Cooking Terms and Vocabulary

Au gratin:

This is a French cooking term that has evolved to mean a dish topped with cheese or crumbs then toasted or browned in an oven or under a broiler.

Au jus

Another French term that literally means “with juice.” It is generally used to mean meat that is served in its own juices that are released as the meat is roasted.


Cooked using dry heat, usually in an oven. When you turn your oven on to “bake,” only the bottom burner will heat up.


A bisque is a thick cream soup made of shellfish, game or pureed vegetables.


To immerse raw vegetables in boiling water long enough to stop the action of the enzymes. This is usually done as the first step in preparing vegetables for freezing. Once the food has been covered with boiling water for the proper time (usually about 3 minutes) it is then quickly submerged in cold water to cool the food and stop the cooking action.


When a liquid boils, bubbles come from the bottom of the pan to the top and break. A rolling boil means there are constant streams of bubbles rising in the pan. Eggs, potatoes, and pasta are some of the foods that are cooked in boiling water. Water boils at different temperatures according to your altitude. If you live near sea level water boils at a higher temperature because of the air pressure around you, so the food you boil will be cooked sooner than if you are high in the mountains. There water boils at a lower temperature, so food has to be boiled longer in order to be cooked through.


To cook slowly in fat and a little moisture in a closed pot such as a dutch oven.


Like several cooking terms, "cream" can be either an ingredient or an action. When used as an ingredient, cream is the thickest, richest part of milk--the "milk fat." When this term is used as a verb, such as “cream the shortening and sugar,” it means to beat them together until they form a smooth, soft paste.


“Crimp the edges” is an instruction often found in pie and other pastry recipes. This means you seal together the top and bottom crusts by pinching them together about every inch around the pan, or you mash them together with the tines of a fork.


An interesting word to add to your cooking vocabulary, crudites are raw vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and celery, cut into bite-sized pieces and served as an appetizer before a meal. Often there is a dip served along with them.


To remove the fat, especially from meat broth or soup. You can do this by putting the entire dish in the refrigerator until the fat hardens, or you can add some ice cubes and then remove the ice as the fat congeals around it.


To roll a piece of meat or vegetable such as egg plant in seasoned flour or cornmeal until it is lightly coated.


The main dish in a meal.


A cooking term usually used when talking about whipped cream or stiffly beaten egg whites. Mix the other ingredients together first, then place the whipped cream or beaten egg whites on top. Next, carefully bring the bottom mixture to the top a little at a time while rotating the bowl until everything is blended together. You want to avoid releasing all the air bubbles from the whipped cream or egg whites.


This is a thin coating, usually made of melted jelly or sugar water that covers fruits, or sometimes a ham. It makes them shinny.


Long thin strips of vegetables, fruit, cheese or meat.


To steep, or soak meat, fish or vegetables in a seasoned sauce so they absorb the flavors and become more tender.


This is another one of those French terms. This one means to dredge in flour and then sauté in butter.


Chop food into very small pieces.


This is similar to blanching. You cook the food for a very short time in boiling water, but not long enough to completely cook it. Usually, after a food is parboiled, it is removed from the water, then added to a seasoned sauce and cooked until done.


To peel or remove the skin with a small knife.


To cook in a simmering, (not boiling) liquid.


Blend cooked food until it is perfectly smooth.


Stop the cooking process in a food that has been parboiled or blanched by dipping in or running it under cold water.


Cook with dry heat in an oven, or on a spit over a fire.A roast is also a solid piece of meat suitable for roasting.


Cook diced vegetables or meat quickly in a small amount of fat over high heat. A flat bottom pan with low sides is used to sauté.


Dip in boiling water for a few seconds, or in the case of milk, heat just below the boiling point to destroy bacteria and enzymes. Scalding fruits, such as tomatoes and peaches, by dipping them in boiling water and then moving them quickly to a bowl of ice water will split the skins so they can be slipped off easily. If you are using raw milk (milk that has not been pasteurized) scald it for better consistency in sauces and gravy.


Heat just below the boiling point from 200 to 212 F. You will be able to see little bubbles on the bottom of the pan, but they will not rise tot the top and break as when a liquid is boiling.


To soak in hot liquid, usually used when making herbal beverages such as teas. The boiling water is poured over the leaves and then left to sit while the hot water extracts flavors and colors from the leaves.


To mix together by gently lifting the ingredients, as opposed to stirring. Usually used in preparing green salads.


To beat with an electric mixer or a wire whisk until fluffy and full of air. Most often used with cream or egg whites.

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