Cooking Glossary

To master any skill, one must first master the special terms that describe a particular procedure. A simple cooking glossary is given here to help you follow recipe directions so that you can get the desired result.

al dente: From the Italian, “to the tooth.” It describes the texture of foods (pasta or vegetables) cooked just until firm or resistant to the bite.

baste: To spoon juices, liquid or marinade over foods while they cook to prevent drying out.

braise: To brown food, then tightly cover and cook slowly in small amount of liquid.

clarified butter: Butter that is melted, the top foam and milky sediment discarded and the clear layer poured off and used for frying, for serving with vegetables and seafood, etc.

cream: To beat butter or butter and sugar until very light, to almost twice its original volume.

cut in: To distribute shortening or butter in flour mixture by using a pastry blender or food processor until particles of desired size are made.

fold in: To use a light, circular motion to combine whipped cream or egg whites into mixture by sliding spatula across bottom of bowl and bringing up some of the mixture over the surface, while slowly rotating the bowl.

glaze: To make food shiny by using a coating of syrup, beaten eggs or milk.

julienne: To cut vegetables into matchstick-sized strips.

knead: To work dough with a press-fold motion to develop the gluten until dough is smooth and elastic.

marinate: To soak food in a flavored liquid to tenderize, flavor or preserve it.

poach: To cook food gently and slowly in simmering liquid.

puree: To press food through a fine sieve or food mill or to whirl it in a blender or food processor until it forms a smooth, thick, mashed mixture.

reduce: To thicken liquid by rapid boiling in an uncovered pan.

saute: From the French word, “to jump.” Quick cooking of food in a shallow pan in small amount of fat until it is browned or cooked through.

scald: To heat liquid just to below the boiling point, evident when bubbles form around the edges of the pan.

score: To make shallow cuts in surface of meat before it is cooked to tenderize it by cutting through connecting tissue.

stir-fry: To quickly cook finely chopped food, Chinese-style, in a skillet or wok with very little oil by stirring and tossing over high heat.

toss: To mix foods lightly with a lifting motion, using 2 forks or spoons.