A–Z Food Terminology: Teach Your Budding Chef

Eleanor King

Whether your kids are just starting their culinary foray or you have a little cook running around, teach your budding chef the kitchen lingo they need to know! We’ve compiled a list from A–Z of the most common food terms to get them started on their cooking adventures.

Al Dente (adjective): cooked so it’s still chewy when bitten, often referring to pasta

Baste (verb): to pour juices or melted fat over meat or other food while cooking to keep it moist

Bechamel (noun): a sauce traditionally made from a white roux (see below) and milk 

Beurre Blanc (noun): a sauce made with butter, onions, and vinegar, usually served with seafood dishes

Chiffonade (noun): a slicing technique in which leafy green vegetables and herbs such as mint, spinach, or basil, are cut into long, thin strips

Chiffonade

Confit (noun): meat cooked slowly in its own fat, usually referring to duck

Deglaze (verb): to remove and dissolve the browned food residue or “glaze” from a pan to flavor sauces, soups, and gravies done by pouring liquid into the pan or pot

Emulsify (verb): to disperse in an oil or to convert two or more immiscible liquids into an emulsion

Flambe (verb): the process of adding alcohol, such as brandy, cognac, or rum, to a hot pan to create a burst of flames

Gazpacho (noun): a Spanish dish of cold, uncooked soup, which typically contains tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, oil, and vinegar

Herbaceous (adjective): alcoholic drinks, specifically wines which have green, grassy, herb-like taste and aroma

Infusion (noun): a drink, remedy, or extract prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid

Jacquarding (verb): the process of poking holes into the muscle of meat in order to tenderize it, also known as needling

Knead (verb): to work moistened flour into dough with the hands

Kosher (adjective): referred to those foods that meet specific criteria of Jewish law

Liaison (verb): a binding agent of cream and egg yolks used to thicken soups or sauces

Macerate (verb): the process of softening or breaking into pieces using liquid, often referring to fruit or vegetables, in order to absorb the flavor of the liquid

Marinate (verb): the process of soaking foods in seasoned and acidic liquid for hours or days before cooking, adding flavor and moisture to the food

Mince (verb): to finely cut food into uniform pieces smaller than diced or chopped foods, prepared using a chef’s knife or food processor

Mirepoix (noun): a combination of onion, carrot, and celery generally cut to the same size and cooked in fat to create a flavor base

Mirepoix

Mise en place (verb): the preparation of ingredients, such as dicing onions or measuring spices, before cooking

Nappe (noun): the ability of a liquid to coat the back of a spoon or the act of coating food with glaze

On the half shell (adjective):  raw oysters served on the bottom shell only

Parboiling (verb): the process of adding foods to boiling waters, cooking until they are softened, then removing before they are fully cooked, usually to partially cook an item which will then be cooked another way

Poach (verb): cooking by submerging food in a lightly simmering liquid, such as water, milk, stock or wine

Quenelle (noun): a small quantity of a mixture of creamed fish or meat with a light egg binding, usually formed into a round shape, and then cooked

Remouillage (noun): a stock made from bones that have already been used once to make a stock, making it weaker

Render (verb): to cook the fat out of something, such as bacon

Roux (noun): a mixture of fat, especially butter, and flour used as a base for making sauces

Roux

Schmear (noun): a term to describe a smear or spread of something like mayonnaise or cream cheese

Sous Vide (verb): a method of cooking in which food is placed in a plastic pouch or a glass jar and cooked in a water bath for longer than usual cooking times at a precisely regulated temperature.

Sweat (verb): gently heating vegetables in a little oil, with frequent stirring and turning to ensure emitted liquid will evaporate

Tempering (verb): raising the temperature of a cold or room-temperature ingredient by slowly adding hot or boiling liquid, often referring to eggs

Unleavened (adjective): made without yeast or any other leavening agent, often referring to bread

Velouté (noun): a type of sauce in which a light stock, such as chicken or fish, is thickened with flour that is cooked and then allowed to turn light brown

Whip (verb): to beat food with a mixer to incorporate air and produce volume, often used to create whipped cream, salad dressings, or merengues 

Xanthan Gum (noun): a food additive, commonly used as a thickener, that is water-soluble and produced by the fermentation of sugar with certain microorganisms

Yeast Bread (noun): bread which uses yeast as one of its ingredients and as the leavening agent

Zest (verb): to cut the colorful part of the skin that contains oils and provide aroma and flavor, away from the fruit