Al Dente Slightly underdone with a chewy consistency. Italian for "to the tooth." A term usually applied to the cooking of pasta, but also to vegetables that are not fully cooked.
Bake To cook by free-circulating dry air in an enclosed space, such as an oven. Baking usually refers to cakes, cookies, pies, etc., as opposed to roasting, which refers to meat.
Barbecue Technically, to cook meat using indirect heat in an enclosed space over natural woods. However, "barbecue-and-grill" have come to be synonymous, meaning to cook food directly over intense heat, usually out-of-doors, using natural woods or charcoal or gas on a grill, in an open pit, or on a spit.
Baste To ladle or brush food as it cooks with stock, melted butter, meat dripping or other fats. By doing this, it will give the meat additional flavor and color. It also used to prevent the food from drying out.
Beat To blend or mix ingredients rapidly so that air is incorporated, resulting in a smooth, creamy mixture that has more volume.
Bind To add an agent or ingredient, such as an egg, to a dish to cement or hold the dish together.
Blanch To plunge food briefly into boiling water in order to tenderize the food or mellow its flavor. Blanching also enhances the color of vegetables.
Blend To combine ingredients together to a desired consistency.
Bone To remove the bones from meat, poultry, fish or game. A boning knife is a handy tool for such chores.
Braise A cooking method in which meat or vegetables are quickly browned in fat over a high heat then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid at a low heat. By doing this, the flavor is sealed in by the high heat and the food is tenderized by the slow cooking. It is important to have a tight fitting lid to prevent evaporation of the liquid. This method is ideal for tougher cuts of meat, firm-fleshed fish, and numerous vegetables.
Bread To dredge or coat food with bread crumbs.
Broil To cook with intense heat, usually by placing under the broiling heat element in an oven. In most ovens, the broiling heat element is on the top, the baking heat element on the bottom. The high heat seals in juices, allowing the outside to brown, but keeping the inside tender.
Brown To cook briefly in hot fat, allowing a crust (usually brown) to form on all sides and seal the juices. This method also enriches the flavor of the food.
Chop To cut food into bite size pieces with a knife, cleaver or a food processor. Chopped is more coarsely cut than minced food.
Clarify To separate the clear, liquid part of a mixture from the solids.
Cream To mix a softened ingredient, or a combination of ingredients, until well blended and completely soft. Butter and sugar are often creamed together; remember, you can't overdo it.
Crimp To decorate the edge of a pie crust by pinching the dough with your fingers or a fork. It serves to seal in the filling on a pie with two crusts.
Curdle What happens when minute solids separate from the liquid in an egg or cream-based mixture due to being heated to quickly.
Cut or Cut-in A pastry term, meaning to mix shortening or butter with flour or other dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. To do this, you can use two knives and cut the shortening or butter directly into the flour, or use your fingers to mix it into the flour.
Dash A very small quantity, a scant 1/8 teaspoon.
Deglaze To create a sauce with the little bits of meat or poultry left over in a pan after browning, sautéing, broiling, or roasting by adding a small amount of liquid, mixing it all up, and allowing it to boil up together.
Degrease To remove a layer of fat from the top of a soup, sauce, or stock.
Devein To remove the dark vein that runs along the back of a shrimp using a sharp knife or special deveining tool.
Dice To cut food into equal-sized small cubes, usually ranging in size from 1/8 to ¼ inch.
Dollop A very small amount, usually a teaspoonful.
Drain To remove liquid or fat from food, often by placing it in a colander or strainer or by placing it on a paper towel.
Dredge To lightly coat food, usually with flour, cornmeal, or bread crumbs. One quick way to coat food is to put the coating material in a ziptop bag, add the food to be coated, then seal the bag and shake.
Drizzle To slowly spatter drops of a liquid over a food in a thin stream.
Dust To sprinkle very lightly with flour or sugar.
Fillet A boneless piece of meat or fish.
Flake To test the flesh of a fish to see if it is done by breaking away a small piece or flake with a fork.
Fold To gently incorporate one ingredient into another, not by stirring or beating, but by lifting from underneath with a rubber spatula.
Fry To cook food in hot fat in a skillet until brown and crisp.
Garnish To decorate foods with fresh herbs, edible flowers, fresh vegetables, nuts or fruit to enhance the appearance of the dish.
Glaze A thin glossy coating for both hot and cold foods. Glazing can be savory as a reduction of stock or sweet as in a chocolate or jelly coating. Glazing can also be used to preserve the flavor of food before freezing, like fish.
Grate To rub a food against a raspy surface to get fine shreds or tiny chunks of the food. Used for cheeses and vegetables.
Grease To lightly coat a pan with a bit of butter, oil, or vegetable oil cooking spray to prevent cooked food from sticking.
Grill To cook food directly over intense heat on a rack over hot coals, natural wood, or gas. See BARBECUE.
Grind To turn a solid piece of food into fine pieces or a powder by using a mortar and pestle, a food processor, or a meat grinder.
Julienne To cut fresh vegetables or other foods into thin matchstick-size pieces of the same length.
Knead To work a finished dough until it is smooth and elastic. Use the palms of your hands on a lightly floured wooden or marbled bread board.
Marinate A seasoned liquid in which food is soaked into in order to absorb flavor. It can also be used to tenderize meats by using adding an acid, like lemon juice, vinegar, and wine. Many different commercial products can be used as marinates to add a unique flavor to foods. Italian dressings, liquid smoke reduced with water, Caesar dressing, lemon and lime juice with fajita seasoning and water are the easiest and popular ones I use.
Melt To dissolve a solid or semisolid over slow heat. The term is most commonly associated with butter and chocolate.
Mince To cut food into very fine pieces, not larger than 1/8 inch square.
Mix To blend ingredients using a spoon or a fork.
Poach To cook foods gently in a liquid with the temperature of the liquid is just before the boiling point of the liquid. This process is used to preserve both the delicate flavor of food and to impart some of the flavors of the liquid into the food. Different foods require different times and temperatures of the liquid. Fish is usually poached in stock, eggs in light salt water and fruits in sugar syrup.
Pound To flatten meat or poultry, often between sheets of waxed paper, using a heavy mallet or frying pan. Pounding helps tenderize meat and poultry.
Prick To pierce food with the tines of a fork to prevent it from bursting or rising during baking.
Puree To use a blender or food processor to turn cooked food into a smooth liquid.
Reconstitute To re-hydrate dry food by soaking it in liquid.
Reduce To boil a sauce to reduce its volume and intensify its flavor.
Refresh To stop a food from cooking by running it under cold water or plunging it into cold water.
Render To liquefy or leach out the solid fat by heating. Usually used when cooking meat or poultry.
Roast To cook food, usually uncovered, in an enclosed space by the free circulation of dry heat.
Sauté To cook quickly, usually meat or vegetables, over a high heat in a little oil. It is important to turn the food frequently so it does not burn. Sauté pans are usually round and have sloped sides with a long handle. They are usually made of aluminum and range in size from 7 to 16 inches.
Scald To heat a liquid over low heat until just below its boiling point.
Shred To cut or tear a food into thin strips.
Sift To pass dry ingredients through a fine mesh strainer to remove lumps and lighten the texture.
Simmer To cook food, usually a soup or stew, over low heat so that it almost, but never quite reaches a boil. Small bubbles will appear on the surface.
Sliver To cut a food into extra-thin strips.
Snip To cut herbs into small bits using scissors or kitchen shears.
Steam To cook food in a covered container using a small amount of boiling liquid.
Stew To cook food slowly over relatively low heat.
Stir To mix or blend a mixture together in a circular motion using a spoon or other implement, or, if over heat, moving food about to prevent it from burning or curdling.
Stir Fry A cooking method developed by the Chinese which consists of quickly moving food around in a small amount of oil, in a wok or frying pan. The food is lightly coated with the oil, while being constantly stirred in the pan.
Strain To remove solids from liquids by pouring through a sieve, strainer or colander.
Stuff To fill cavity with a mixture; for example poultry, fish, meat, vegetables.
Toast To brown food by baking it directly under heat.
Toss To gently mix food using a large spoon or fork to lift it from the bottom.
Truss To tie the legs and wings of poultry close to the body using string before roasting in order to preserve it in a compact form and prevent the stuffing from falling out of the cavity.
Whip To beat a food rapidly, such as cream, either by hand using a fork or whisk, or with an electric mixer or food processor. Whipping adds a great deal of air, thereby increasing the volume.
Whisk To mix sauces, dressings, eggs and other liquids using a swift, circular motion, usually with a balloon-shaped wire instrument called a whisk.
Zest The finely grated skin of a citrus fruit. When making zest be careful not to include the bitter white pith just underneath the surface of the skin. You can use a grater, vegetable peeler, or zester (a special tool used just to make zest) to accomplish this feat.