leave to 'rest' for 15-20 minutes before carving. This allows the meat juices to redistribute and the fibres to relax. Making the meat both easier to carve as well as being more succulent.

REDUCE ~ Briskly boil liquids, so that the liquid evapourates, usually by two-thirds, to thicken the sauce making it rich and flavourful.


RUBBING IN ~ A method of incorporating fat into flour by rubbing the fat with the fingertips, until it combines with the flour to form a mixture with a breadcrumb-like consistency. Pastry, scones, cakes and biscuits are made using the 'rub in' method.



SIMMER ~ Cooking food gently over low heat in liquid that is just below the boiling point. Bubbles will form slowly and just begin to break the surface.

SKIM ~ Removing any fat or foam from the surface of liquid.

STEAM ~ Cooking food on a rack in steam over boiling water in a closed container. The food should not touch the water.

STRAIN/DRAIN ~ Removing liquid from food by placing it in a strainer or colander and allowing the excess liquid to drain out.

SHRED ~ Cutting food into narrow strips using a knife, grater or food processor.

SEAL ~ To secure the edge of pastry in place, brush the edge of the lower pastry crust with water and lift the lid into position, press the edges firmly together to seal.

SEAR ~ To quickly brown the surface of meat in hot fat before it is cooked by either roasting or grilling. Searing helps to retain the juices of the meat,

SCORE ~  Making thin lines or slashes in food. For example before baking bread, use a knife to make slashes in the top so steam can escape.

SEASON ~ to flavour with salt & pepper.

SIFT ~ To shake dry ingredients, such as flour through a sieve to aerate, remove lumps, and give a smooth texture.

SAUTE~ To cook quickly in an open, shallow pan in hot fat, the food is stirred occasionally to prevent it from sticking.


THICKEN ~ To make a thin paste by mixing flour, cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water and then stirring the paste into a hot liquid and cooking, stirring constantly, until the liquid has thickened.

TOP & TAIL ~ To remove the top and bottom of various fruit or vegetables with kitchen scissors or a small sharp knife, such as 'top and tailing' gooseberries.

TOASTING ~  Heating nuts, seeds, spices until they are slightly browned. This will bring out their natural flavour.



WHIPPING ~To beat gently using a fork, hand whisk or electric whisk, to make it smooth or incorportae air into a mixture. To thicken whipping cream or double cream.

WHISKING ~ To beat rapidly using a hand whisk or electric whisk to introduce air into a mixture. This method is used for whisked sponge cakes, which rely on air for a light texture, and for meringues, where the egg whites are whicked until they are stiff and can hold peaks.