35 Most Common Cooking Terms to Have in Your Apron Pocket

Here at Plated, we love to share all the terms and techniques that can help you improve and expand your kitchen knowledge. This glossary covers some of the most popular terminology used in our recipes, along with terms you might not have heard of or never quite understood. Brush up with the definitions below and you’ll not only amaze your friends and family with your wisdom, you’ll also become a more confident cook.

Bias cut: Cutting foods lengthwise on a diagonal. This increases the surface area for more browning and creates a nice presentation.

Blacken: A technique of coating a protein in a dry spice rub, then quickly searing over a moderately high heat to form a dark crust and cook the protein through.

Bouquet garni: Whole herbs and other aromatics tied with twine or wrapped in cheesecloth that’s added to a simmering liquid in order to infuse it with flavor.

Braise: A technique of partially submerging foods in a flavorful liquid and cooking low and slow, or at a low temperature for a long period of time, until tender or broken down.

Brick Chicken: This cooking method is also called “chicken under a brick.” Bone-in chicken pieces are weighed down in a skillet with a foil-wrapped brick (or a heavy skillet topped with heavy cans). This cooks the chicken quickly and yields super crispy skin.

Browned butter: Butter contains milk solids that caramelize when slowly heated. Letting melted butter cook for 1–2 minutes more makes it nutty and fragrant.

Bruise: Tough, fibrous stalks of lemongrass need to be softened to release their aroma. Whacking the stack with the blunt edge of a knife bruises the stalks without chopping them. Bruising also applies to herbs that are crushed or muddled to release their fragrant oils.

Caramelize: Cooking onions, mushrooms etc. slowly so their natural sugars make them incredibly tender, sweet, and browned.

Char: To sear or grill foods until deeply browned or just slightly blackened in spots. This adds a smoky, fire-roasted flavor.

Compound butter: A combination of softened butter and aromatics (herbs, spices, shallots, or garlic). The butter can be dolloped over cooked meats or vegetables for flavor and richness.

Confit: A French technique of slowly cooking a food coated or submerged in fat, usually with aromatics. Duck confit, or duck legs braised in duck fat, is most common. You can also confit vegetables by coating generously with olive oil.

Crimp: Creating a raised, often decorative edge on tarts, pies, and galettes to hold the filling in place. Pinch the dough edge with 1 hand, then overlap slightly and press with the forefinger of the other hand to seal.

Cure: A method of preserving food by brining in liquid (like pickles), smoking (like sausage or smoked salmon), or salting and drying (like ham).

Dredge: Coating food completely in a dry mixture, such as breadcrumbs, flour, or cornstarch (like in this video).

Emulsify: When a fat, such as oil or butter, is dispersed evenly in another liquid to create a homogenous mixture or a smooth, silky sauce.

En Papillote: French for “in parchment,” this technique refers to sealing lighter proteins like fish in a parchment paper parcel and baking. The pouch traps steam and allows aromatics to infuse the dish with flavor.

Flake (fish): Using a fork to break a cooked fish fillet into large pieces. This is great for adding fish to salads or stirring into soups.

Foamy: When butter melts in a hot pan, it bubbles, or foams slightly. This is due to the water and any air in the butter cooking off. Waiting until the butter is foamy is a good sign that your pan is hot enough to continue cooking.

Fond: French for “base,” this refers to the browned bits, fat drippings, and juices left in the pan after searing meat. When making a pan sauce, after adding liquid to the pan, be sure to scrape up the fond with a spoon to capture all of that flavor.

Gratin: A French technique of topping a vegetable or grain in a shallow dish with a browned crust, usually made with breadcrumbs or cheese.

Massage: Gently squeezing tough or fibrous greens like kale or cabbage between your hands until softened and just slightly wilted.

Nestle: To partially submerge a food in a hot liquid, usually a sauce. Make wells, or divots, in the sauce with the back of a spoon, then gently add the food (usually fish or eggs) so that it sits in the sauce rather than on top.

Paillard: Chicken that’s pounded with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until an even thinness. This is ideal for breaded cutlets, as they’ll cook quickly and become brown and crispy.

Parboil: To boil foods until almost tender. This is a great technique for potatoes and other vegetables that will finish cooking in a sauce, sauté, or in the oven.

Pea-size: When making pie dough, the butter and flour should be blended so that pea-size lumps of butter remain. The bigger pieces of butter will melt and steam as the pie bakes, creating flaky layers.

Poach: Submerging foods in water or other liquid and very gently simmering until cooked through. This method is usually used for chicken, fish, or eggs.

Pulse: To blend in a food processor or blender in short 1-2 second bursts. This allows you to control the texture of what’s being blended more easily.

Roux: A combination of flour and fat (usually butter) that cooks into a paste is used to thicken soups and sauces. The longer the roux is cooked, the darker and more complex its flavor.

Shallow fry: Cooking food in a thin layer of oil so that it’s partially submerged. This saves the trouble of heating extra oil.

Smash (potato): Boiled, roasted, or microwaved skin-on potatoes that are flattened with a spatula or heavy skillet, then seared or roasted to create crispy edges.

Stem and seed: Removing the stems and seeds from chiles and peppers with the tip of a sharp knife. The stems are not edible and the seeds can have a very spicy or slightly bitter flavor. Remember to always wash your cutting board, knife, and hands after cutting spicy chiles.

Sticky rice: A short-grain variety of rice that produces a lot of starch as it cooks so the grains stick together. Kneading the rice with the back of a spoon makes it stickier so it can be shaped into balls.

Strip (herbs): Removing the leaves from herbs with woody stems like thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Pinch the stem near the top with one hand, then slide the fingers of your other hand down the length of the stem, from top to bottom.

Temper: Slowly adding a hot liquid (usually stock or cream) to a cold or room temperature liquid (usually beaten egg) while whisking constantly. This gradually increases the temperature of the cold liquid so it doesn’t curdle and blends evenly.

Thread: This is another term for placing foods on skewers, as in making kebabs.

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