Culinary terms used most frequently- B -
Baste or Mop: To moisten food while cooking with a liquid (melted fat, pan dripping, sauce, or other liquid). This keeps the meat, and other foods, from drying out and encourages color and flavor. A spoon, brush, bulb baster, or miniature mop can be used.
Blanch: To briefly plunge food into boiling water, and then into cold water to stop cooking. Blanching is used to loosen skins of fruits and vegetables, or to prepare them for more cooking by another method.
Braise: A method in which food is first browned, and then cooked in a tightly-covered pan with a small amount of liquid. It is cooked at low heat for a long period of time.
Caramelization: All meat and vegetables contain some sugar (in the form of carbohydrates). Under intense dry heat, as in roasting or sauteing, these sugars break down. The result is the brown color and rich flavor called caramelization.
Chop: To cut food into relatively uniform bite-size or smaller pieces.
Concassee: [kon-kaas-SAY] Its root word means to roughly chop or pound a food. Concassee is usually made from chopped tomatoes.
Cube: To cut food (such as meat or cheese) into uniform 1/2" cubes.
Cut-In: To mix a solid fat (butter or shortening) into a dry ingredient using a pastry blender, two knives, a fork, or fingers until fat particles are the desired size.
Deglaze: The process of removing browned bits of food from the bottom of the pan. It's done by heating a small amount of liquid in the pan (usually wine or stock), and stirring to loosen. This mixture is a great base for making a sauce.Dice: To cut food into uniform tiny (1/4" or smaller) cubes.
Emulsify: [eh-MUHL-suh-fy] The process of binding hard-to-combine ingredients, like water and oil. The final blended product is called an emulsion which can last from a few minutes to a few days depending on the emulsifier, the item that binds the two hard-to-combine ingredients. Common emulsifiers are mustard and egg yolks.
Glaze: 1. A 90% reduction of stock. 2. A thin glossy coating applied to foods. A reduction or aspic can cover savory foods. Anything from melted chocolate to thin icings can cover pastries and cakes. v. To apply a thin shiny coating to food. Infusion: The extraction of flavor from a food in a hot liquid (below the boiling point). Usually refers to teas and coffees, but can also apply to cooking (like the pistachio cream or olive oils that are infused with herbs).
Infusion: The extraction of flavor from a food in a hot liquid (below the boiling point). Usually refers to teas and coffees, but can also apply to cooking (like the pistachio cream or olive oils that are infused with herbs).
- J -
Marrow: A soft, fatty tissue found in the hollow center of an animal's bone -- particularly plentiful in the shin and leg bones. Considered a delicacy in Europe, marrow is light and digestible with the same amount of calories as beef fat. It can be cooked in the bone, removed, and eaten. And it can be used in soups and stews for flavor and body.
Mince: To cut food into very small pieces. The terms "finely chopped" and "minced" are interchangeable.
Mirepoix: [mihr-PWAH] A mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery, and herbs sauteed in butter. Mirepoix is used in almost all soups, sauces, and stews as a base flavor. It is also used as a bed to braise meats, poultry and fish.
Mount: A technique where small pieces of cold, unsalted butter are whisked into a sauce just before serving. Mounting gives sauces texture and flavor as well as a glossy look.
Non-reactive: Any cooking material that won't react (by discoloring or changing the taste) with acidic foods. Glass and stainless steel are the most common non-reactive materials. Non-reactive pan or bowl: Any non-porous material that does not impart a flavor or alter a color in food. This includes glass, stainless steel, glazed ceramic, or enamel.
- P -
Poach: To cook food gently in hot liquid that's just below the boiling point. Liquids can vary from broths, to water, to syrups.
Polenta: [po-LEHN-tah] An Italian cornmeal mush that is often cooled and then fried, grilled, broiled, or baked.
Prosciutto: [proh-SHOO-toh] This "ham" is Italy's gift to the food world. The cities of Parma and San Daniele (where it's mainly produced) argue over whose is better. Its production is a secret. It's first seasoned and salt-cured (but not smoked). Then it's air-dried, pressed, and sold thinly sliced. The best hams are aged 18 to 24 months.
- R -
Reduce: Applied to cooking, this means to boil a liquid until its volume is reduced by evaporation. This thickens the liquid and intensifies the flavor.
Reduction: A process used to increase and intensify the flavor of a liquid. This is done by rapidly boiling a liquid to decrease its volume through evaporation. This concentrates the flavor, so season a reduction after it's made -- not before.
Render: The melting of animal fat over low heat so it separates from any connective tissue. This tissue turns crisp and brown (known as crackling) and the clarified (clear) fat is further processed by straining. To cook fatty meats, such as bacon or spare ribs, until the fat melts.
Resting: Heat drives meat's juices from the surface when it cooks. Letting meat "rest" before slicing lets these juices seep back towards the surface (liquids always take the path of least resistance). The result is a more flavorful piece of meat.
Ribbon: When a sauce thickens enough that when lifted, it falls in wide bands. Also, when sauce is thick enough that while stirred with a whisk, it leaves trails that expose the bottom of the pan or mixing bowl.
Ricer: A kitchen gadget that looks like a big garlic press. Great for mashing potatoes. This device, also called a potato ricer, forces cooked foods like turnips
Saute: [saw-TAY] In French, sauté literally means, "to jump." That describes this method of cooking in which food is cooked quickly in a small amount of butter or oil. The food "jumps" as it is either rapidly stirred or shaken over heat.
Scald: To heat milk almost to the boiling point -- just until tiny bubbles begin to form around the inside edge of a pan.
Semolina: [seh-muh-LEE-nuh] A grainy, pale yellow flour that is coarsely ground from hard wheat (like durum). It has a very high protein content. Used primarily for pasta and polenta.
Sherry: A fortified wine (brandy is added), originally made in Spain. It ranges from pale gold and dry, to dark brown and very sweet. Dry sherry is great in sauces (especially mushroom). Sweet sherry is used as a flavoring in desserts.
Springform Pan: A round pan with tall, straight sides and side "buckle". The top ring is removable so that the cake or other pastry can be served easily. Is most often used with tortes and cheesecakes. Allows you to easily unmold a cake and while retaining its shape.
Sweat: When foods, usually vegetables, are cooked over low heat in a small amount of fat (usually butter), drawing out juices to develop their full flavor.
Swiss Chard: A member of the beet family with thick, wavy green leaves and celery-like stalks (either red or white colored). Leaves and stalk can be eaten raw, or steamed and sauteed like spinach.
Temper: To slowly add a hot liquid to eggs or other foods to gradually raise their temperature without making them curdle.
Timbale: [TIHM-buhl; tihm-BAHL] A high-sided, drum-shaped mold that can taper toward the bottom. The food baked in the mold is usually a custard-based dish. It's un-molded before serving.
Tomato Paste: Tomatoes that have been cooked several hours and strained, then reduced to a thick concentrate. Purchased in cans or tubes and used for thickening and flavoring.
Tomato Puree: Tomatoes that have been briefly cooked and strained. Used as a thickener.
Yukon Gold Potatoes: A relatively new variety in markets. They have a moist, smooth texture and are great for mashed potatoes or for use in potato salad. The skin and flesh of a Yukon Gold ranges from buttery yellow to gold.
Zest: The zest is the colored portion of the skin (be careful to avoid the white pith) of citrus fruits. The aromatic oils in the citrus zest are what adds so much flavor to food. Use in cooked and raw foods.