La Cucina di Kat: Glossary of Cooking Terms

Glossary of Cooking terms and Cooking Ingredients

-A-

Al dente

Italian for "to the tooth." It describes pasta that is cooked until it offers a slight resistance when bitten into, rather than cooked until soft.

Almond Paste

A creamy mixture made of ground, blanched almonds and sugar that's often used as a filling in pastries, cakes, and confections. For best baking results, use an almond paste without syrup or liquid glucose.

Anchovy Paste

A mixture of ground anchovies, vinegar, and seasonings. Anchovy paste is available in tubes in the canned fish or gourmet section of the supermarket.

-B-

Balsamic vinegar

Syrupy and slightly sweet, this dark-brown vinegar is made from the juice of the white Trebbiano grape. It gets its body, color, and sweetness from being aged in wooden barrels.

Basmati rice

An aromatic, long grain brown or white rice from India and California. Basmati rice is nutty and fluffy. Use as you would regular long grain rice.

Baste

To moisten foods during cooking or grilling with fats or seasoned liquids to add flavor and prevent drying. In general, recipes in this cookbook do not call for basting meat and poultry with pan juices or drippings. That's because basting tools, such as brushes and bulb basters, could be sources of bacteria if contaminated when dipped into uncooked or undercooked meat and poultry juices, then allowed to sit at room temperature and used later for basting.

Batter

An uncooked, wet mixture that can be spooned or poured, as with cakes, pancakes, and muffins. Batters usually contain flour, eggs, and milk as their base. Some thin batters are used to coat foods before deep frying.

Bean sauce, bean paste

Popular in Asian cooking, both products are made from fermented soybeans and have a salty bean flavor. Japanese bean paste is called miso.

Beat

To make a mixture smooth by briskly whipping or stirring it with a spoon, fork, wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer.

Blackened

A popular Cajun cooking method in which seasoned fish or other foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until charred, resulting in a crisp, spicy crust. At home, this is best done outdoors because of the large amount of smoke produced.

Blanch

To partially cook fruits, vegetables, or nuts in boiling water or steam to intensify and set color and flavor. This is an important step in preparing fruits and vegetables for freezing. Blanching also helps loosen skins from tomatoes, peaches, and almonds.

Blend

To combine two or more ingredients by hand, or with an electric mixer or blender, until smooth and uniform in texture, flavor, and color.

Boil

To cook food in liquid at a temperature that causes bubbles to form in the liquid and rise in a steady pattern, breaking at the surface. A rolling boil occurs when liquid is boiling so vigorously that the bubbles can't be stirred down.

Boullion

A bouillon cube is a compressed cube of dehydrated beef, chicken, fish, or vegetable stock. Bouillon granules are small particles of the same substance, but they dissolve faster. Both can be reconstituted in hot liquid to substitute for stock or broth.

Bouquet garni

A bundle of fresh herbs usually thyme, parsley, and bay leaf used to add flavor to soups, stews, stocks, and poaching liquids. They are often tied inside two pieces of leek leaf or in a piece of cheesecloth.

Braise

To cook food slowly in a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan on the range top or in the oven. Braising is recommended for less-tender cuts of meat.

Breading

A coating of crumbs, sometimes seasoned, on meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables. Breading is often made with soft or dry bread crumbs.

Brie

A soft, creamy cheese with an edible white rind. Brie from France is considered to be the best in the world.

Brine

Heavily salted water used to pickle or cure vegetables, meats, fish, and seafood.

Broil

To cook food a measured distance below direct, dry heat. When broiling, position the broiler pan and its rack so that the surface of the food (not the rack) is the specified distance from the heat source. Use a ruler to measure this distance.

Broth

The strained clear liquid in which meat, poultry, or fish has been simmered with vegetables and herbs. It is similar to stock and can be used interchangeably with it. Reconstituted bouillon can also be used when broth is specified.

Brown

To cook a food in a skillet, broiler, or oven to add flavor and aroma and develop a rich, desirable color on the outside and moistness on the inside.

Butter

For rich flavor, butter is usually the fat of choice. For baking, butter is recommended rather than margarine for consistent results. Salted and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably in recipes; however, if you use unsalted butter, you may want to increase the amount of salt in a recipe.

Butterfly

To split food, such as shrimp or pork chops, through the middle without completely separating the halves. Opened flat, the split halves resemble a butterfly.

-C-

Candied

A food, usually a fruit, nut, or citrus peel, that has been cooked or dipped in sugar syrup.

Carmelize

To brown sugar, whether it is granulated sugar or the naturally occuring sugars in vegetables. Granulated sugar is cooked in a saucepan or skillet over low heat until melted and golden. Vegetables are cooked slowly over low heat in a small amount of fat until browned and smooth.

Capers

The buds of a spiny shrub that grows from Spain to China. Found next to the olives in the the supermarket, capers have an assertive flavor that can best be described as the marriage of citrus and olive, plus an added tang that comes from the salt and vinegar of their packaging brine. While the smaller buds bring more flavor than the larger buds, both can be used interchangeably in recipes.

Chiffonade

In cooking, this French word, meaning "made of rags," refers to thin strips of fresh herbs or lettuce

Chili oil

A fiery oil, flavored with chile peppers, that's used as a seasoning.

Chili paste

A condiment, available in mild or hot versions, that's made from chile peppers, vinegar, and seasonings.

Chill

To cool food to below room temperature in the refrigerator or over ice. When recipes call for chilling foods, it should be done in the refrigerator.

Chop

To cut foods with a knife, cleaver, or food processor into smaller pieces.

Chorizo 

A spicy pork sausage used in Mexican and Spanish cuisine. Spanish chorizo is made with smoked pork, and Mexican chorizo is made with fresh pork.

Chutney

A condiment often used in Indian cuisine that's made of chopped fruit (mango is a classic), vegetables, and spices enlivened by hot peppers, fresh ginger, or vinegar.

Clarified butter

Sometimes called drawn butter, clarified butter is best known as a dipping sauce for seafood. It is butter that has had the milk solids removed. Because clarified butter can be heated to high temperatures without burning, it's also used for quickly browning meats. To clarify butter, melt the butter over low heat in a heavy saucepan without stirring. Skim off foam, if necessary. You will see a clear, oily layer on top of a milky layer. Slowly pour the clear liquid into a dish, leaving the milky layer in the pan. The clear liquid is the clarified butter; discard the milky liquid. Store clarified butter in the refrigerator up to 1 month.

Coat

To evenly cover food with crumbs, flour, or a batter. Often done to meat, fish, and poultry before cooking.

Coconut milk

A product made from water and coconut pulp that's often used in Southeast Asian and Indian cooking. Coconut milk is not the clear liquid in the center of the coconut, nor should it be confused with cream of coconut, a sweetened coconut concoction often used to make mixed drinks such as pina coladas.

Cooking oil

Liquids at room temperature made from vegetables, nuts, or seeds. Common types for general cooking include corn, soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut, and olive. For baking, cooking oils cannot be used interchangeably with solid fats because they do not hold air when beaten.

Couscous (KOOS-koos)

A granular pasta popular in North Africa that's made from semolina. Look for it in the rice and pasta section of supermarkets.

Cream

To beat a fat, such as butter or shortening either alone or with sugar, to a light, fluffy consistency. May be done by hand with a wooden spoon or with an electric mixer. This process incorporates air into the fat so baked products have a lighter texture and a better volume.

Creme fraiche

A dairy product made from whipping cream and a bacterial culture, which causes the whipping cream to thicken and develop a sharp, tangy flavor. If you can't find creme fraiche in your supermarket, you can make a substitute by combining 1/2 cup whipping cream (do not use ultra-pasteurized cream) and 1/2 cup dairy sour cream. Cover the mixture and let it stand at room temperature for two to five hours or until it thickens. Cover and refrigerate for up to one week.

Crimp

To pinch or press pastry or dough together using your fingers, a fork, or another utensil. Usually done for a piecrust edge.

Crisp-tender

A term that describes the state of vegetables that have been cooked until just tender but still somewhat crunchy. At this stage, a fork can be inserted with a little pressure.

Crumbs

Fine particles of food that have been broken off a larger piece. Crumbs are often used as a coating, thickener, or binder, or as a crust in desserts. Recipes usually specify either soft or fine dry bread crumbs, which generally are not interchangeable.

Crush

To smash food into smaller pieces, generally using hands, a mortar and pestle, or a rolling pin. Crushing dried herbs releases their flavor and aroma

Curdle

To cause semisolid pieces of coagulated protein to develop in a dairy product. This can occur when foods such as milk or sour cream are heated to too high a temperature or are combined with an acidic food, such as lemon juice or tomatoes.

Curry paste

A blend of herbs, spices, and fiery chiles that's often used in Indian and Thai cooking. Look for curry paste in Asian markets. Curry pastes are available in many varieties and are sometimes classified by color (green, red, or yellow), by heat (mild or hot), or by a particular style of curry (such as Panang or Masaman).

Cut in

To work a solid fat, such as shortening, butter, or margarine, into dry ingredients. This is usually done with a pastry blender, two knives in a crisscross fashion, your fingertips, or a food processor.

-D-

Dash

Refers to a small amount of seasoning that is added to food. It is generally between 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoon. The term is often used for liquid ingredients, such as bottled hot pepper sauce.

Deep-fry

To cook food by completely covering with hot fat. Deep-frying is usually done at 375 degrees.

Deglaze

Adding a liquid such as water, wine, or broth to a skillet that has been used to cook meat. After the meat has been removed, the liquid is poured into the pan to help loosen the browned bits and make a flavorful sauce.

Demi-glace 

A thick, intense meat-flavor gel that's often used as a foundation for soups and sauces. Demi-glace is available in gourmet shops or through mail-order catalogs.

Double boiler

A two-pan arrangement where one pan nests partway inside the other. The lower pot holds simmering water that gently cooks heat-sensitive food in the upper pot.

Drawn

A term referring to a whole fish, with or without scales, that has had its internal organs removed. The term "drawn butter" refers to clarified butter.

Dredge

To coat a food, either before or after cooking, with a dry ingredient, such as flour, cornmeal, or sugar.

Dressed

Fish or game that has had guts (viscera) removed. In the case of fish, gills are removed, the cavity is cleaned, and the head and fins remain intact. The scales may or may not be removed.

Drizzle

To randomly pour a liquid, such as powdered sugar icing, in a thin stream over food.

Dust

To lightly coat or sprinkle a food with a dry ingredient, such as flour or powdered sugar, either before or after cooking.

-E-

Emulsify

To combine two liquid or semiliquid ingredients, such as oil and vinegar, that don't naturally dissolve into each other. One way to do this is to gradually add one ingredient to the other while whisking rapidly with a fork or wire whisk.

Extracts, oils

Products based on the aromatic essential oils of plant materials that are distilled by various means. In extracts, the highly concentrated oils are usually suspended in alcohol to make them easier to combine with other foods in cooking and baking. Almond, anise, lemon, mint, orange, peppermint, and vanilla are some commonly available extracts.

Some undiluted oils are also available, usually at pharmacies. These include oil of anise, oil of cinnamon, oil of cloves, oil of peppermint, and oil of wintergreen. Do not try to substitute oils for ground spices in recipes. Oils are so concentrated that they're measured in drops, not teaspoons. Oil of cinnamon, for example, is 50 times stronger than ground cinnamon. You can, however, substitute 1 or 2 drops of an oil for 1/2 teaspoon extract in frosting or candy recipes.

-F-

Feta

A tangy, crumbly Greek cheese made of sheep's or goat's milk.

Fillet

A piece of meat or fish that has no bones. As a verb, fillet refers to the process of cutting meat or fish into fillets.

Fish Sauce

A pungent brown sauce made by fermenting fish, usually anchovies, in brine. It's often used in Southeast Asian cooking.

Flake

To gently break food into small, flat pieces.

Flour

A milled food that can be made from many cereals, roots, and seeds, although wheat is the most popular. Store flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. All-purpose flour may be stored for up to 8 months. Bread flour, cake flour, gluten flour, whole wheat flour, and other whole grain flours may be stored up to 5 months. For longer storage, refrigerate or freeze the flour in a moisture- and vaporproof container. Bring chilled flour to room temperature before using in baking. Here are the types of flour most commonly used in cooking:

All-purpose flour: This flour is made from a blend of soft and hard wheat flours and, as its name implies, can be used for many purposes, including baking, thickening, and coating. All-purpose flour usually is sold presifted and is available bleached or unbleached. Bleached flour has been made chemically whiter in appearance. Some cooks prefer the bleached flour to make their cakes and bread as white as possible, while other cooks prefer their flour to be processed as little as necessary. Both bleached and unbleached flour are suitable for home baking and can be used interchangeably.

Bread flour: This flour contains more gluten than all-purpose flour, making it ideal for baking breads, which rely on gluten for structure and height. If you use a bread machine, use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour for best results. Or use all-purpose flour and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of gluten flour (available in supermarkets or health food stores).

Cake flour: Made from a soft wheat, cake flour produces a tender, delicate crumb because the gluten is less elastic. It's too delicate for general baking, but to use it for cakes, sift it before measuring and use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour for every 1 cup all-purpose flour specified.

Gluten flour: Because whole-grain flours are low in gluten, some whole-grain bread recipes often call for a little gluten flour to help the finished loaf attain the proper texture. Sometimes called wheat gluten, gluten flour is made by removing most of the starch from high-protein, hard-wheat flour. If you can't find gluten flour at a supermarket, look for it at a health food store.

Pastry flour: A soft wheat blend with less starch than cake flour. It is used for making pastry.

Self-rising flour: An all-purpose flour with salt and a leavener, such as baking powder, added. It is generally not used for making yeast products.

Specialty flours: Specialty flours, such as whole wheat, graham, rye, oat, buckwheat, and soy, generally are combined with all-purpose flour in baking recipes because none has sufficient gluten to provide the right amount of elasticity on its own.

Flour (verb)

To coat or dust a food or utensil with flour. Food may be floured before cooking to add texture and improve browning. Baking utensils sometimes are floured to prevent sticking.

Flute

To make a decorative impression in food, usually a piecrust.

Fold

A method of gently mixing ingredients without decreasing their volume. To fold, use a rubber spatula to cut down vertically through the mixture from the back of the bowl. Move the spatula across the bottom of the bowl, and bring it back up the other side, carrying some of the mixture from the bottom up over the surface. Repeat these steps, rotating the bowl one-fourth of a turn each time you complete the process.

French

To cut meat away from the end of a rib or chop to expose the bone, as with a lamb rib roast.

Frost

To apply a cooked or uncooked topping, which is soft enough to spread but stiff enough to hold its shape, to cakes, cupcakes, or cookies.

Fry

To cook food in a hot cooking oil or fat, usually until a crisp brown crust forms. To panfry is to cook food, which may have a very light breading or coating, in a skillet in a small amount of hot fat or oil. To deep-fat fry (or French fry) is to cook a food until it is crisp in enough hot fat or oil to cover the food. To shallow fry is to cook a food, usually breaded or coated with batter, in about an inch of hot fat or oil. To oven fry is to cook food in a hot oven, using a small amount of fat to produce a healthier product.

-G-

Garnish

To add visual appeal to a finished dish.

Glaze

A thin, glossy coating. Savory glazes are made with reduced sauces or gelatin; sweet glazes can be made with melted jelly or chocolate.

Gluten

An elastic protein present in flour, especially wheat flour, that provides most of the structure of baked products.

Grate

To rub food, such as hard cheeses, vegetables, or whole nutmeg or ginger, across a grating surface to make very fine pieces. A food processor also may be used.

Grease

To coat a utensil, such as a baking pan or skillet, with a thin layer of fat or oil. A pastry brush works well to grease pans. Also refers to fat released from meat and poultry during cooking.

Grind

To mechanically cut a food into smaller pieces, usually with a food grinder or a food processor.

-G-

Haricot vert

French for "green string bean", these beans are particularly thin and tender.

Heavy cream

Also called heavy whipping cream. Heavy cream contains at least 46 perecent milk fat and is the richest cream available. It can be whipped to twice its volume.

Hoisin Sauce

A sauce, popular in Asian cooking, that brings a multitude of sweet and spicy flavors to a dish: fermented soybeans, molasses, vinegar, mustard, sesame seeds, garlic, and chiles. Look for hoisin sauce alongside the soy sauce in most supermarkets or in Asian markets.

Hominy

Dried white or yellow corn kernels that have been soaked in lime or lye to remove the hull and germ. It is available canned or dried. Ground hominy is used to make grits.

Hors d'oeuvre 

French term for small, hot or cold portions of savory food served as an appetizer.

-I-

Ice

To drizzle or spread baked goods with a thin frosting.

Indirect grilling

Method of slowly cooking food in a covered grill over a spot where there are no coals. Usually the food is placed on the rack over a drip pan, with coals arranged around the pan.

-K-

Knead

To work dough with the heels of your hands in a pressing and folding motion until it becomes smooth and elastic. This is an essential step in developing the gluten in many yeast breads.

-L-
Leavenings

Ingredients that are essential in helping batter and dough expand or rise during baking. If omitted, the baked products will be heavy and tough. See specific ingredients, such as yeast, baking powder, and baking soda, for more information.

-M-

Marble

To gently swirl one food into another. Marbling is usually done with light and dark batters for cakes or cookies.

Marinate

To soak food in a marinade. When marinating foods, do not use a metal container, as it can react with acidic ingredients to give foods an off flavor. Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the kitchen counter. To reduce cleanup, use a plastic bag set in a bowl or dish to hold the food you are marinating. Discard leftover marinade that has come in contact with raw meat. Or if it's to be used on cooked meat, bring leftover marinade to a rolling boil before using to destroy any bacteria that may be present.

Mash

To press or beat a food to remove lumps and make a smooth mixture. This can be done with a fork, potato masher, food mill, food ricer, or electric mixer.

Measure

To determine the quantity or size of a food or utensil.

Melt

To heat a solid food, such as chocolate, margarine, or butter, over very low heat until it becomes liquid or semi-liquid

Mince

To chop food into very fine pieces, as with minced garlic.

Mix

To stir or beat two or more foods together until they are thoroughly combined. May be done with an electric mixer, a rotary beater, or by hand with a wooden spoon.

Moisten

To add enough liquid to a dry ingredient or mixture to make it damp but not runny.

Mortar and pestle

A set that includes a bowl-shape vessel (the mortar) to hold ingredients to be crushed by a club-shape utensil (the pestle).

Mull

To slowly heat a beverage, such as cider, with spices and sugar.

-P-

Pan-broil

To cook a food, especially meat, in a skillet without added fat, removing any fat as it accumulates.

Parbroil

To boil a food, such as vegetables, until it is partially cooked

Parchment paper

A grease- and heat-resistant paper used to line baking pans, to wrap foods in packets for baking, or to make disposable pastry bags.

Pare

To cut off the skin or outer covering of a fruit or vegetable, using a small knife or a vegetable peeler.

Pectin

A natural substance found in some fruits that makes fruit-and-sugar mixtures used in jelly- or jam-making set up. Commercial pectin is also available.

Peel

The skin or outer covering of a vegetable or fruit (also called the rind). Peel also refers to the process of removing this covering.

Pesto

Traditionally an uncooked sauce made from crushed garlic, basil, and nuts blended with Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Today's pestos may call on other herbs or greens and may be homemade or purchased. Tomato pesto is also available. Pesto adds a heady freshness to many recipes.

Pinch

A small amount of a dry ingredient (the amount that can be pinched between a finger and the thumb).

Pine nut

A high-fat nut that comes from certain varieties of pine trees. Their flavor ranges from mild and sweet to pungent. They go rancid quickly; store in the refrigerator or freezer. In a pinch, substitute chopped almonds or, in cream sauces, walnuts.

Pipe

To force a semisoft food, such as whipped cream or frosting, through a pastry bag to decorate food.

Pit

To remove the seed from fruit.

Plump

To allow a food, such as raisins, to soak in a liquid, which generally increases its volume.

Poach

To cook a food by partially or completely submerging it in a simmering liquid.

Pound

To strike a food with a heavy utensil to crush it. Or, in the case of meat or poultry, to break up connective tissue in order to tenderize or flatten it.

Precook

To partially or completely cook a food before using it in a recipe.

Preheat

To heat an oven or a utensil to a specific temperature before using it.

Process

To preserve food at home by canning, or to prepare food in a food processor.

Proof

To allow a yeast dough to rise before baking. Also a term that indicates the amount of alcohol in a distilled liquor.

Prosciutto

Ham that has been seasoned, salt-cured, and air-dried (not smoked). Pressing the meat gives it a firm, dense texture. Parma ham from Italy is considered to be the best.

Puree

To process or mash a food until it is as smooth as possible. This can be done using a blender, food processor, sieve, or food mill; also refers to the resulting mixture.

-R-
Reduce

To decrease the volume of a liquid by boiling it rapidly to cause evaporation. As the liquid evaporates, it thickens and intensifies in flavor. The resulting richly flavored liquid, called a reduction, can be used as a sauce or as the base of a sauce. When reducing liquids, use the pan size specified in the recipe, as the surface area of the pan affects how quickly the liquid will evaporate.

 

Rice

To force food that has been cooked through a perforated utensil known as a ricer, giving the food a somewhat ricelike shape.

Rind

The skin or outer coating, usually rather thick, of a food.

Roast, roasting

A large piece of meat or poultry that's usually cooked by roasting. Roasting refers to a dry-heat cooking method used to cook foods, uncovered, in an oven. Tender pieces of meat work best for roasting.

 

Roux (roo)

A French term that refers to a mixture of flour and a fat cooked to a golden- or rich-brown color and used for a thickening in sauces, soups, and gumbos.

Salsa

A sauce usually made from finely chopped tomatoes, onions, chiles, and cilantro. It is often used in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine.

Saute

From the French word sauter, meaning "to jump." Sauteed food is cooked and stirred in a small amount of fat over fairly high heat in an open, shallow pan. Food cut into uniform size sautes the best.

Scald

To heat a liquid, often milk, to a temperature just below the boiling point, when tiny bubbles just begin to appear around the edge of the liquid.

Score

To cut narrow slits, often in a diamond pattern, through the outer surface of a food to decorate it, tenderize it, help it absorb flavor, or allow fat to drain as it cooks

Sear

To brown a food, usually meat, quickly on all sides using high heat. This helps seal in the juices and may be done in the oven, under a broiler, or on top of the range.

Section

To separate and remove the membrane of segments of citrus fruits. To section oranges, use a paring knife to remove the peel and white rind. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, cut between one orange section and the membrane, slicing to the center of the fruit. Turn the knife and slide it up the other side of the section along the membrane, cutting outward. Repeat with remaining sections.

Shred, finely shred

To push food across a shredding surface to make long, narrow strips. Finely shred means to make long thin strips. A food processor also may be used. Lettuce and cabbage may be shredded by thinly slicing them.

Shuck

To remove the shells from seafood, such as oysters and clams, or the husks from corn.

Sieve

To separate liquids from solids, usually using a sieve

Sift

To put one or more dry ingredients, especially flour or powdered sugar, through a sifter or sieve to remove lumps and incorporate air.

Simmer

To cook food in a liquid that is kept just below the boiling point; a liquid is simmering when a few bubbles form slowly and burst just before reaching the surface.

Skewer

A long, narrow metal or wooden stick that can be inserted through pieces of meat or vegetables for grilling. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before you thread them to prevent burning.

Skim

To remove a substance, such as fat or foam, from the surface of a liquid.

Slice

A flat, usually thin, piece of food cut from a larger piece. Also the process of cutting flat, thin pieces

Snip

To cut food, often fresh herbs or dried fruit, with kitchen shears or scissors into very small, uniform pieces using

« Return to La Cucina di Kat

« Return to the Pages table of contents.

La Cucina di Kat

Aka: “Kat’s Kitchen”. A warm and friendly place to really talk about good food, tell stories and share recipes from days gone by. Good down to earth cooking with an ethnic flair!

» Home
» Forums
» Articles
» Pages
» Database

Cubit owner: Katg