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40 comprehensive Culinary Terms For Beginners

Don’t let culinary terms spoil your cooking experience. We try not to use too many technical terms but sometimes they will slip into the recipes anyway.

culinary terms

Culinary terms found it’s origin in Classic French Cuisine, and up till today they are used in kitchens around the world. It is said that the great August Escoffier introduced them to speed things up during service and keep it a safe environment. It was this same Mr Escoffier who invented à la carte eating and he also revolutionized the way restaurant kitchens ran, inventing the “brigade” system of organization, still used today.

If you want to learn more about traditions and history as well as the current needs in the kitchen, then these two culinary bibles can help you further to develop your skills and interests. The titles of the books are in French but they are available in English. Escoffier, le guide culinaire and Larousse gastronomique.

We made you a comprehensive A-Z list of basic cooking terms that will help you browse through recipes more easily.

Al DenteIt means ‘to the tooth’ and means something is cooked and still has a bite, not too soft. It refers generally to pastas, but it’s also used for vegetables.  
Bain-marie 1A roasting tin containing hot water into which a dish is placed.    
Bain-marie 2A pan of simmering water over which a bowl is placed to whisk an emulsion or melt chocolate. The water should not touch the base of the bowl.  
BardingCover the meat with a layer of fat before roasting. It keeps the moisture and adds flavour.  
BastePour juices or melted fat over meat or fish during cooking to keep it moist and evenly cooked.  
BlanchTo put in boiling water or steam for a short time. Mainly used for vegetables.  
BlendTo combine two or more ingredients until smooth and uniform in texture, flavour and colour.  
Bouquet GarniIs a bundle of herbs consisting of thyme, bay leaf and parsley tied together with a string. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients but is removed prior to consumption
BraiseIt is a way of cooking large pieces of ingredients by first searing them in hot fat, then simmering them, covered in liquid.  
CocotteFrench name for an enamel coated, cast iron heatproof dish, most of the time used for long cooking processes.  
Deep fryCook food by immersing the ingredients in hot fat or oil.    
DeglazeDilute meat sediments in a pan to make a gravy or sauce.    
EmulsifyWhisk two ingredients to a thick texture. Mustard helps to emulsify a vinaigrette.  
FlambéPour some high-proof liquor such as brandy or rum over the food and light on fire. The volatile alcohol vapor burns with a blue tint, leaving flavour behind.  
FrenchCutting away fat and meat from the bone end of a rib for a better presentation.    
GlazeTo coat food, usually pastry and meat, with a liquid substance that sets to form a smooth, glossy surface.  
GratinBaking ingredients sprinkled with cheese or breadcrumbs under a grill to give it a crust.  
InfusePlacing an ingredient into a liquid until the flavour of that ingredient has been extracted and infused into the liquid.  
JulienneA portion of food cut into short, thin strips.    
JusA jus is made from the same pan juices that have been refined and condensed to get a clear naturally thickened liquid.  
KneadWorking dough into a uniform mass by folding, pressing and stretching with the hands.  
LardingInserting strips or pieces of fat into a piece of meat to avoid it drying out.    
LiaisonA binding agent, a mixture of egg yolks and cream, that is used to thicken sauces and soups.  
MarinadeCan be dry or liquid and it is a mixture of seasoning, herbs and spices. The food will be covered with a marinade before cooking to give extra flavour or to soften the meat.
MirepoixA flavour base made from even-sized, diced onion, carrot and celery.    
Mise en placePreparing all ingredients, such as dicing, chopping and measuring, before starting to cook.  
NoisetteAlso called hazelnut butter. Butter fried to a golden-brown with a nutty scent.    
PoachingCooking delicate items, like eggs and fish, in barely simmering liquid.    
ProveTo let a dough containing yeast rise.    
ReductionMake a sauce more intense in flavour by reducing the volume through cooking.    
RestingLet the meat sit out of the oven and off the stove on a wire rack with a catch pan underneath before serving. Resting time should equal half the cooking time and allows the natural meat juices to redistribute through the flesh.
RouxA mixture of flour and butter or other fat, used to thicken sauces, soups and other liquids.  
SautéFrying quickly in a small amount of hot fat.    
ScoreCut slits on the surface of a piece of food.    
SearTo grill or panfry meat or fish over intense heat.    
SimmerCooking liquid just below boiling point.    
SkimRemoving a foam from the surface of a liquid while cooking.    
SweatSlowly heating vegetables in a pan with a little fat until they come slightly transparent.  
WhipTo beat food with a whisk to incorporate air and to increase volume.    
ZestThe thin, outer coloured part of the peel of citrus fruit used for flavouring.    
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2 thoughts on “40 comprehensive Culinary Terms For Beginners”

  1. Very informative post! This post gives truly quality information.

    I find that this post is really amazing. Thank you for this brief explanation and very nice information.

    Hope to see you again.!!

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