45 comprehensive Culinary Terms For Beginners

Don’t let French cooking terms or culinary terms in general 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.

Arroser Basting in English. Pour juices or melted fat over meat or fish during cooking to keep it moist and evenly cooked.
Al Dente It 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.  
Au gratin Covering food with breadcrumbs and/or cheese to bake or broil until golden brown. Traditionally, a shallow baking dish is used.
Bain-marie 1 A roasting tin containing hot water into which a dish is placed.    
Bain-marie 2 A 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.  
Barding Cover the meat with a layer of fat before roasting. It keeps the moisture and adds flavour.  
Baste Pour juices or melted fat over meat or fish during cooking to keep it moist and evenly cooked.  
Blanch To put in boiling water or steam for a short time. Mainly used for vegetables.  
Blend To combine two or more ingredients until smooth and uniform in texture, flavour and colour.  
Bouquet Garni Is 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
Braise It is a way of cooking large pieces of ingredients by first searing them in hot fat, then simmering them, covered in liquid.  
Cocotte French name for an enamel coated, cast iron heatproof dish, most of the time used for long cooking processes.  
Concassé Roughly chop raw or cooked food by peeling, seeding, and chopping to make it ready to be served or combined with other ingredients, usually referring to tomatoes.
Deep fry Cook food by immersing the ingredients in hot fat or oil.    
Deglaze Dilute meat sediments in a pan to make a gravy or sauce.    
Demi – glace A dark brown sauce made by reducing broth until it’s thick and packed with flavour.
Emincer Slice thinly, similar to julienne style, but not as long.
Emulsify Whisk two ingredients to a thick texture. Mustard helps to emulsify a vinaigrette.  
Flambé Pour 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.  
French Cutting away fat and meat from the bone end of a rib for a better presentation.    
Glaze To coat food, usually pastry and meat, with a liquid substance that sets to form a smooth, glossy surface.  
Gratin Baking ingredients sprinkled with cheese or breadcrumbs under a grill to give it a crust.  
Infuse Placing an ingredient into a liquid until the flavour of that ingredient has been extracted and infused into the liquid.  
Julienne A portion of food cut into short, thin strips.    
Jus A jus is made from the same pan juices that have been refined and condensed to get a clear naturally thickened liquid.  
Knead Working dough into a uniform mass by folding, pressing and stretching with the hands.  
Larding Inserting strips or pieces of fat into a piece of meat to avoid it drying out.    
Liaison A binding agent, a mixture of egg yolks and cream, that is used to thicken sauces and soups.  
Marinade Can 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.
Mirepoix A flavour base made from even-sized, diced onion, carrot and celery.    
Mise en place Preparing all ingredients, such as dicing, chopping and measuring, before starting to cook.  
Noisette Also called hazelnut butter. Butter fried to a golden-brown with a nutty scent.    
Poaching Cooking delicate items, like eggs and fish, in barely simmering liquid.    
Prove To let a dough containing yeast rise.    
Reduction Make a sauce more intense in flavour by reducing the volume through cooking.    
Resting Let 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.
Roux A mixture of flour and butter or other fat, used to thicken sauces, soups and other liquids.  
Sauté Frying quickly in a small amount of hot fat.    
Score Cut slits on the surface of a piece of food.    
Sear To grill or panfry meat or fish over intense heat.    
Simmer Cooking liquid just below boiling point.    
Skim Removing a foam from the surface of a liquid while cooking.    
Sweat Slowly heating vegetables in a pan with a little fat until they come slightly transparent.  
Whip To beat food with a whisk to incorporate air and to increase volume.    
Zest The thin, outer coloured part of the peel of citrus fruit used for flavouring.    


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