Cooking Dictionary/Substitutions

Common Terms Seen in Cooking: this includes techniques, foods, sauces, utensils, etc.

  • Al Dente- An Italian term used to describe pasta that has only a a slight amount of resistance when you bite down on it.
  • Bake- to cook something in the oven.  You will notice that roast and bake are sometimes used interchangeably, generally speaking though, roast refers to something being cooked at a higher temperature. 
  • Baste- to moisten during cooking.  This prevents the food from drying out.  Usually pan drippings or a sauce are used to baste.
  • Bearnaise- emulsified egg and butter sauce, very similar to hollandaise but contains wine, shallots and tarragon.
  • Beat- mixing rapidly, making smooth and trying to incorporate as much air as possible. Most commonly this method is used when working with eggs.
  • Bechamel- a white sauce made with whole milk, which is thickened with a white roux (reference roux) and has aromatic herbs added to it.
  • Beurre Blanc- a butter, white wine and white wine vinegar sauce.
  • Blanch- a method of cooking vegetables in which you place them in boiling water for several seconds then remove them and place the vegetables under cold water.  This process makes vegetables very bright in color and loosens the skin of some firm flesh vegetables.  
  • Boil- cooking any liquid to the point where the liquid bubbles vigorously.
  • Braise- to cook food in a small amount of liquid.
  • Broil- to cook under high, direct heat.  There is a broil function on your oven (usually two options: high and low).
  • Butterfly- to cut open a piece of meat or seafood like a book or the wings of a butterfly.
  • Caramelize- for vegetables such as carrots or onions that have a lot of natural sugars, this happens when you cook the vegetables until they breakdown. This process intensifies the flavor of the vegetable.  The vegetables take on a slight brown color after this process.
  • Chevre- french for goat, referring to the type of cheese. So goat cheese.
  • Chop- to cut into irregular pieces
  • Colander- A metal or plastic perforated bowl used to strain foods.
  • Compote- fruit cooked in syrup flavored with spices or liqueur.
  • Coulis- a mixture usually of a fruit puree that has all seeds, peels and bits removed so that it is perfectly smooth.
  • Cream- to soften a fat by beating it at room temperature. This is often done to butter and sugar, turning the combination into a smooth, soft paste.
  • Creme Fraiche- a thick, heavy cream that is cultured, which gives it a tangy flavor.
  • Cure- in preserving meats, curing is a popular method. Is done by drying, salting or smoking.
  • Deep-fry- to cook a food by completely submerging it in frying oil.
  • Deglaze- this is done to dissolve the brown bits of food and herbs stuck to the bottom of a pan.  To deglaze a pot or pan simply add liquid and stir and scrape the bottom over high heat.  The bits stuck to the bottom of the pot or pan add a lot of flavor to the liquid and can be used as a sauce.
  • Dice- to cut food into small, square, uniform pieces.
  • Drupe- this is a juicy false fruit attached to a wooden pit.  peaches and plums are drupes.
  • Dutch Oven- a cast-iron pot usually used for making stews, pot-roasts, braises, etc.
  • Egg Wash- this is a mixture of either a whole egg or egg white and water and oil that is brushed on floured items before they are baked or pan-fried.  The egg wash gives the floured item a nice golden brown and glossy look once cooked. 
  • Emulsion- examples of emulsions are mayonnaise, hollandaise, vinaigrette.  This is a substance that combines two things that don’t normally mix, like water and oil.
  • Essence- this is a concentration of flavor that has been extracted from an item.
  • Fillet- this is a term used to express taking the bones out of fish or meat.  A fillet/filet of fish is a de-boned piece of flesh.
  • Fish Sauce- used frequently in Asian cuisine, this sauce is made from fermented fish.  It is clear and amber colored.  Be careful with this because a little goes a long way.
  • Flake- to delicately break into small pieces.
  • Foie Gras- french for “liver fat.” these livers come from either a geese or a ducks who have been force-fed a diet of corn, lard and salted water to fatten up their livers.  
  • Fold- incorporating delicate ingredients such as egg whites or whipped cream.
  • Forcemeat- a mixture of chopped, ground meat along with other ingredients.  This mixture is usually used for making sausages, pates and other things of that sort.
  • fork-tender- this is a degree of doneness for cooked vegetables and meats.  When piercing these foods with a fork it should meet only slight resistance.
  • Frittata- a flat baked, italian style omelet.
  • Ganache- This is made by combining heaving cream with chocolate over heat then whisked until cool.  The look of ganache should be glossy and smooth
  • Gherkin- a little pickle.  Gherkins can be sour or sweet.
  • Giblets- think of all the things you get in a baggie with a whole turkey or chicken.  These are the neck, heart, gizzard and liver. Most commonly used to make gravy.
  • Glaze- this is done to give food a glossy appearance by.
  • Gratin- essentially the same thing as a casserole but usually baked in a special oval dish.  A gratin has a golden brown crust of bread crumbs, cheese or creamy sauce A gratin is made from combining food with a liquid that is usually dairy based, like milk, cream or bechamel sauce but could also be nondairy, for example tomato sauce. 
  • Grill- to cook above high heat.
  • Harissa- Spicy red chili paste originated from Northern Africa.
  • Hash- Chopped meat that is most commonly cooked with potatoes but could also be cooked with other vegetables.  the mixture is usually pan-fried together.  
  • Hoisin Sauce- A Chinese sauce that is sweet-tasting, dark in color and thick in consistency.  It is made from a fremented soy bean, red rice and sugar base. 
  • Hollandaise-an emulsion of egg yolk, lemon juice and butter.  This is a smooth and creamy sauce which is yellow in color.
  • Julienne- to cut vegetables or fruit into thing strips.
  • Jus-
  • Knead- to work dough with the palms of the hands to develop gluten in the flour. You’ll know you’ve kneaded the dough enough when you can push down on the dough (with a finger) and it puffs back up.
  • Lard
  • Lox
  • Mandoline
  • Meringue
  • Mince
  • Nori Sheets
  • Pan-Broil
  • Pan-Fry
  • Pate
  • Pickle
  • Pilaf
  • Poach
  • Prosciutto
  • Ragout
  • Ramekin
  • Reduce
  • Roast
  • Roux
  • Saute
  • Scald
  • Scallop
  • Sear
  • Sea Salt
  • Simmer
  • Smother
  • Souffle
  • Spring-form Pan
  • Stir-fry
  • Stock

Links to ingredient substitutions can be found below:

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