Cooking Terminology &
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To cook, you need to understand some cooking terminology and techniques, which can really liven up your meals.
I've included both the basics of cooking terminology & methods, as well as the more advanced. And I've included the definitions of certain fruits, vegetables and foods; some that pose a mystery when found in a recipe :)
Cooking isn't rocket science, but understanding and mastering a few cooking methods will really boost your confidence and allow you to experiment with cooking.
It will bring the infamous "joy of cooking" and you'll sound like a Food Network star :)
Thank you Mark Bittman, Julia Child, fellow foodie friends and my personal experience as a home cook in the collaboration of these cooking terms & methods.
You can find many of the kitchen tools defined here in my store. Check it out :)
Julie's keep your home cooking store
adjust seasoning: To "adjust seasoning" means to taste what you're cooking before serving, and add salt, pepper or other seasoning to suit your tastes.
adzuki bean: A small, oval, maroon dried bean.
aioli: This simply means garlic mayonnaise. Aioli can be doctored up in many ways, but essentially means the same thing -- garlic mayo.
al dente: This is a term used to describe the "doneness" of pasta. Pasta should be cooked "al dente" which is firm to the bite. Taste the pasta as it is cooking, and aim for pasta that is tender but not mushy, firm but not hard, chewy but not crunchy. The pasta will continue to retain heat and cook a little after it is drained. Al dente is the perfect texture for any sauce you wish to add.
alfredo: Alfredo is a white sauce made of butter, eggs, cream and parmesan cheese usually served over pasta.
all-purpose flour: This is a white flour which has been milled from the inner part of the wheat kernel and contains neither the germ nor the bran. It's a combination of hard & soft flours, and is suitable for most cooking & baking recipes.
allspice: This is a seasoning with the flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and is often called for in spice breads or roasted meat recipes.
almond extract: This is a delicious, intense flavoring usually added to baked goods; especially, shortcake, scones and coffee cakes. Almond extract is found in your spice or baking aisle and will keep indefinitely.
ancho chile: This is a dried chili pepper that is a deep reddish brown. It has a mild flavor and can be reconstituted and added to recipes. In its fresh state, it's known as a poblano pepper.
arborio rice: This is a short grain rice and is used in the Italian classic dish, risotto. When cooked, arborio rice has a creamy texture.
aromatic: A vegetable, herb or spice that gives food an intense or lively fragrance and flavor. In classic cooking, "aromatics" means onion, carrot and celery.
artichoke: This thistle plant when fresh, must be steamed in order to eat the meat on its leaves and heart or core of the plant. You can purchase artichoke hearts in a can soaked in water, and in a jar marinated in oil and seasonings. They are delicious eaten fresh or in their ready-made form, and used in recipes.
arugula: Arugula is a green with a peppery and muddy flavor. A younger and smaller head will yield a milder flavor.
asiago: This is a hard Italian cheese with a nutty flavor. It can be grated and easily substituted for Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Au gratin: Topped with crumbs and/or cheese and browned in the oven or under the broiler.
Au jus: This means meat served or dipped into its own juices.
avocado: An avocado is a delicious, soft fruit which gives us all the "good" fats.
An avocado usually is treated like a vegetable when added to salads, or as a topping for sandwiches and burgers, and is the basis for guacamole. It should be used when it is quite soft to the touch; you can cut long-wise around the entire piece of fruit until you reach the hard pit inside; then, twist each piece off the pit; remove pit and scoop out.
Avocado is never blended into a recipe, but added at the end as a topping. I blended it once for an omelette in my early married days, and it made a lovely green sponge :)
baba ghanoush: This is a middle Eastern dish with a mixture of roasted eggplant, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, and it is served as a dip or spread. In layman's terms, it's eggplant hummus. Baba ghanoush has a more intense smoky flavor than regular hummus.
baguette: A baguette is a long, narrow French bread loaf with a crispy brown crust and a soft, chewy inside. YUMMY! This is a hearty loaf which can be sliced and used for bruschetta (see definition below).
bake: Simply put, to cook food in an oven. Your oven should be preheated before cooking, which means to set the temperature and turn the oven on and allow to heat up properly before cooking.
baking potato: This refers to the big brown potato with many "eyes" or knots in it. They are Idaho or russet potatoes and are best used for baked and mashed potatoes and french fries.
baking powder: Baking powder is a double-action leavening used in baking. The double action means one part starts to work as soon as it's mixed with liquid; while, the other part starts to work when exposed to heat, like baking. Baking powder can have a bit of an aluminum flavor, which comes from its additives. Baking powder should be replaced if not used within a year, possibly sooner.
baking sheet: A baking sheet is another name for a cookie sheet, which is best when thick and insulated. A baking sheet is essentially flat with no sides, except one tiny lip which is used to place in and out of the oven. Non-stick baking sheets are so easy to clean and highly recommended.
baking soda: Short for sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda is a leavening agent which causes a chemical reaction that produces gas and makes baked goods rise.
baking stone: A baking stone is used to bake free form breads and pizza. The stone is preheated in the oven and helps to cook your pizza more evenly and give bread a crispier crust.
balsamic vinegar: This is a sweet, but pungent tasting vinegar. It has a dark color and intense flavor. Bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil is a great alternative to butter, and it tastes so good!
basil: Once you taste this herb fresh, you will never want to use the dried version. Basil is a staple in Mediterranean cooking and has a distinctively fresh taste. If basil is allowed to get too large, the taste becomes bitter, so choose bunches with small to medium (1 inch) leaves.
basmati rice: This long grain rice has a nutty flavor and its kernels are long and slender. This rice is often used in Thai and Asian cooking.
baste: To spoon, brush or drizzle food with butter, sauce, pan juices or other liquid as it cooks. You can use a bulb baster for this, or a spoon or brush.
batter: A semi-liquid mixture made of flour, a leavening agent and a liquid.
beat: To mix ingredients quickly until well blended. This can be done with a hand mixer or food processor.
bechamel sauce: A basic French white sauce made with flour, butter, milk and seasonings.
Best Lasagna using a Bechamel Sauce.
bell peppers: Bell peppers are eaten in various stages of their ripeness; green, orange, yellow and red. Green bell peppers are mature, but not yet ripe. They have a firm and watery texture with a slight bitterness. Orange, yellow and red peppers are ripe and have a softer texture and milder flavor.
Bermuda onion: This is a big, sweet, ivory colored onion, which is good for everyday cooking.
bisque: A thick cream soup.
blanch: To cook in rapidly boiling water for a few minutes, usually until a vegetable turns a bright color of itself. Then, immerse cooked vegetable in cold water with ice cubes in it to stop the cooking.
blind bake: To precook pie crusts before filling them to ensure they cook thoroughly and to control shrinking. This method could also be used for pizza crusts before they are topped.
boil: This term means heating water or a liquid until bubbles rapidly appear at the surface. It can also mean to cook foods in boiling liquid. Liquids reach a more rapid boil by covering the pot, and then removing the lid once boiling. Most foods cook at a simmer, which is achieved after a boil is reached, and the temperature turned down.
bok choy: This is an Asian cabbage with a white stem and large, flat leaves. Bok choy is delicious in stir fry or served raw in salads.
Boston lettuce: This lettuce is part of the butter head family and has soft leaves in a loose head.
boule: Boule is simply a piece of bread dough in the shape of a ball. This shape allows the bread to rise up and not only out. This is a free form bread and baked on a flat surface like a baking stone.
braise: To cook food, first by browning it in a little oil or butter, and then adding liquid to pan; covering the pan and to finish cooking over moist, low heat.
broil: To cook food directly under the upper heat source in your oven. The heat source usually reaches 500 degrees during broiling. Broiling is perfect for cooking flank steak or meats less than one inch thick, browning crusts or melting cheese.
broth: This is usually the basis for all soups; can also be referred to as "stock." You can buy ready made broth or make your own.
How to Make Chicken Stock
How to Make Beef Stock
brown: To cook food quickly and "brown" the outside, while keeping the interior moist. Be sure to have your skillet hot, and dry the meat before browning or you will steam the meat instead of browning.
brown sugar: Brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses. Be sure when measuring brown sugar for recipes, you pack it into the measuring cup -- this is different than measuring white sugar, which is measured loosely.
bruschetta: Bruschetta is french or sourdough bread grilled or toasted, topped with a combination of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, basil, capers and balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Delicious! You can change this to meet your tastes; add green pepper or olives and even feta cheese.
brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts look like miniature cabbages, which is what they are. They are delicious blanched, then sauteed in butter.
bundt pan: This is a circular, often molded cake pan with tall sides and a hole in the center.
butter: Rich creamy milk solids either salted or unsalted (sweet). Everything is better with butter!
buttermilk: Technically, this is the remaining liquid after churning milk into butter. Today, it can be purchased ready made in the dairy section of your supermarket. Lovely in dressings and batter for sweet breads.
button mushrooms: These are the standard, white mushrooms found easily in the vegetable section of your supermarket.
calamata olives: Also spelled Kalamata olives. These are a purple-black Greek olive with an intense flavor, somewhat vinegary. They are usually marinated in oil.
canape: Dainty pieces of bread - toasted or untoasted - topped with a garnish or spread.
canola oil: This is a neutral oil used in salad dressings, cooking and deep frying. When used, it doesn't add a strong flavor to the food; thus, a neutral oil. This oil is fairly inexpensive and low in saturated fats.
caramelize: To slowly dissolve sugar - white or brown - in a small amount of water over low heat, resulting in a syrup. When caramelizing nuts, just add sugar alone with nuts over low heat.
casserole: A casserole is any deep, ovenproof baking dish used to cook food slowly. The term "casserole" is also used to describe a combination of meats and vegetables cooked together.
cayenne: Cayenne pepper is finely ground red chile pepper which yields a hot flavor.
cheesecloth: Technically, cotton gauze that doesn't fall apart when wet and won't flavor the food it touches. This is used to strain liquids and remove tiny particles.
chickpea: Also known as the garbanzo bean. Chickpeas have a nutty, delicious flavor which are great added to salads; used in curries and the base for middle eastern hummus.
chili paste: This can also be labeled "chili-garlic paste," this is a hot condiment made with chiles, salt and garlic.
chipotle chile: Smoked, dried jalapenos with a hot flavor; reconstitute in water before use. When sold canned in sauce, chipotle chile is referred to as adobo.
chives: An onion-like herb with a mild flavor; snipped with a scissor before serving. You can also use the tops (green portion) of green onions as a completely acceptable substitute.
chop: To cut food into pieces ranging from 1/4 inch to 1 inch cubes for chunks.
choux pastry: Essentially, cream puff pastry made on the stove top with flour, butter, water and eggs; baked to a fluffy goodness and filled with anything creamy. See also definition for cream puff pastry.
chutney: A sweet or savory jam either chunky or smooth and hot or mild.
Ciabatta bread: This is a light, airy bread usually shaped into rectangular pieces for sandwiches and panini. Delicious!
cider vinegar: A vinegar made from fermented apple cider.
cilantro: The leaves of the coriander plant, also called Chinese parsley or Wansoy. Cilantro is an essential fresh herb in salsa and chinese chicken salad. It has a hot, peppery flavor.
colander: A metal or plastic bowl-shaped container with a mesh bottom to strain or drain liquid from food.
compote: Fruit that has been cooked down slowly to a syrup. In many ways, a cousin to chutney.
compound butter: This is butter with added herbs, spices, garlic or wine.
confectioners sugar: Another word for powdered sugar.
core: To remove the center or "core" of a fruit.
coriander: This is the dried herb version of cilantro.
cornichon: Crisp little pickles with an intensely sour flavor.
cornstarch: A great thickening agent; stronger than flour. Mix with water before adding to sauce for thickening.
corn syrup: A thick, sweet syrup made from processed cornstarch, comes in both light and dark varieties.
cream: To beat an ingredient, usually butter or margarine, alone or with sugar until soft and well blended.
cream cheese: A tangy, smooth spreadable cheese usually used in desserts, dips, frostings and on bagels.
cream puff pastry: The French term is Pate a Choux or Choux Pastry. It combines flour, butter, water & eggs to make a deliciously light bun shaped pastry, which can be filled with creamy goodness. It is all heated on the range top, and each egg is added separately. While each egg is being incorporated into the batter, it makes a slippery mess until it blends together -- this is expected.
cremini: This is a brown mushroom with a stronger flavor than the button mushroom.
crepe: Thin, french pancakes served with sweet or savory toppings or filling.
crimp: To seal the edges of a 1 or 2 crust pie or pastry either by pinching them at intervals with the fingers or by pressing them together with the tines of a fork.
cumin: Cumin can be found whole or ground, and used in curries, soups, stews and vegetable dishes.
cut in: To "cut in" means to blend butter or shortening into flour using a pastry blender or two forks.
cutlet: A tender, thin, boneless cut of meat.
dash: A measurement term meaning a little more than a sprinkle.
deep fry: To cook food in hot oil deep enough to cover the food. The temperature may vary, and recipes will usually give you the best temperature for that recipe. Dry the food well before frying, and fry in small increments to keep from lowering the temperature too much.
deglaze: This process is used to make a sauce from the tasty bits left in the pan after sauteing or roasting. Add a liquid, wine, broth, lemon juice, other fruit juice, or cream to pan and reduce to desired consistency.
dice: To cut food into small cubes of equal size, usually 1/8th to 1/4th inch.
double boiler: A duo of pots used to warm or cook heat-sensitive foods like custards and chocolate. The lower pot holds water, while the upper pot melts or cooks the food.
dough: Dough is a mixture of flour, liquid, and a leavening agent which is stiff and pliable; usually shaped by hand.
dredge: To lightly coat food for frying with flour, cornmeal, bread crumbs or crushed crackers; plain or seasoned. The dry mixture is often used after the food has had a light coating of egg or buttermilk.
Dutch oven: A big, sturdy, thick-bottomed pot with a tightly fitted lid often used for braising, boiling, and making stews and soups.
emulsion: A mixture of two or more liquids that don't easily combine; like oil and vinegar. To emulsify means to combine those liquids by vigorously shaking, whisking or using a blender, mixer or food processor.
evaporated milk: A canned milk which has been processed to remove the water from the milk; great in cream soups.
fennel: Fennel is a vegetable with a licorice flavor and celery like texture; it can be eaten raw or cooked.
fenugreek: This is a seasoning used in Indian cooking.
feta cheese: A white Greek cheese with a tangy, mild flavor. It crumbles easily which makes it perfect for salads.
fillet: A boneless piece of meat, chicken or fish.
five-spice powder: Made from five ground spices; cinnamon, clove, fennel seed, star anise and Szechwan peppercorns. You can buy this prepackaged in the spice section of your supermarket.
focaccia bread: This is a yummy flat bread, with a light airy texture, usually made in a jelly roll pan. It can be eaten plain or topped with anything that suits your fancy -- olive oil, onions, rosemary, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes to name a few.
fold: This means to gently incorporate a light, fluffy mixture like whipped egg whites into a heavier mixture, like batter. You do this by lifting from underneath and over with a rubber spatula or spoon until completely blended.
free-range: Free range refers to poultry or other animals which have been fed grains, and have not been given growth hormones or other drugs, and have been allowed to roam in large fields. Your meat packaging will be stamped free range if that's what they are; or give other specifics like "Not given growth hormones," etc.
Free range products can be outrageously expensive, but you will have to weigh the benefits to the cost. I usually stick with those that haven't been given growth hormones. Milk can contain growth hormones, so watch that too.
frittata: The Italian version of an omelette, served open-faced.
fritter: This refers to a deep-fried delectable; either with something sweet or savory mixed in.
garam marsala: An Indian spice blend that usually includes cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, black peppercorns, and/or other spices. This can be bought prepackaged.
garlic: Garlic is one of the most important seasonings in the kitchen; it can virtually be added to every savory dish. Garlic can be minced and sauteed, added raw to sauces or salsa, and you can roast the whole bulb for creamy goodness. You can buy them in the bulb and store at room temperature, or buy it already minced in a jar. The purist will say don't buy it in a jar, but it makes for great convenience to the busy cook.
garnish: This means to decorate or make your entree pretty, and can also add flavor. You may use chopped olives, a light sauce, whipped cream, cheese, and/or fresh herbs.
gelatin: This is a thickening agent which is colorless, tasteless and odorless. It forms a jelly after being dissolved in hot water and cooled.
giblets: The cleaned gizzard, liver, heart and sometimes the neck of poultry used to flavor gravy.
ginger: This can be bought ground, and called for in sweet breads and curries. In its fresh form, it is a knobby, light brown root and has a tough exterior. You need to peel it to get to the fragrant, intense, zingy flavored flesh below.
glaze: To coat food with a thin layer of liquid which will come to a gentle set.
gnocchi: Gnocchi is a little dumpling made of flour, water, salt & butter that is boiled. After draining, it can be sauteed to a nice crisp.
Granny Smith apple: A tart, hard green apple with crisp flesh, which is often used in baking.
granulated sugar: This is simply your everyday refined white sugar.
grate: To shred firm or hard food into smaller pieces by a food processor or rubbing it against a grater. This method is used for vegetables and cheeses.
gravy: Gravy is a sauce made from meat juices; diluted with water, broth, cream or wine, and thickened with flour or cornstarch.
How to Make Gravy
greens: "Greens" refer to dark, leafy green vegetables like kale, chard, collards, spinach, and mustard greens, etc. They have very large, firm leaves and have somewhat of a bitter taste, but are loved as part of a down-home Southern meal.
grind: To break solid foods down into small particles or fine powder. You can use a food processor, chopper, mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, which does the job nicely too.
ground beef: Beef that has been finely chopped. Ground beef can be bought with varying fat content.
guacamole: A Mexican specialty combining ripe avocados, onion, garlic, cilantro and hot spice.
half and half: This is a combination of equal parts milk and cream. It can be purchased ready mixed in your dairy section.
ham hock: Ham hock is cut from the hog's lower leg and usually smoked or cured. It is excellent used in bean soups and stews, usually the bone is removed after cooking when it has shed all its meat and nutrition.
hash: Hash is a dish of chopped meat, usually roast beef or corned beef, with diced vegetables, usually potatoes and seasonings. It is sauteed and lightly browned.
hoisin sauce: Brownish-red, sweet and spicy Asian sauce which can be added to stir fry; usually added at the last minute.
hollandaise sauce: A rich, creamy sauce made with butter and served hot, usually over Eggs Benedict.
huevos rancheros: A Mexican dish of fried eggs served on top of a tortilla and covered with a red sauce.
hummus: A delicious Middle Eastern dip made of mashed chickpeas seasoned with tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemon juice, oil and varying spices. Great with pita bread and in sandwiches.
infuse: To extract flavor from an ingredient, such as herbs or tea, by slowing steeping in a hot liquid.
jelly roll pan: A 9 x 13 or 10 x 15 inch pan with roughly a 1 inch lip on all four sides.
jicama: Light brown tropical root vegetable with a crisp, watery texture and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor; pronounced "hick-a-mah."
julienne: To cut food, usually vegetables, fruit or cheeses into slender strips of equal size and length. These thin strips are usually called matchsticks.
kebabs/kabobs: Small equal sized chunks of meat, fish or shellfish; usually marinated and arranged on skewers and grilled. Vegetables like onions, peppers and mushrooms are often cooked on the skewer with the meat.
knead: To mix pliable dough, usually bread dough, with your hands, electric mixer or food processor to develop its gluten, which makes the dough elastic.
kosher salt: Coarsely ground salt.
lard: Pork fat with a firm texture and good flavor.
lattice topping: This describes the topping of a pie or pastry which has dough strips in a crisscross fashion.
leavening agent: An ingredient that causes dough or batter to rise, lightening its texture and increasing its volume, such as beaten eggs or egg whites, baking powder, baking soda and/or yeast.
leeks: Leeks look like very large green onions or scallions. They are a part of the onion family with a stronger taste.
lemon zest: The yellow part of the lemon peel. You can use a small grater for this or a lemon zester.
margarine: Vegetable oil made hard through a process called hydrogenation. Definitely, not as tasty as butter.
marinara: A red sauce used in Italian cooking made with tomatoes, wine and herbs.
marinate: To soak meat, vegetables or fish in a seasoned liquid.
mash: To crush food into a smooth mixture.
melt: To change a solid into a liquid, using low heat. The microwave is a great way to melt chocolate or butter -- do this in small time increments.
meringue: Egg whites, combined with sugar, beaten until stiff and baked alone or as a pie topping.
mince: To cut food into very small pieces.
nori: These are thin sheets of dried seaweed used primarily to wrap sushi.
olive oil: Olive oil has a very distinctive, strong flavor. Extra virgin olive oil is the best choice, but can be expensive. It is made from the first, cold pressing of the olives. Pure olive oil may be extra virgin olive oil that didn't quite make the cut or oils extracted from the pulp left after making extra virgin oil.
omelette pan: This is an 8 inch fry pan with about a 1 or 2 inch lip. They are ideal with a non-stick coating.
How to Make an Omelette
paprika: Ground dried red peppers; can be used in spice rubs and as a garnish.
parboil: This means to partially cook food, usually vegetables, in boiling water.
parchment paper: Grease resistant paper used for lining baking sheets; usually bought in rolls or sheets.
pare: To remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable.
paring knife: A thin, sharp knife with a 3 to 4 inch blade.
Parmesan cheese: A hard, Italian cheese made from cow's milk. It has a nutty, salty flavor and is delicious as a topping or in recipes. The powdered version of this does not hold a candle to the real cheese grated.
parsnip: A root vegetable which looks like a white carrot.
pastry bag: A cone-shaped bag which either has decorative tips attached or can be made by snipping the corner of a heavy duty plastic bag. A pastry bag is used to decorate, shape or fill pastries.
pastry blender: A device of curved, sharp wires held by a handle used to cut butter or fat into flour, usually for pie crust or biscuits.
pearl onions: Tiny, marble sized onions with a delicate, sweet flavor when cooked.
pectin: A thickener used in jellies and jams.
pesto: This is a great pasta sauce or spread for bread made from basil, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. This can be purchased ready made or made at home.
phyllo dough: Paper thin sheets of pastry dough used in many sweet and savory dishes. This can be found in the freezer section of your supermarket.
pinch: A very small amount, usually held between the thumb tip and the forefinger.
pine nuts: Small, almond shaped nut with a soft, chewy texture and a sweet, nutty flavor. These are great toasted or plain used in salads, pasta or on pizza, and is a key ingredient in pesto.
pit: Is the center or core of a fruit or vegetable; another name for "stone." "To pit" means to remove the pit or seed from a fruit or an olive.
pizza peel: A flat, broad sheet of wood or metal with a handle used to slide breads and pizza onto a baking stone in the oven. Also, called a baker's peel.
plantain: The cooking banana, which can be used when green, yellow or black. A plantain can be sauteed, braised or stewed. A regular banana is delicious sliced length-wise & sauteed in butter too.
plum tomatoes: A firm, oval shaped tomato eaten raw or used in sauces. Also referred to as Roma tomatoes.
poach: To cook by submerging food in a gently boiling liquid.
polenta: A combination of cornmeal and water cooked.
portobello mushroom: A large version of the cremini mushroom with a robust flavor. These can be grilled, broiled, sauteed and even stuffed. Delicious!
pressure cooker: A pot with a sealed lid to create intense heat and the quick cooking of foods, usually beans.
prosciutto: A salt-cured, air-dried ham and cut paper thin.
puff pastry: Multiple layers of pastry dough, each separated by a layer of butter.
pulp: The interior flesh of a fruit.
pulverize: To crush or grind to a fine powder.
puree: To finely blend or mash food into a smooth lump-free consistency. This can be done with an immersion blender, regular blender, hand mixer or food processor.
quesadilla: A flour tortilla filled with beans, cheese and/or vegetables; usually pan grilled.
quiche: A savory, egg based pie baked with or without a crust.
ravioli: Pasta squares or rounds filled with savory goodness -- cheese, meat and/or vegetables.
reconstitute: To bring a dried, dehydrated food back to its original consistency by adding a liquid.
red potatoes: Also called "new potatoes." They are a small, firm potato with red skin; when cooked, they yield a slightly firm texture. Delicious in potato salads and for parsley buttered potatoes.
reduce: To cook a liquid, usually a sauce or stock, over medium to high heat to decrease its volume and intensify its flavor.
render: To cook a food over low heat until it releases its fat.
ricotta: A rich, moist cheese with a grainy texture used in ravioli stuffing, calzones and lasagna.
roasting: A cooking method using high heat in an oven; usually crisping the exterior of food, while cooking the interior. Often, gives a smoky flavor to vegetables.
roasting pan: This is a 9 x 13 or 10 x 15 inch oven-safe baking pan with about a 3 inch lip on all four sides.
rolling pin: A rolling pin is a solid, wooden tube used to flatten doughs for a variety of breads and crusts.
roux: A roux is a thick sauce made from combining flour and butter over heat, then adding a liquid. It is used as a thickening agent or beginning of a soup base.
Russian dressing: Essentially, this is a combination of catsup and mayonnaise.
saturated fat: Mainly a fat derived from animals, but also from some vegetables. A good test if a fat is saturated is that it's solid at room temperature.
saucepan: A pot with deep sides which can vary in size; small for sauces, and larger for boiling or simmering large quantities.
saute: To saute means to cook food in a hot pan with a fat; usually oil or butter.
How to Saute
scallion: Another name for green onion or spring onion.
score: To cut shallow lines, or shapes in meat, fish or bread. This can be done to tenderize, but also as a decoration in the case of bread.
sear: To cook meat quickly over intense heat, usually in a skillet to form a crust. This is done before roasting meat.
season: To add flavor to food; either in the form of salt, pepper, herbs, spices or liquid to improve taste.
serrated knife: A knife with sharp, jagged notches; usually for slicing bread.
sesame oil: This is a dark oil with a nutty, almost smoky flavor. Used often in stir-fry and Asian cooking.
sesame seeds: A small, light colored seed with a nutty flavor used in salads and on breads; they are delicious toasted. Sesame seeds are made into a paste called tahini, which is used to make hummus.
shallots: This is a member of the onion family with a tapered shape and coppery skin. They are mild in flavor which combine sweet onion and a touch of garlic.
shortening: Technically, shortening is any kind of fat used to make dough with a high fat to flour ratio, which produces a tender, rich and flaky crust. When you see shortening in a recipe, it usually refers to solid vegetable shortening, like Crisco. Shortening produces a delicious pie crust & biscuit. Don't be afraid to use shortening; it has a valuable purpose in baking & it's not like you're eating it with a spoon.
shred: To slice food into very narrow strips using a grater, food processor or knife.
shuck: To remove the outer shell of a vegetable like corn; or shell fish, like oysters or clams.
sieve: This is a strainer of sorts; it's mesh bottom keeps food particles back when straining liquids.
sifter: This is also a strainer of sorts, but used to sift flours and powdered sugar. It has a mesh bottom with a lever that pushes flour or sugar across its surface, and sifts out the lumps.
simmer: To cook something with gentle bubbles rising to the surface.
skewers: These are thin wood or metal sticks, varying in size, used for meat or vegetables in kabobs.
skillet: Another name for a frying pan; usually a flat bottom with slightly curved, moderately shallow sides -- anywhere from 1 - 3 inches.
slice: To cut into long, thin pieces.
sorbet: This is a lighter version of sherbet, which is barely used today, but is usually a fruity form of ice cream.
souffle: Souffle is a French term referring to a light, fluffy egg bake dish, which rises and make a hat like top.
spatula: A spatula is used to turn food in cooking, or mix ingredients for baking and cooking. They can be made of rubber, metal or plastic and have a relatively flat rectangular head with a handle attached.
springform pan: This is a round baking pan with two pieces -- a flat bottom & round side controlled by a spring. The side piece is meant to be removed when the cake is cooked; used mostly for cheesecakes.
steam: This means to cook food, usually vegetables, in a pot or saucepan with a steamer insert placed over liquid, usually water. This is a quick cooking process, so that vegetables are left crisp and not soggy.
steamer insert: This is a collapsible, metal, basket-like insert placed in a pot to steam vegetables.
steep: To soak, usually tea bags, in boiling water to extract flavor.
stew: To cook meat or vegetables in liquid with a tightly covered pan or pot.
stir-fry: To cook meat & vegetables quickly over high heat. Food is cut up into small, even sized pieces.
stock: An intensely flavored broth.
How to Make Chicken Stock
How to Make Beef Stock
stockpot: A large pot usually for cooking broth, soups, and stews.
strain: To remove pieces from a liquid by pouring it through a strainer or sieve.
streusel: A crumbly topping made of sugar, butter, flour, spices and nuts; usually for coffee cakes, muffins and cobblers.
stuffing: An intensely seasoned mixture of bread cubes, butter, vegetables and spices; used largely to stuff the cavity of a turkey or other meat.
sun-dried tomatoes: A dried tomato with an intense flavor; usually soaked in oil.
sweetened condensed milk: Canned milk that has had the water removed (evaporated) and sugar added. Excellent in bars and granola; sweet & thick.
sweet potato: Different than the yam with a more potato-like texture when cooked; mostly with an orangecolored flesh, but there are varieties with yellow, white or purple flesh. Delicious as a substitute for potato fries.
Delicious Sweet Potato Puff Recipe
tahini: A creamy paste of toasted sesame seeds used in hummus.
tart: A sweet or savory filled pastry with no top crust.
tempura: This is seafood, usually shrimp and vegetables dipped in a light batter and fried. The batter makes a light, airy crust.
thermometer: There are a variety of thermometers; they register temperature, and/or judge doneness of meat. There are instant thermometers; oven thermometers and candy thermometers.
toast: To brown food in a fry pan without oil.
tomatillos: Small, round, firm, yellow-green tomato with a soft, paper-like cover. Used in salsas and Mexican cooking.
tortellini: Small, pasta pockets stuffed with cheese, meat and/or vegetables.
tortilla: Thin, round bread made of flour; white, whole wheat or corn, usually heated and cooked in a skillet or fried.
toss: To mix ingredients together quickly; usually a pasta or salad dish. This is typically done before serving, so food doesn't get soggy.
tube pan: This is a circular pan with tall sides and a hole in the center; used for angel food cake and sponge type cakes.
unsaturated fats: Mainly comes from plants and are in liquid form.
vinaigrette: This is an acid mixed with an oil into what is commonly called salad dressing. The acid being lemon or lime juice, or vinegar.
water bath: This is a process used to cook custards and puddings. Place the baking dish into a roasting pan filled halfway with water, and bake.
whip: To beat rapidly with a spoon, whisk or hand mixer.
whisk: A metal utensil with looped wires held together with a handle; great for blending dry ingredients and whipping.
yeast: The unscientific definition of yeast is that it's a leavening agent used to make bread dough rise.
zest: The outer peel of a lemon, lime or other citrus fruits. To zest is to grate the outer peel into small pieces; often used as a garnish.
Blessings to you as you become familiar with cooking terminology & methods & learn to love cooking.
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