MetroKitchen experts often get questions about the definition of a variety of words or descriptions related to cooking. We thought you might find a glossary of cooking terms to be helpful. Since there are soooo many terms, we’ll do a few blogs to make it easy. If we’ve missed a cooking-related word that you’ve always wondered about, please let us know and we’ll add that to our glossary!
Au gratin – foods with a browned or crusted top: often made by browning a food with a bread crumb, cheese, and/or sauce topping under a broiler or salamander.
Bain marie – a hot water bath used to gently cook food or keep cooked food hot; a container for holding food in a hot water bath.
Barding – tying thin slices of fat, such as bacon or pork fatback, over meats or poultry that have little to no natural fat covering in order to protect and moisten them during roasting.
Béarnaise – a sauce made of butter and egg yolks and flavored with a reduction of vinegar, shallots, tarragon and peppercorns.
Béchamel – a leading or mother sauce made by thickening milk with a white roux and adding seasonings.
Blanching – very briefly6 and partially cooking a food in a boiling water or hot fat; usually used to assist preparation (for example, to loosen peels from vegetables), as part of a combination cooking method, to remove undesirable flavors or to prepare a food for freezing.
Bordelaise – a brown sauce flavored with a reduction of red wine, shallots, pepper, and herbs and garnished with marrow.
Braising – a combination cooking method in which foods are first browned in hot fat, then covered and slowly cooked in a small amount of liquid over low heat; braising uses a combination of simmering and steaming to transfer heat from the liquid (conduction) and the air (convection) to the foods
Broiling – a dry-heat cooking method in which foods are cooked by heat radiating from an overhead source
Butter Flying – slicing boneless meat, fish or shrimp nearly in half so that they spread open like a book; used to increase surface area and speed cooking.
Caramelization – the process of cooking sugars; the browning of sugars enhances the flavor and appearance of foods.
Carryover Cooking – the cooking that occurs after a food is removed from a heat source; it is accomplished by the residual heat remaining in the food.
Clarification – 1) the process of transforming a broth into a clear consommé by trapping impurities with a clearmeat consisting of the egg white protein albumen, ground meat, and acidic product, mirepox, and other ingredients. 2) The clearmeat used to clarify a broth.
Conduction – the transfer of heat from one item to another through direct contact.
Convection – the transfer of heat caused by the natural movement of molecules in a fluid (whether air, water, or fat) from a warmer area to a cooler one. Mechanical convection is the movement of molecules caused by stirring.
Creaming – a mixing method in which softened fat and sugar are vigorously combined to incorporate air.
Curdle – the separation of milk or egg mixtures into solid and liquid components, caused by over cooking, high heat, or the presence of acids.
Deep Frying – a dry-heat cooking method using convection to transfer heat to a food submerged in hot fat; foods to be deep-fried are usually first coated in butter or breading.
Deglaze – to swirl or stir a liquid (usually wine or stock) in a sauté pan or other pan to dissolve cooked food particles remaining on the bottom; the resulting mixture often becomes the base for a sauce.
Demi-glace – a mixture of half brown stock and half brown sauce reduced by half.
Detrempe – a paste made with flour and water during the first stage of preparing pastry dough, especially rolled-in doughs.
Docking – pricking small holes in an unbaked dough or crust to allow steam to escape and prevent the dough from rising when baked.
Dredging – coating of food with flour of finely ground crumbs; usually done prior to sautéing or frying or as the first step of the standardized breading process.
Egg wash – a mixture of beaten eggs and a liquid, usually milk or water, used to coat dough before baking to add sheen
Emulsification – the process by which generally unmixable liquids, such as oil and water, are forced into a uniform distribution.
Espagnole – also known as brown sauce, a leading sauce, or mother sauce, made of brown stock, mirepoix and tomatoes thickened with brown roux. Often used to produce demi-glace.
Flambé – food served flaming; produced by igniting brandy, rum, or other liquor.
Frying – a dry heat cooking method in which foods are cooked in hot fat; includes sautéing and stir-frying, pan-frying, and deep-frying.
Ganache – a rich blend of chocolate and heavy cream and flavorings (if you desire). Also used as a pastry or candy filling or frosting.
Hollandaise – an emulsified sauce, leading sauce or mother sauce, made of butter, egg yolks and, most frequently, lemon juice.
Induction Cooking – a cooking method that uses a special coil placed below the stovetop surface in combination with specifically designed cookware to generate heat rapidly with an alternating magnetic field. Induction cookware requires induction compatible cookware:
Jus lié – also known as fond lié, a sauce made by thickening brown stock with cornstarch or similar starch; often used like a demi-glace, especially to produce small sauces.
Larding – inserting thin slices of fat, such as bacon or pork belly or fatback, into low fat meats in order to add moisture.
Leading Sauces or Mother Sauces – the foundation for the entire classic repertoire of hot sauces. The five leading sauces (béchamel, velouté, espagnole, tomato, and hollandaise) are distinguished by the liquids and thickeners used to make them. They can be seasoned and garnished to create a wide variety of small or compound sauces.
Liaison – a mixture of egg yolks and heavy cream used to thicken and enrich sauces.
Marinate – to soak a food in a seasoned liquid in order to tenderize the food and add flavor to it.
Mirepoix – a mixture of coarsely chopped onion, carrot, and celery used to flavor stocks, stews, and other foods; generally a mixture of 50% onion, 25% carrot, and 25% celery, by weight, is used.
Mis en place – refers to the preparation and assembly of all necessary ingredients and equipment.
Nappe – 1) the consistency of a liquid, usually a sauce, that will coat the back of a spoon. 2) to coat a food with a sauce.
Pan-Frying – a dry heat cooking method in which food is placed in a moderate amount of fat.
Papillote, en – a cooking method in which food is wrapped in paper or foil and then heated so that the food steams in its own moisture.
Parboiling – partially cooking a food in a boiling or simmering liquid; similar to blanching but the cooking time is longer.
Pilaf – a cooking method for grains in which the grains are lightly sautéed in hot fat and then a hot liquid is added. The mixture is heated without stirring until the liquid is absorbed.
Poaching – a moist heat cooking method that uses convection to transfer heat from a hot (approximately 160° – 180° F) liquid to the food submerged in it.
Purée – 1) to process food to achieve a smooth pulp 2) food that is processed by mashing, straining or fine chopping to achieve a smooth pulp
Ragout 1) traditionally, a well-seasoned, rich stew containing meat, vegetables and wine; 2) any stewed mixture
Reduce – to cook a liquid mixture, often a sauce, until its quantity decreases because of evaporation; typically done to concentrate flavors and thicken liquids.
Refreshing – submerging a food in cold water to quickly cool it and prevent further cooking, also known as shocking; usually used for vegetables.
Risotto – 1) a cooking method for grains in which the grains are lightly sautéed in butter or olive oil. Then a liquid, such as stock, is gradually added. The mixture is simmered with near constant stirring until the still-firm grains merge with the cooking liquid. 2) a traditional northern Italian rice dish.
Roasting – a dry heat cooking method that heats food by surrounding it with hot, dry air in a closed environment or on a spit over an open fire. It is similar to baking, but the term roasting is usually applied to meats, poultry, game and vegetables.
Roux – a cooked mixture of equal parts flour and fat, by weight, used as a thickener for sauces and other dishes. Cooking the flour in fat coats the starch granules with the fat and prevents them from lumping together or forming lumps when added to a liquid or vice versa.
Sauce – generally, a thickened liquid used to add flavor to other foods.
Sautéing – a dry heat cooking method that uses conduction to transfer heat from a hot pan to food with the aid of a small amount of hot fat. Cooking is usually done quickly over high temperatures.
Scald – to heat a liquid, usually milk, to just below the boiling point.
Sear – to brown food quickly over high heat; usually done as a preparatory step for combination cooking methods.
Shallow Poaching – a moist heat cooking method that combines poaching and steaming; the food (usually fish) is placed on a vegetable bed and partially covered with a liquid (caisson) and simmered.
Simmering – 1) a moist heat cooking method that uses convection to transfer heat from a hot (approximately 185° to 205° F) liquid to food submerged in it. 2) Maintaining the temperature of a liquid just below the boiling point.
Slurry – a mixture of raw starch and cold liquid used for thickening.
Small Sauces – also known as compound sauces, made by adding one or more ingredients to a leading, or mother, sauce. They are grouped together into families based on their leading sauce. Some small sauces have a variety of uses; others are traditional accompaniments for specific foods.
Standard Breading Process – the procedure for coating foods with crumbs or meal by passing the food through flour, then an egg wash and then the crumbs. It gives food a relatively thick, crisp coating when deep fried or pan fried.
Steaming – a moist heat cooking method in which heat is transferred from steam to the food being cooked by direct contact. The food to be steamed is placed in a basket or rack above a boiling liquid in a covered pan.
Stewing – a combination cooking method similar to braising but generally involving smaller pieces of meat that are first blanched or browned, then cooked in a small amount of liquid which is then used as a sauce.
Stir-Frying – a dry heat cooking method similar to sautéing in which foods are cooked over very high heat using little fat while stirring constantly and briskly. Often done in a wok or open stir fry pan.
Stock – a clear, un-thickened liquid flavored by soluble substances extracted from meat, poultry or fish and their bones as well as from mirepoix, other vegetables and seasonings.
Submersion Poaching – a poaching method in which the food is completely covered with the poaching liquid.
Suprême – 1) a sauce made by adding cream to a velouté made from chicken stock. It is used to make several compound sauces of the velouté family (see next week’s Cooking Glossary) 2) a boneless, skinless chicken breast with the first wing segment attached
Sweating – cooking a food (typically vegetables) in a small amount of fat, usually covered, over low heat without browning until the food softens and releases moisture. Sweating allows the food to release its flavor more quickly when cooked with other foods.
Tempering – 1) heating gently and gradually 2) Refers to the process of slowly adding a hot liquid to eggs or other foods to raise their temperature without causing them to curdle 3) Refers to a process for melting chocolate
Thickening Agent – ingredients used to thicken sauces, includes starches (flour, cornstarch, and arrowroot), gelatin and liaison.
Tomato Sauce – a leading sauce, mother sauce, made from tomatoes, vegetables, seasonings, and white stock; it may or may not be thickened with roux.
Velouté – a leading sauce, mother sauce, made by thickening a white stock (either fish, veal or chicken) with roux.
Wash – a glaze applied to dough before baking; a commonly used wash is made with whole eggs and water.
Whipping – a mixing method in which foods are vigorously beaten in order to incorporate air; a whisk or an electric mixer with its whip attachment is used.
White Stock – a light colored stock made from chicken, veal, beef, or fish bones simmered in water with vegetables and seasonings.