Here’s A List Of Every Food Term You’ve Ever Needed To Know

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Cooking is my zen. And even though I’d be the first to tout the benefits of a good yoga and meditation class, there is nothing (well, maybe one thing) that satisfies me more than heading to the kitchen to get a handle on my exhilarating and sometimes out of control day.

A pile of vegetables to be chopped is my signal to disconnect from the demands of running a business. An onion to be peeled means I can bemoan something I lost without getting overly emotional about things. A mound of flour on my kitchen counter allows me to get my hands messy and create something remarkable.

This is no different during the holidays and each time one comes around like Easter, I pull out one of my cookbooks to try something new. This, unfortunately, is where my zen often ends.

That alfredo bake with perfectly al dente pasta sounds great! But what is al dente again? And when my favourite vegan chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, says blend creamy mashed potatoes with cajun spices, am I supposed to whip it all together with my new Williams Sonoma gadget or toss everything into my food processor. And what does “roasted veggies with a balsamic drizzle” even mean?

How about you?

Maybe you, like me, could use a refresher in what all those special food words mean. Think you know your baste from your broil, bain marie, and braise? Before you get into the hours of planning and all the tireless hard work it takes to pull off a great Easter meal, I’ve a food word guide that you might want to copy, paste, download or print. Because trust me it is that good. Happy Easter cooking everyone.


Al Dente 

 Italian term to describe pasta and rice that are cooked until tender but still firm to the bite

Bain Marie

A pan of water that is used to help mixtures, such as custards, bake evenly and to protect them from the direct heat of the oven or stove


To cook in the oven – the terms baking and roasting are often used interchangeably, but roasting involves cooking at a higher temperature (at least in the beginning) to brown the surface of the food


To spoon, ladle or moisten with a filled baster hot cooking liquid over food at intervals during cooking to moisten and flavor the food


To make a mixture smooth with rapid and regular motions using a spatula, wire whisk or electric mixer; to make a mixture light and smooth by enclosing air



To plunge some foods into boiling water for less than a minute and then immediately plunge into iced water – this is often used to brighten the color of some vegetables; to remove skin from tomatoes and nuts; or performed to halt deterioration prior to freezing


To mix two ore more ingredients thoroughly together; not to be confused with blending in an electric blender


To cook in a liquid brought to a boiling point and kept there


To cook in a small amount of liquid (also called stewing or pot roasting); not to be confused with poaching, in which the food is completely submerged in simmering liquid; braised dishes use a small amount of liquid


To coat foods to be sauteed or deep-fried with flour or a breadcrumb mixture to create a crust



To make a liquid clear by removing sediments and impurities; to melt far and remove any sediment


To salt and cure a meat


To dust or roll food items in flour to cover the surface before the food is cooked; also, to coat in flour, egg and breadcrumbs


To make creamy and fluffy by working the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon; usually refers to creaming butter or margarine with sugar (can also be done with an electric mixer)


To cut uniformly into small pieces with six even sides (e.g., cube of meat)


To dissolve dried-out cooking juices left on the base and sides of a roasting dish or frying pan; add a little water, wine, or stock, or stock and scrape and stir over heat until dissolved (resulting liquid is used to make a gravy or added to a sauce or casserole for additional full-bodied flavor)



To skim fat from the surface of cooking liquids (e.g., stocks, soups, casseroles, sauces)


To reduce a mixture’s strength by adding liquid (usually water)


A small gob of soft food, such as whipped cream


To heavily coat with icing sugar, flour or corn flour



Lightly coating a food with a powdery substance, such as flour or powdered sugar

Egg wash

Beaten egg with milk or water used to brush over pastry, bread dough or biscuits to give a sheen and golden-brown color


To separate cooked fish into flakes, removing bones and skin, using two forksTo reduce a mixture’s strength by adding liquid (usually water)

Fold in

To combine a light, whisked or creamed mixture with other ingredients – this is accomplished by adding a portion of the other ingredients at a time and mix using a gentle circular motion, over and under the mixture so that air will not be lost (it’s always best to use a spatula)


To cook a food in a hot fat


To brush or coat food with a liquid that will give the finished product a glossy or shiny appearance, and on baked products, a golden-brown color



To steep food in a liquid until the liquid absorbs the flavor


To some food (e.g., vegetables and processed meats) into fine strips the approximate length of matchsticks


To work a yeast dough in a pressing, stretching and folding motion with the heel of the hand until it is smooth and elastic so as to develop the gluten strands


To stand fruit in a syrup, liqueur or spirit to give added flavor


To combine foods, usually meat or fish, with aromatic ingredients for some time to tenderize and add flavor


To evenly cover cooked food portions with sauce, mayonnaise or savory jelly



To fry foods in a small amount of fat or oil, sufficient to coat the base of the pan


The amount of dry ingredients you can hold in a pinch (between your thumb and forefinger), equivalent to 1/16 teaspoon


To simmer gently in enough hot liquid to almost cover the food so shape will be retained


To work or strain foods until they are completely smooth



To cook over high heat on the stove in a small amount of fat in a saute pan or skillet


To heat milk just below the boiling point (or, to immerse a vegetable or fruit in boiling water in order to remove its skin easily)


To brown the surface of pieces of meats and/or fish by submitting them to intense initial heat


To cook in liquid just below the boiling point (approximately 205 degrees F), with small bubbles rising gently to the surface


To remove fat or froth from the surface of simmering food


To cook in a manner similar to braising, but generally involving smaller pieces of meat, and therefore, a shorter cooking time



The naturally flavorful liquid produced when meat, poultry, fish or vegetables have been simmered in water to extract the flavor


To cook sliced onions or vegetables in a small amount of butter in a covered pan over low heat to soften them and release flavor without browning


To beat a preparation with the goal of introducing air into it; also, the balloon-shaped wire whisk often used to do so


A utensil with looped wires in the shape of a teardrop, used for whipping ingredients like batters, sauces, eggs and creams (the whisk helps air get into the batter)


A utensil with tiny cutting holes on one end that creates threadlike strips of peel when pulled over the surface of a lemon lime or orange (it removes only the colored outer portion of the peel)

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