Glossary of Terms
AL DENTE: Italian term used to describe foods such as pasta, rice or vegetables that are cooked until tender but still firm to the bite.
AGAR AGAR: A gelling agent derived from seaweed often used in vegetarian dishes. Although its use is similar to gelatine it may not always be a suitable substitute and recipe quantities may vary to achieve the same set.
AU GRATIN: French term referring to cooking food under a grill or in a hot oven to form a lightly browned crust. The food can be left plain or topped with bread crumbs and or grated cheese to make the crust.
BAIN-MARIE: The method of gently cooking food in a water bath. A bain-marie is made by placing a pan or dish of food (such as egg custard or crème brûlée) in a larger, shallow pan and then adding enough water to the larger pan to come partway up the sides of the smaller dish. The food is then baked in the oven. A bain-marie can also be stovetop, when a saucepan or other metal container is placed inside a larger shallow pan over low heat.
BAKING BLIND: Pre baking a pastry case before filling, pastry is lined with parchment paper and weighted down with dried beans.
BAKING PARCHMENT: Non stick baking paper used to line tins, trays and dishes.
BAKING POWDER: A raising agent used in baking. It is made up of acid and alkaline substances, one starts working when moisture is added and a second works when the food is heated. Both agents create small air bubbles in the food that expand when heated. As the cake or pancakes “set” in the heat, the bubbles are trapped in the food, lightening the texture.
BAKING SHEET: A flat sheet of metal usually coated in non stick material or enamelled. Baking sheets have a raised rim on two sides to facilitate removing them from the oven. Choose a good quality heavy gauge to prevent warping.
BASTE: To spoon or drizzle fat, a marinade or pan drippings over food while it cooks to add flavour and moisture.
BEAT: To incorporate air into an ingredient by mixing vigorously with a spoon or spatula.
BÉCHAMEL: A white sauce made with a roux base (see roux) and milk. Generally used as base to carry stronger ingredients such as cheese for a mornay or onions to make a soubise.
BEURRE MANIÉ: Softened butter and flour blended to a paste and used to thicken soups, stews and sauces.
BICARBONATE OF SODA: Used in baking as a leavening or raising agent when mixed with liquid and an acid .It is frequently used with baking powder to neutralize acid ingredients such as brown sugar, honey or molasses. It cannot be used interchangeably with baking powder. Bicarbonate of soda is known in the US as baking soda.
BLANCH: To cook food (usually fruits and vegetables) in rapidly boiling water for a minute or less in order to set colour, loosen skins (as when skinning tomatoes, peaches or almonds) or remove odours (blanching sliced onions, helpful if you want to slice them a day ahead). The blanched food is usually immediately rinsed with cold water to prevent further cooking.
BOUQUET GARNI: A small bunch of fresh herbs tied together with kitchen string and added to liquids to impart flavour. Most commonly used herbs would be parsley stems, thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaves.
BRAISE: To cook food slowly using a little liquid in a tightly covered pan on the hob top or in the oven. This is a flavoured cooking method for tenderizing tougher cuts of meat.
BROCHETTE: The French term for a skewer; also refers to foods cooked on a skewer; en brochette.
BROWN: To cook food quickly over high heat—usually in a little fat—to give the food colour and flavour. (Browning does not seal in juices.) Browning meat is often the first step in a stew or pot roast.
BRÛLÉE: To burn sugar to a crisp coating.
CARAMELIZE: To heat sugar until it liquefies, turns amber brown and acquires a caramel or “burnt” sugar flavour. Upon cooling, the caramelized sugar will harden. Sliced onions and other vegetables may be cooked slowly in a little fat until the natural sugars brown or caramelize, adding flavour and colour to a finished dish. Natural sugars also cause grilled or roasted vegetables to brown.
CASSEROLE: Term used for a shallow or deep cooking pot with two integral handles and a tight fitting lid to trap moisture inside. Le Creuset Cast Iron Casseroles can also be known as Dutch or French ovens .They can be used on the hob top to brown ingredients as well as in the oven or under the grill. Term also refers to a prepared dish.
CLARIFY: To separate and remove solids and sediment from a liquid to make it clear. Butter is clarified by heating it and pouring off the clear yellow fat, leaving behind the milk solids.
CHOP: To cut solid food into small pieces about the size of peas. Some recipes call for coarsely or finely chopped ingredients, which are pieces either larger or smaller than peas.
CORNED: Corned, as in corned beef, has nothing to do with corn, the vegetable. While today most corned beef is cured in brine, in Anglo-Saxon times the meat was dry-cured by being rubbed with “corns” of salt. Corning, or brining beef, is a way of preserving less tender cuts of meat such as brisket, rump or round. Spices and herbs such as peppercorns, coriander seeds and bay leaf are often added to the brining mixture for extra flavour. The pink colour of corned beef usually remains after cooking because nitrite used in the curing process fixes the pigment in the meat.
COULIS: A smooth fruit or vegetable puree used to accompany or decorate a dish.
CORN FLOUR: A pure white fine powder made from corn kernels, used blended with a little water to thicken soups, stews and sauces. Known in the US as corn starch.
CONCASSE: Often used to describe chopped skinned tomatoes
CREAM: To beat a fat such as butter or margarine either alone or with sugar until soft, smooth and fluffy. This method aerates the fat and will give baked goods a lighter texture. An electric mixture makes creaming ingredients easy.
CREAM OF TARTARE: Often used to increase the volume of egg whites when making meringues, can also be added to icing to create a smooth creamy texture. When combined with bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar makes a raising agent to use when baking. (1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda to 2tps of cream of tartar)
CRIMP: To seal two pastry edges by pinching them together to form a decorative edge. The edges can also be pressed together with the tines of a fork.
CROUTONS: Diced bread either toasted or fried and served with soups, salads and some other dishes.
CURDLE: To separate into lumpy curds and liquid. Egg custards tend to curdle when they are exposed to prolonged or too high heat, or in the case of milk, combined with acid. Cake batters can sometimes curdle if very cold eggs are added too quickly to beaten eggs and sugar. (Beating in a small amount of the flour will usually restore smoothness.)
CURE: To preserve meats and fish by smoking, salting, drying or a combination of two or three.
DEGLAZE: To scrape the browned bits of food from the bottom of the pan after adding liquid and heating it.
DICE: To cut solid food into small, uniformly sized cubes or squares.
DOUBLE BOILER: Two pots, one designed to fit partway inside the other, with a single lid. The bottom pan holds simmering water, which should not touch the base of the top pan. Used to cook custards and sauces where the mixture might curdle if cooked over direct heat.
DOUFEU: An enamelled cast iron vessel with a concave lid. When the lid is filled with ice or cold water it allows the steam created from the food to condense and drip back into the pot. Food can be cooked with little liquid and achieve moist and flavourful results.
DREDGE: To coat food with a powdery dry ingredient such as flour or sugar.
DRIPPINGS: The fat and juices left in a roasting pan after the meat has cooked.
EXTRACT: Concentrated flavouring used in small quantities.
EMULSION: The mixing of two liquids not normally mutually soluble by agitation or by using an emulsifying agent.
FLAMBÉ: When spirit alcohol is added to a dish and ignited burning away the alcohol but leaving the flavour.
FOLD: To incorporate a light, aerated mixture, such as beaten egg whites or whipped cream, into a heavier one while deflating the lighter mixture as little as possible. This is accomplished by gently but decisively cutting through both mixtures with a sharp-edged spoon or a silicone spatula from the top to the bottom of the bowl, lifting and folding the heavier mixture over the lighter one, rotating the bowl and repeating the process until both mixtures are incorporated. Sometimes a small amount of the lighter mixture is stirred into the heavier one to lighten it before the bulk of the lighter mixture is folded in.
FONDUE: A small fireproof cooking pot used to serve sweet or savoury sauces at the table in to which small morsels of food are dipped in.
FRICASSÉE: To cook meat first in fat and then gently in liquid along with aromatic vegetables.
FRITTER: A small amount of thick batter, usually containing a food such as a sliced fruit (apple, banana, pineapple), that is deep fried.
FRY: To cook in fat or oil at high temperature. Foods can be shallow or deep fried.
GAME: Any edible wild animal or bird that is hunted for food and not normally domesticated.
GANACHE: A rich cake or chocolate filling made by melting chocolate in heavy cream. When the mixture is completely cold it can be whipped to lighten it.
GARNISH: To decorate a dish with a complementary attractive food, such as fresh herbs or lemon wedges. A garnish should always be edible.
GELATINE: Of animal origin, gelatine is a colourless and tasteless gelling agent. Available in powdered or leaf form, used to set sweet and savoury dishes such as mousses and jellies. For a vegetarian substitute see Agar Agar and pectin.
GLAZE: To brush or spoon a sweet or savoury liquid onto food that, after setting or cooking, will provide the food with a smooth, shiny surface. Glaze can also refer to the liquid itself.
GLUTEN: The protein part of cereal grains which gives dough its elasticity.
GNOCCHI: A small Italian dumpling used in a similar way to pasta.
GRATE: To shred hard foods such as cheese or carrots with a grater. Foods may also be grated in food processors using the grater attachment.
GRIDDLE: To cook on a heavy metal plate on the hob.
GRILL: To cook using radiant heat from above. Known in the US as to broil.
HARISSA: A hot spicy chilli paste containing tomatoes and garlic used in North African cuisine.
HORS D’OEUVRE: A selection of small light appetizers.
JULIENNE: Solid food (usually vegetables) cut into slender, uniformly sized strips, also called matchsticks.
JUS: Gravy or reduced pan juices and stock
KNEAD: To mix dough with the hands, or in a mixer fitted with a bread hook or a bread machine so that the dough forms a cohesive mass and, at the same time, the gluten in the flour begins to develop becoming more elastic.
LARDONS: Small strips of bacon used to moisten lean meat or added to casseroles for flavour.
LUKEWARM: A temperature divide between hot and cool, usually between body temperature (98ºF) and 105ºF.
MACERATE: To soak fruits in a liqueur, wine or syrup.
MARINATE: To soak foods, such as meat and fish, in a seasoned liquid. The liquid nearly always contains an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice and flavours, but rarely tenderizes the food. A dry mixture or paste of herbs, which is rubbed onto food before it is cooked, is also used as a marinade and is usually called a rub.
MINCE: To cut solid food into tiny pieces.
PARBOIL: To partially cook food in boiling water, often for slightly longer than blanching. The cooking is usually completed by another method.
PARE: To remove the thin skin of fruit or vegetables with a small knife or vegetable peeler.
PASTRY SCRAPER: A tool fitted with a flat, rigid metal plate used to scrape dough from countertops and boards. Also made of more flexible plastic.
PECTIN: A naturally occurring substance found in fruit required for the setting of jams and jellies.
PINCH: A very small amount, usually less than ⅛ of a teaspoon.
PIPE: To squeeze a soft mixture (such as icing) through a pastry bag or tube to make decorative shapes or borders.
POACH: To cook food in barely simmering liquid.
POT ROAST: To cook meat in a covered pan with other ingredients and liquid.
PROVING: In baking, this term refers to the period of time when dough is left to rest and rise for the final time before baking. Also known as proofing.
PROVENÇALE: Dishes described as á la provençale are usually cooked with tomatoes garlic and wine.
PURÉE: To blend in a blender or process in a food processor until food is smooth and lump-free. The term also refers to the food that has been puréed.
RAGU: A stew of meat and or vegetables.
RAMEKIN: A small ovenproof dish used for individual portions of baked or chilled foods. Ramekins resemble soufflé dishes and are usually ceramic or porcelain.
REDUCE: To simmer slowly or boil a liquid in an uncovered pan so that water evaporates, volume decreases and flavours intensify.
RENDER: To cook food until it releases its fat in melted form.
ROAST: To cook meat, poultry, fish and vegetables in dry heat in the oven.
ROUX: A mixture of equal quantities of flour and butter cooked together making the base for sauces.
RUB IN: To incorporate solid fats into dry ingredients such as flour. The ingredients are rubbed together using the finger tips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
SAUTÉ: To cook gently in a little fat, stirring and shaking the ingredients for much of the cooking time. In French, the term translates “to jump.”
SCALD: To heat liquid until it almost boils and just begins to form tiny bubbles around the rim of the pan.
ESCALOPE: This refers to thin boneless slices of meat.
SCORE: To make elongated shallow cuts in meat or fish or on loaves of bread before baking.
SEAR: To brown food quickly over high heat.
SHRED: Reducing food (such as Cheddar cheese or carrots) to long thin pieces (as opposed to grating, in which food is turned into particles). Use the large V-shaped holes on a box grater or the shredding disk of a food processor.
SIFT: To remove lumps and aerate dry ingredients by passing them through a mesh sifter or strainer.
SIMMER: To boil very gently so that the liquid produces small, occasional bubbles around the edges of the pan and across the surface of the liquid.
SKIM: To use a spoon to remove the surface foam or fat from cooking liquid.
SKILLET: Another term for a frying pan.
SMOKE: To cure meat, poultry or fish by exposure to wood smoke.
SPRINGFORM PAN: A round baking pan with a high straight side that can be released with a clamp.
STEAM: To cook a food with the steam produced by boiling liquid. The food is placed on a rack or in a basket so that it does not touch the liquid and the pot is covered to retain the steam.
STEEP: To soak an ingredient in very hot liquid so that its flavours are released into the liquid (as when making tea), or in order to soften it. Food can also be steeped in a cold liquid, such as raisins in rum.
STERILIZE: To destroy bacteria by heating. A process required for glass bottles and jars when making homemade preserves.
STIR-FRY: To cook small, uniformly shaped pieces of food over high heat in only a small amount of fat, turning and stirring them continuously, until tender yet still with a “bite.” The term also refers to the prepared dish.
STRAIN: To pour a mixture of liquid and solids into a strainer in order to remove the solids. Sometimes the solids are pushed through the strainer with the back of a spoon or spatula and the resulting purée is mixed with the strained liquid and becomes part of the dish.
SWEAT: To cook chopped vegetables with little fat and no liquid.
TAGINE: A traditional two piece cooking pot originating from North Africa .The tagine has a tall conical shaped lid which allows moisture from the food to rise and condensate back into the dish, creating a moist and flavourful method of cooking. Also refers to a prepared dish as in Chicken tagine.
TEMPER: To heat or warm food carefully and gently so that it may be incorporated into preparations requiring longer cooking. Eggs are often tempered by being mixed with a little hot liquid before they are stirred into a sauce or a soup.
THERMOMETER: Sugar/fat thermometers are used for accurately checking the temperature when making syrups, jams and frying. Probe style thermometers are used to check the doneness of meat and poultry. Oven thermometers are used to check the accuracy of your oven, especially useful when getting to know a new oven or using a fan assisted oven.
TRUSS: To tie poultry or another meat with kitchen twine or to secure it with skewers so that it holds its shape during cooking.
WHIP: To beat in air rapidly.
WOK: A large round based pan with curved sides, used in Asian cooking for stir-frying, boiling and frying. The Le Creuset wok has a flat base enabling it to function on all heat sources.
VELOUTE: A sauce made with a roux base and stock.
ZEST: The coloured part of citrus peel that can be grated for flavour using a Microplane or a box grater. When grating citrus zest for a cake or other dishes take only the coloured part.