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99 Kitchen Terms Every Home Chef Needs To Know

by | Jun 22, 2022

If you don’t know your al dente from your al fresco, or if you ever scrolled past a recipe the second it mentions ‘braising’ or ‘reducing’- you’re not alone. Kitchen-talk can sound like another language – and it is! 

6 years ago, I swear on my favorite set of pans, I didn’t even know how to boil water. I want to help you make friends with your kitchen by providing you with a glossary of essential cooking terms, techniques, equipment, ingredients, and more to improve your skills in the kitchen and bring your A-game to the table.

Even when perusing the most simple recipes, you’ll come across some of these terms. Don’t let the list overwhelm you – you can stick it up on your fridge for reference. You’ve probably heard that one of the best ways to learn is by doing – so get cooking, and I promise you’ll learn as you go.

  1. Al Dente – Rice or pasta cooked until it’s firm to the bite -the perfect consistency according to Italian cooking.
  1. Aromatics – Ingredients such as herbs, spices, and vegetables that add flavor and aroma to dishes.
  1. Bake – To cook in the oven using indirect dry heat.
  1. Baking Sheet – A large, flat metal sheet such as a cookie sheet or sheet pan. Some are flat; some have rims.
  1. Baking Powder – A combination of sodium bicarbonate and acid- when mixed with a liquid, it becomes a leavening agent (makes a baked item rise).
  1. Baking Soda – Sodium bicarbonate alone. To become a leavening agent, it needs acid and a liquid together (like a squeeze of lemon juice in a cake mixture). 
  1. Baste – Adding liquid (stock or melting butter/dripping) to meat during the cooking process to moisten it and prevent it from drying out
  1. Beat – Mixing ingredients thoroughly with a spoon, fork, or electric whisk with vigor and speed to capture air into the mixture, resulting in a light and fluffy product.
Mixing ingredients
  1. Bechamel – A sauce made from a cooked flour-and-butter paste (a roux) thickened with milk.
Flour-and-butter paste
  1. Bind/Binder – To add a thickening ingredient such as an egg, flour, or cornstarch, to hold components together in soups, sauces, or gravy.
  1. Blanch – Plunging vegetables into boiling water for a few minutes at a time and removing them before they’re fully cooked. This locks in nutrients and gets veggies colorful and vibrant looking. Blanching is often done before freezing or ice-bathing (see below) 
Plunging vegetables into boiling water
  1. Braise – Cooking by heating ingredients slowly with liquid and oil in a tightly sealed pan/dish.
  1. Bread – To dip or roll a food in breadcrumbs.
Soaking meat in salted water
  1. Brining – Soaking meat in salted water before roasting or grilling. This adds flavor and helps the meat to be moist and tender.
  1. Butterfly – To cut steak or poultry down the middle but not wholly, and then open it up in a butterfly shape. Try butterflying chicken in this delicious Caprese Stuffed Balsamic Chicken recipe!
  1. Caramelize – 1. Simmering ingredients over low heat to bring out the food’s natural sugars in caramelization- for example, caramelized onions. 2. Heating sugar slowly until it caramelizes into a dark syrup.
Caramelized onions
  1. Casserole Dish – A sturdy baking dish or pan.
  1. Chop – Using a knife to cut food into pieces. 
  1. Chef’s Knife – An all-purpose knife, typically with a blade that’s 6-10″ long.
Chef’s Knife
  1. Chiffonade – To shred leafy foods, such as lettuce or herbs cut into long, thin strips very finely with a knife. This is accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll. You can practice how to chiffonade by trying this mouth-watering Easy Bruschetta Recipe
  1. Colander – A perforated metal or plastic bowl with handles used for draining foods cooked in liquid or for rinsing vegetables.
Colander
  1. Convection Oven – An oven with fans that circulate air for even browning and often faster cooking.
  1. Cooling Rack – A sturdy wire rack to set hot baked goods on so they cool evenly.
  1. Core – Removing innards of fruit – the core, seeds, and stringy center.
  1. Cream – Beating an ingredient until it is a smooth thick liquid resembling cream. Typically, butter is creamed with sugar when baking a cake.
Cream
  1. Cross-Contaminate – To spread dangerous bacteria from one food, such as raw chicken, to another, such as raw vegetables, by using unwashed cooking tools and surfaces for preparing the same foods.
  1. Cut In – Integrate a cold fat (such as butter) into the flour by cutting the mixture with a knife. Slowly, the fat is broken down into the flour.
Cut In
  1. Deep Fry – Cooking items by completely submerging them in hot oil.
  1. Deglaze – Add juice or liquid to seared food, to mix with the crisped remains on the bottom of the pan, to make flavourful gravy or pan sauce.
Deglaze
  1. Dice – Chopping food into roughy 1/4″ pieces.
  1. Divided – When a recipe calls for an ingredient that is divided, you add the same ingredient at two or more different steps of the recipe.
  1. Dollop – A generous spoonful of a soft ingredient such as cream.
  1. Dot – Adding equal amounts (dots) of butter evenly over the top of a dish, such as a casserole, to add moisture and flavor.
  1. Dredge – Lightly coating items with flour or cornflour before cooking.
  1. Drippings – The juices from cooked meats- commonly used to make gravy or broth.
  1. Dry Ingredients – The ingredients in a recipe that do not have moisture. Flour, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder are all dry ingredients.
  1. Dutch Oven – A sizeable heavy dish usually made of iron that can be used on the stove or in the oven. This is one of my favourite kitchen sidekicks! To my fellow Canadians, check out Canadian Tire as they often have great deals on Dutch Ovens.
Dutch Oven
  1. Dust – Lightly sprinkling an item with flour, cocoa powder, or icing sugar – a sieve can be used for even sprinkling.
  1. Firmly Packed – To press an ingredient, such as brown sugar, tightly into a measuring cup.
  1. Food Processor – An appliance for pureeing, slicing, grating, and chopping food.
  1. Fold – Gently mixing one substance into another using a folding motion with a silicone or rubber spatula.
  1. Ganache – A smooth mixture of melted chocolate and butter. A liquid ganache may be used as a sauce or glaze a cake; hardened ganache can be rolled or cut to form truffles, or whipped to make dessert fillings.
  1. Glaze – Covering an item with a sauce.
  1. Grate – Using the serrated edge of a grater, shave small pieces off the food to make smaller pieces, shavings, or dust.
  1. Grease – Spreading grease over the bottom and sides of a ton or pan to prevent food from sticking whilst cooking.
  1. Griddle – A flat, heated surface used for cooking.
  1. Heavy-Bottomed Pot – A pot with a sturdy base enough not to overheat quickly. Heat distributes better in pots with heavy metal bottoms, making food less likely to burn.
  1. Immersion Blender – A blender on the end of a stick-like appliance can be inserted into liquid so foods can be blended directly in the pot they were cooked in.
  1. Infuse (Steep) – To let an aromatic sit in liquid, either hot or cold, so that it can flavor the liquid.
  1. Juice – Pressing down or squeezing an item so that the inner juice runs out, for example, an orange.
  1. Julienne – To cut food finely into matchsticks- most commonly vegetables.
  1. Knead – Working a dough mixture with your hands until mixed and smooth.
  1. Liquid Ingredients – The ingredients in a recipe contain moisture, such as molasses, milk, and eggs.
  1. Marinate – To let ingredients sit in a flavorful liquid so that the flavors to penetrate. Try marinating your meat in these amazing recipes: Easy Mediterranean Chicken Salad | Juicy Greek Chicken Kabobs | Delicious Steak Salad With Yogurt Dressing
Marinate
  1. Measuring Cup, Dry – A metal or plastic cup with a handle, used for measuring ingredients without moisture, such as flour, sugar, and rice.
  1. Measuring Cup, Liquid – A glass or plastic cup with a spout, used for measuring pourable ingredients such as water, milk, or honey.
  1. Meringue – Egg whites are beaten with sugar until they are greatly increased in volume and form stiff peaks when the beaters or whip are lifted from the bowl.
  1. Mince – Chop an item into tiny pieces, such as garlic cloves.
  1. Panade – A liquid and starch mixture is added to ground meat to keep it tender.
  1. Pan Fry – Frying food, commonly fish in a pan with a small amount of oil or melted fat.
  1. Parboil – Boiling an item but only until halfway cooked. Usually, things will be finished off using another cooking method.
  1. Parchment Paper – Paper in sheets or a roll used to line baking sheets and pans to keep food from sticking.
  1. Paring Knife – A short knife (2″ to 4″ long) used for trimming and peeling foods.
  1. Poach – Add the item to gently simmer water to cook it, such as with a poached egg.
  1. Pressure Cook – To cook using wet heat in a unique pot sealed so pressure forms as it’s heated, allowing the temperature to go above the standard boiling point. The high temperature accelerates cooking, making pressure cooking faster than conventional cooking.
  1. Puree – Pulverizing food until it is soft and smooth, commonly done with a food processor.
  1. Reduce – To heat a liquid until boiling point, and then simmer it to get a flavourful concentrate.
  1. Rest – To allow roasted or grilled meat to rest after cooking and before carving or slicing, juices can redistribute throughout the meat. As meat rests, its internal temperature often goes up several degrees.
  1. Roast – Like baking, cooking an item using dry heat in the oven, but commonly meat.
  1. Roasting Pan – A large, deep-pan made to hold large cuts of meat.
  1. Roasting Rack – A sturdy metal rack made to hold meat elevated above a pan so the meat is exposed to heat more evenly and does not sit in the drippings it gives off. Often used in baking recipes as well cooling cakes, loaves and cookies when they come out of the oven.
  1. Rolling Boil – To describe a mixture that cooks or boils so hard it cannot be stirred down.
  1. Roux – Cooking using equal amounts of flour and fat. Stirred over continuous heat until the flour dissolves, it results in a thick flavourful sauce.
  1. Rub – To apply a seasoned mixture, dry or a paste, onto the surface of the meat, providing flavor.
  1. Saucepan – A deep pan with one long handle on the side.
  1. Saute – Cooking food with little oil or fat on a medium-high heat.
  1. Scald – Cooking liquid until it begins to bubble and boil before turning off the heat.
  1. Score – Cutting slits along the surface of food, to help it absorb flavor.
  1. Scramble – To stir gently with a fork or spoon while cooking; eggs are often scrambled.
  1. Sear Or Brown – Frying meat on high heat to seal in the juices and until the outsides are brown.
  1. Shred – Slicing food into thin strips, with a grater or pulling apart strips of cooked meat by hand.
  1. Sift – To blend and aerate dry ingredients by forcing them through a wire mesh strainer or sifter. Sifting helps dry ingredients incorporate into batters more evenly.
  1. Silicone Baking Mat – A flexible, reusable mat used instead of parchment paper to keep foods from sticking to baking sheets.
  1. Silicone Spatula – A tool with a heatproof, flexible head used for folding ingredients together and scraping thick foods and batters from bowls and pans.
  1. Simmer – To cook foods gently in a liquid at a low temperature at just below the boiling point. Tiny bubbles appear on the surface.
  1. Skillet – A large, shallow pan, typically with one long handle and no lid. Also known as a sauté pan.
  1. Skim – Scooping the fat off the top of a liquid.
  1. Slow Cook – To braise in a slow cooking appliance, such as a crockpot.
  1. Slurry – Whisking cornstarch into a liquid to make a thick sauce; after the cornstarch dissolves, this mixture ass added to sauces which thicken when heated.
  1. Steam – Cooking food with steam. Commonly vegetables are steamed by being placed in metal colanders or racks, then stacked over boiling water.
  1. Stew – Slowly cooking a liquid-based dish on low heat for an extended amount of time.
  1. Stir Fry – Frying food (usually chopped or diced meat and/or vegetables) in a small amount of fat or oil, in a wok at high heat and continuous stirring.
  1. Stockpot – A large pot for cooking liquid foods such as stock or for boiling pasta. 
  1. Sweat – To cook food with a small amount of fat over low heat, so the natural juices come out.
  1. Tongs – Tongs are kitchen equipment used to remove food from boiling water (corn on the cob) or turn meat without puncturing the food.  
  1. Truss – Tying the legs and wings of poultry so everything stays together while cooking, resulting in even cooking and a juicy roasted bird.
  1. Whip – Beating a liquid vigorously to get air into the mixture, resulting in a thick and creamy consistency.
  1. Whisk – A wire whisk is made from a series of looped wires fastened at the top by a long handle. Whisks whip air into ingredients, such as egg whites or whipping cream. The more wires a whisk contains, the more effective it will incorporate air into a mixture.
  1.  Zest – Using a grater to remove shavings from the outer skin of citrus fruit, which brings flavor and aroma to a dish or baked item.

Hi, I’m Cassandra!

I’m a proud wife, dog mom, food lovin’ Canadian girl, former TV reality show personality, wine lover and on a mission to make living a healthy + balanced lifestyle easy for everyone.

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Hi, I'm Cassandra!

I'm a proud wife, dog mom, food lovin' Canadian girl, former TV reality show personality, wine lover and on a mission to make living a healthy + balanced lifestyle easy for everyone.

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Hi, I'm Cassandra!

I'm a proud wife, dog mom, food lovin' Canadian girl, former TV reality show personality, wine lover and on a mission to make living a healthy + balanced lifestyle easy for everyone.

More about me

Never miss a recipe!

Sign up for free recipes straight to your inbox:

Free E-Cookbook!

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