Cooking Terminology – Defined


By Danielle Stegman RD, CDN, CNSC


A crash course in cooking terminology for those new to cooking, and a review for the more seasoned cooks out there! Review these terms to enhance your cooking knowledge.


Al Dente: An Italian term used to describe pasta that is cooked until there is a slight resistance to the bite. Not mushy, not hard!

Baste: To moisten foods during cooking with pan drippings or a sauce/marinade.

Blanch: To immerse in boiling water and allowing to cook slightly before removing.

Cure: To preserve meats by drying and salting and/or smoking.

Deglaze: To dissolve the juices and brown bits on the surface of a pan in which a food has been fried, sautéed, or roasted. Add liquid and stir and scrape over high heat, use as a sauce.

Dice: To cut food in small cubes of uniform shape and size.

Fold: Gently combining a delicate substance into another substance without releasing air bubbles. Fold the mixture on top of itself.

Gratin: From the French word for “crust.” Term used to describe any oven-baked dish–usually cooked in a shallow oval gratin dish–on which a golden brown crust of bread crumbs, cheese or creamy sauce is form.

Julienne: To cut vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into thin strips.

Knead: To work and press dough with the palms of the hands or mechanically, to develop the gluten in the flour.

Marinate: To flavor and moisturize pieces of meat, poultry, seafood or vegetable by soaking them in or brushing them with a liquid mixture of seasonings known as a marinade. Dry marinade mixtures composed of salt, pepper, herbs or spices may also be rubbed into meat, poultry or seafood.

Mince: To cut or chop food into extremely small pieces.

Parboil: To boil until partially cooked; to blanch. Usually this procedure is followed by final cooking in a seasoned sauce.

Pare: To remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable.

Pinch: A pinch is the trifling amount you can hold between your thumb and forefinger.

Puree: To mash foods until perfectly smooth by hand, by rubbing through a sieve or food mill, or by whirling in a blender or food processor.

Reduce: To boil down to reduce the volume.

Roast: To cook by dry heat in an oven.

Sauté: To cook and/or brown food in a small amount of hot fat.

Sear: To brown very quickly by intense heat. This method increases shrinkage but develops flavor and improves appearance.

Simmer: To cook slowly in liquid over low heat at a temperature of about 180°. The surface of the liquid should be barely moving, broken from time to time by slowly rising bubbles.

Steam: To cook in steam in a pressure cooker, deep well cooker, double boiler, or a steamer made by fitting a rack in a kettle with a tight cover. A small amount of boiling water is used, more water being added during steaming process, if necessary.

Stew: To simmer slowly in a small amount of liquid for a long time.

Whip: To beat rapidly to incorporate air and produce expansion, as in heavy cream or egg whites.

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