Food Glossary

A-Z Cooking Glossary

Cooking is full of weird and wonderful terms and unusual words or ingredients.
I have tried here to explain here as many as I can think of to try and make life simpler for you!
I have probably missed or forgotten twice as many as this, so let me know of any and I will add them onto the list!


Al dente
Food that is cooked until it is ‘firm to the bite’. This is most commonly used to describe how pasta should be cooked.
 Au gratin
Recipes that are browned in the oven, or under a grill. Often refers to dishes that use a sauce and are topped with breadcrumbs and /or cheese.


To cook food in an oven, surrounded with dry heat; called roasting when applied to meat or poultry.
 Baking powder
A combination of baking soda, an acid such as cream of tartar, and a starch or flour (moisture absorber). Most common type is double-acting baking powder, which acts when mixed with liquid and again when heated.
 Baking soda
The main ingredient in baking powder, baking soda is also used when there is acid (buttermilk or sour cream, for example) in a recipe. Always mix with other dry ingredients before adding any liquid, since leavening begins as soon as soda comes in contact with liquid.
 Barbecue (BBQ)
To cook foods on a rack or a spit over coals.
To spoon juices over food that is being roasted or baked to prevent it from drying out and to glaze the surface – commonly meat, or baked fruit.
An uncooked pourable mixture usually made up of flour, a liquid, and other ingredients.
To stir rapidly to make a mixture smooth, using a whisk, spoon, or mixer.
To add eggs, cream or liquid to a recipe to make the other ingredients hold together
To plunge food (usually vegetables) into boiling water briefly. The food is then removed and placed into cold water to stop the cooking process. This is often to help loosen their skins or to par-cook prior to freezing.
To thoroughly combine 2 or more ingredients, either by hand with a whisk or spoon, or with a mixer.
To cook in bubbling water that has reached 212 degrees F.
Bone (to)
To remove bones from poultry, meat, or fish.
 Bouquet Garni
Herbs, usually parley, thyme and bay leaf tied together (or contained in a small muslin bag) added to soups and stews and removed before serving.
To cook slowly in a very small amount of liquid in a dish with a tightly sealed lid until tender.
To coat with crumbs or cornmeal before cooking.
To cook on a rack or spit under or over direct heat, usually in an oven.
To cook over high heat, usually on top of the stove, to brown food.


Small green flower buds of a Mediterranean plant which are preserved in salt or vinegar and used to give a sharp burst of flavour in dishes.
To heat sugar until it liquefies and becomes a syrup ranging in color from golden to dark brown.
To remove the seeds or tough woody centers from fruits and vegetables.
A strained sauce made from purée fruit or vegetables.
Cream (to)
To beat softened butter and sugar, either by hand, or with an egg beater or cake mixer until they become soft and creamy and lighter in colour.
To cut food into small (about ½- inch) cubes.
Cut in 
To distribute a solid fat in flour using a cutting motion, with 2 knives used scissors-fashion or a pastry blender, until divided evenly into tiny pieces. Usually refers to making pastry.


To cook by completely immersing food in hot fat.
To add wine, stock or other liquid to the sediment and cooking juices left in a pan after roasting or sautéing –which is then heated to make a jus.
To cut food into very small (1/8-to ¼-inch) cubes.
A spoonful of soft food such as whipped cream or mashed potatoes.
To scatter butter in bits over food.
To cover or coat uncooked food, usually with a flour, cornmeal mixture or bread crumbs.
To coat foods such as salad with a sauce. Also, to clean fish, poultry, or game for cooking.
Juices and fats rendered by meat or poultry during cooking.
To pour melted butter, oil, syrup, melted chocolate, or other liquid back and forth over food in a fine stream.
 Dropping Consistency
The consistency of cake batter when the mixture drops off the spoon with some reluctance.
To coat lightly with Icing (confectioners’) sugar or cocoa (cakes and pastries) or another powdery ingredient.


A flat piece of boneless meat, poultry, or fish. Also, to cut the bones from a piece of meat, poultry, or fish.
Filo Pastry
Paper thin sheets of pastry commonly used in Greek, Eastern European and Middle Eastern cuisines. Filo is brushed with oil or butter and layered. Found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket.
 Fines herbes
A mixture of herbs traditionally parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon, used to flavor fish, chicken, and eggs.
To drizzle liquor over a food while it is cooking, then when the alcohol has warmed, ignite the food just before serving.
To make decorative grooves. Usually refers to pastry.
Fold (to)
A gentle hand mixing method used to combine a lighter, airy mixture (eg whipped eggs) with a heavier mixture. Use a metal spoon or spatula to cut through the mixture, gently lifting the bottom mixture to the top and turning the spoon over to ‘fold’ it into the mixture again. The motion is top to bottom rather than round and round.
Make sure that anything you put into the freezer is tightly sealed as it’s easy for air to get in and cause freezer burn on your food.


To coat foods, particularly meat or cakes, with syrup, jam, egg, milk or meat juice to give it a glazed surface when cooked.
To rub foods against a serrated surface to produce shredded or fine bits.
To rub the interior surface of a cooking dish or pan with shortening, oil, or butter to prevent food from sticking to it.
To cook food on a rack under or over direct heat, as on a barbecue or in a broiler.
To reduce food to tiny particles using a grinder or a food processor.
A popular Mexican dish of mashed avocado mixed with lemon or lime juice and seasonings such as chilli. Sometimes finely chopped tomato, onion and coriander are added. Used as a dip or with other Mexican food like tacos.


A puree or dip of crushed cooked chickpeas flavoured with tahini (pounded sesame seeds), oil, garlic and lemon juice.


To extract flavour from one food into another, often by heating or steeping.


To cut vegetables into long thin matchsticks.


To blend dough together with hands or in a mixer to form a pliable mass.


Loose-bottom Tin
Cake or flan tin with a removable base which allows the cake to be lifted out cleanly and served directly off the base.
A temperature that feels neither hot nor cold when tested on the inside wrist – around 35˚C


To soak in a flavored liquid; usually refers to fruit.
 Maldon Salt
A gourmet salt which comes from the Maldon area of Essex. Maldon salt flakes are used sparingly as a condiment.
To leave meat, poultry, fish, or sometimes fruit to soak in a ‘marinade’. Most often a combination of liquid ingredients and other flavourings. Used to tenderise and add flavour.
A mixture of young shoots lettuces, herbs and leaves used in a salad. Available pre-packed at the supermarket.
To cut into tiny pieces, usually with a knife.


Pan Fry
Cook quickly in heated pan using a small amount of oil or butter as stated.
To partly cook in boiling water. In the case of vegetables, they should still be very firm, but not crunchy.
Traditionally pesto refers to an Italian paste of basil, oil, pinenuts, garlic and parmesan, but can also be made from a variety of herbs and different nuts. Served with pasta, vegetables or breads.
To cook very gently in simmering water or other liquid eg: wine.
To mash, sieve or blend well-cooked vegetables or fruit to create a thick smooth paste.


To boil rapidly in order to evaporate liquid, concentrate the flavours, and thicken.
To plunge cooked vegetables into cold, or iced water to arrest the cooking process after they are removed from boiling water.
To cook fatty meat or poultry—such as bacon or goose—over low heat to obtain drippings.
To cook a large piece of meat or poultry uncovered with dry heat in an oven.
Refers to something that has been filled or stuffed and rolled. In particular meats, pastries and sponge cakes.
A method of thickening a sauce by cooking flour and butter together, then gradually stirring in the liquid ingredients.
 Rub Into
A method of combining flour and butter, by rubbing or pressing the butter into the flour using the finger tips. The butter is ‘rubbed in’ when the mixture reaches the consistency of breadcrumbs.


A mixture of finely chopped vegetables or fruit combined with other flavourings and served cold – usually with spicy food.
To fry food quickly in a hot pan, stirring or shaking the pan.
To heat liquids, (usually milk) until they are just at the point of boiling.
To cut the surface of meat, pastry, or fruit with a sharp knife, without cutting right through it.
To brown the surface of meat by quick-cooking over high heat in order to seal in the meat’s juices.
To cut food into narrow strips with a knife or a grater.
To cook in liquid that is heated to the point where little bubbles rise to the surface, but do not burst on the surface of the liquid.
To remove fat or scum from the surface of a boiling liquid.
 Springform Pan
A cake tin with a release spring on the side that allows it to expand and lift away from the cake, leaving the cake and base behind.
To cook in the steam created by boiling water – usually in a lidded container that allows the steam in through vents in the base. Also refers to method of cooking puddings (especially Xmas puddings) where the pudding is cooked in a tightly sealed container which is immersed in boiling water.
To stand food in hot liquid in order to extract the flavour.
To cook covered over low heat in a liquid.
Method of cooking – traditionally in a wok, but also in a pan, where small pieces of food are cooked at a high temperature while turning and tossing constantly until just cooked.
Used as the base of soups, stews and in risottos – can be home made or packaged.Beef, chicken, vegetable and fish stocks are the most common.
To cook vegetables, particularly onion, until the juices just run and the vegetable softens without colouring.
 Swiss Roll Tin
A shallow rectangular baking tin often used to bake slices.
Sauté or Pan fry 
To cook food in a small amount of fat over relatively high heat.


In Spain a tortilla is a set omelette often containing potato and other vegetables. In Mexico tortilla refers to a flatbread made from corn or wheat flour.
Truss: To tie whole poultry with string or skewers so it will hold its shape during cooking.


A salad dressing made from oil, vinegar and seasonings.


Water Bath (or french term bain-marie )
A method of cooking whereby food is placed in a dish, pan or bowl and is sat in a large pan of warm water which surrounds the food with gentle heat.
This method of cooking can be used on the top of the stove or in the oven.
This cooking technique is designed to cook delicate dishes such as custards and sauces without breaking or curdling them.
To beat food with a whisk or mixer to incorporate air until thick and frothy and produce volume.
To beat ingredients (such as heavy or whipping cream, eggs, salad dressings, or sauces) with a fork or whisk to mix, blend, or incorporate air.


The outer rind of citrus fruit containing essential oils. Must be removed with care – avoiding removing the white pith with it.



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