If you’re like us, you love to try new cuisines. If you’re like us, you also have to Google a few things from the menu every time you try a new cuisine. There’s something that food-lovers find exhilarating about seeing something like tarabagani (king crab in Japanese) on a menu for the first time. Sometimes, though, we’re dining locally and encounter an unknown word.
Some of the most common cooking terms have origins in other languages, and for those who haven’t seen them before they can seem daunting. Trust us, though, we’ve been there before and they aren’t scary. They’re just new, exciting words for you to impress your friends with the next time you dine out.
Additionally, for any home cook looking to expand his or her wordy repertoire, knowing a few of the common phrases could never hurt. You probably want to see a word like “julienne” and know what it means instantly. We’ve got you covered.
Without further ado, we present to you our mini-encyclopedia of common cooking terms. Don’t let any menu nor any recipe cause you to falter!
Al Dente – From the Italian for “to the tooth,” al dente describes pasta that’s been cooked just to the point of firmness.
Au Gratin – If you see au gratin, the food is browned by an oven or a grill.
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Baste – Basting is a process that moistens food in order to do two things: Increase flavor and prevent drying during the cooking process.
Blanch – When you blanch something (usually a fruit or a vegetable), you cook it quickly in boiling water.
Braise – Braising first involves browning your food. Once browned, the food is cooked in a little liquid in a covered pan.
Broil – Your oven probably has its own broil setting. To broil, you cook something under (or, occasionally, over) direct heat.
Caramelize – Caramelized food has been cooked so that its solid sugars become a golden or brown liquid.
Cure – Dried, salted meats are said to be cured. They may also be smoked.
Flambé – To flambé is, well, to light something on fire. Alcohol is poured over cooking food and then lit on fire after it has warmed up a bit.
Infuse – Infusing involves taking flavor from one ingredient via something like steeping or heating and putting it into another.
Julienne – Similar to a match in shape, julienned food has been cut into thin strips.
Macerate – Often done to fruit, maceration is the soaking of food in a flavored liquid.
Poach – This is a gentle cooking process in which the food, such as a poached egg, is cooked in liquid that’s just below boiling.
Purée – To mash or blend solid foods into a thick, paste-like substance.
Reduce – Reducing can result in changes such as thickening and more concentrated flavors. It’s done by boiling ingredients rapidly.
Roulade – Roulate, from the French rouler (meaning to roll), can refer to meats and pastries that are rolled and filled. It can also refer to any other rolled dish.
Roux – Butter and flour begin this sauce-thickening process. They’re cooked together at the beginning, while liquid ingredients are gradually added in afterward.
Sauté – When you see a chef shaking his or her pan quickly, he or she is probably sautéeing ingredients. This means they’re being fried quickly.
Score – To score something is to make slices in it without cutting through it.
Steep – To steep, you need to put food into hot liquid. The goal is to extract its flavor.
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Whip – Using something similar to an electric beater, beat your food until it becomes thicker and frothier.
Whisk – Similar to whipping, whisking requires less energy. Hand-operating the kitchen tool called a whisk is sufficient.