Week 3: Cooking Jargon

Welcome back! This third post will help you work out what those confusing words in the recipe actually mean! Not understanding what the recipe wants you to do is super frustrating, especially if it deters you from making the food that you want to. There have been times where I have not known what words mean which has made me pick another recipe or food to make which is very time consuming. Furthermore, there are also occasions where I know and recognise the word that has been used in the recipe and I think I know what it means, but when I look it up or talk about it later down the track, it is sometimes revealed that the definition is different to what I thought. No wonder those recipes I made didn't turn out as well as I thought they would... 

However, this post will hopefully help you avoid all of those lost in translation mishaps! Perhaps you're from overseas and we call something different here than your home country, or perhaps you're just a novice cook who wants to learn all things cooking! No matter who you are, this post is sure to help you understand what cooking means and hopefully, you are able to perfect your culinary skills once you actually know what it's asking you to do!


tsp or t = teaspoon

Tbsp or T = tablespoon

c = cup

oz = ounce or ounces

lb = pound or pounds

sq = square

doz = dozen

sm = small

med = medium

lg = large

pt = pint

qt = quart

pk = peck

bu = bushel

pkt = packet

mg = milligrams

g = grams

Food Terms

Amandine: dishes made or garnished with almonds.

Antipasto: Italian term describing an assortment of appetisers.

Aperitif: a drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite.

Arugula: green leaf vegetable, Mediterranean in origin, with slender, multiple-lobed leaves that have a peppery, slightly bitter flavour. Also commonly known as rocket.

Au jus: a French term meaning served with unthickened natural juices that develop during roasting.

Au lait: a French term meaning served with milk.

Baking powder: baking powder combines baking soda with cream of tartar and corn starch. So baking powder contains baking soda, but baking soda doesn’t contain baking powder.

Baking soda: the active component of baking powder and the source of the carbon dioxide that leavens many baked goods. Also commonly known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda.

Bisque: a thick cream soup.

Canapé or hors d'œuvres: plain or toasted bread or crackers topped with a savoury mixture, served as an appetiser or with cocktails.

Chutney: a highly seasoned relish of fruits, herbs and spices.

Cornichon: small French-style sour pickled cucumbers no more than two inches or so in length.

Corn starch: fine, powdery flour ground from the endosperm of corn (the white heart of the kernel) and used as a neutral-flavoured thickening agent in some desserts. Also commonly known as corn flour.

Corn syrup: light or dark coloured neutral tasting syrup from corn.

Corned beef: beef brisket, or sometimes other cuts, cured for about a month in a brine with large crystals of salt, sugar, spices and other seasonings and preservatives to produce a meat that when slowly simmered in water, develops a moist, tender mixture, mildly spiced flavour, and bright purplish-red colour.

Cream of tartar: acidic powder used as an additive to meringue to stabilise egg whites and for heat tolerance. Used as leavening agent most commonly with baking soda to make baking powder and an ingredient in syrups to prevent crystalisation. 

Crêpe: a thin, delicate pancake.

Filo: tissue-thin sheets of flour and water pastry used throughout the Middle East as crisp wrappers for savoury or sweet fillings. Defrost thoroughly before use. Keep unused sheets covered with lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out.

Gelatin: unflavoured commercial gelatin gives delicate body to mousses and desserts. This ingredient is what gives cheesecakes and desserts their 'wobble' like jelly.

Gratin: from the French word 'crust'. Term used to describe any oven-baked dish (usually cooked in a shallow oval gratin dish) on which a golden brown crust of bread crumbs, cheese or creamy sauce is formed.

Grenadine: pomegranate-flavored syrup used as flavoring and sauce.

Horseradish: pungent-hot-tasting root, a member of the mustard family.

Lentils: small, disc-shaped dried legumes, prized for their rich, earthy flavour when cooked.

Macaron: a small round cake with a meringue-like consistency, made with egg whites, sugar, and powdered almonds and consisting of two halves sandwiching a creamy filling.

Marzipan: sweetened almond paste made into confections. Often seen as the white icing/fondant-like substance on wedding cakes.

Mousse: a cold dessert made with whipped cream or beaten egg whites.

Pâté: a spread of finely chopped or pureed seasoned meat.

Petit four: a very small fancy cake, cookie, or confection, typically made with marzipan and traditionally served after a meal.

Polenta: a very thick mush usually made from cornmeal or farina, used in main dishes and as accompaniment.

Potage: soup.

Pot au feu: a French soup of meat, typically boiled beef, and vegetables cooked in a large pot.

Profiterole: tiny cream puff, filled with sweet or savoury mixtures, served as dessert or hors d'œuvres.

Proscuitto: Italian-style cured and spiced ham, served sliced paper thin.

Quiche: savoury one-crust egg-and-cream main dish pie.

Quince paste: a thick jam made from the fruit of the quince tree.

Quinoa: a plant of the goosefoot family found in the Andes, where it was widely cultivated for its edible starchy seeds prior to the introduction of Old World grains.

Roux: a mixture of melted fat and flour.

Scallopini: small, thin pieces of meat.

Tapioca: the finely ground flakes of the tropical manioc plant's dried, starchy root. Used as a thickener in pies, tarts and puddings.

Teriyaki: a Japanese style of grilling in which food is seasoned and basted with a marinade usually based on sweet rice wine and soy sauce to form a rich, shining glaze.

Truffle: species of fungus that grows below the ground; used as a garnish. Can also refer to a very rich chocolate dessert ball.

Zabaglione: delicate dessert made of beaten egg whites.

Cooking Terms

Al dente: Italian term used to describe pasta that is cooked until it offers a slight resistance to the bite.

Baketo cook by dry heat.

Barbecue: usually used generally to refer to grilling done outdoors or over an open charcoal or wood fire. More specifically, barbecue refers to long, slow direct heat cooking, including liberal basting with a barbecue sauce.

Baste: to moisten foods during cooking with pan drippings or special sauce to add flavour and prevent drying.

Battera mixture containing flour and liquid, thin enough to pour.

Beatto mix rapidly in order to make a mixture smooth and light by incorporating as much air as possible.

Blanch: to immerse in rapidly boiling water and allow to cook slightly.

Blend: to incorporate two or more ingredients thoroughly.

Boil: to heat a liquid until bubbles break continually on the surface.

Broil: to cook on a grill under strong, direct heat.

Caramelise: to heat sugar in order to turn it brown and give it a special taste.

Chop: to cut solids into pieces with a sharp knife or other chopping device.

Clarify: to separate and remove solids from a liquid, thus making it clear.

Cream: to soften a fat, especially butter, by beating it at room temperature. Butter and sugar are often creamed together, making a smooth, soft paste.

Cure: to preserve meats by drying and salting and/or smoking.

Deglaze: to dissolve the thin glaze of juices and brown bits on the surface of a pan in which food has been friend, sautéed or roasted. To do this, add liquid and stir and scrape over high heat, thereby adding flavour to the liquid for use as a sauce.

Dice: to cut food in small cubes of uniform size and shape.

Dissolve: to cause a dry substance to pass into solution in a liquid.

Dredge: to sprinkle or coat with flour or other fine substance.

Drizzle: to sprinkle drops of liquid lightly over food in a casual manner.

Fillet: as a verb, to remove the bones from meat or fish.

Flake: to break lightly into small pieces.

Flambé: to flame foods by dousing in some form of potable alcohol and setting alight.

Fold: to incorporate a delicate substance, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites, into another substance without releasing air bubbles. Cut down through mixture with spoon, whisk or fork; go across bottom of bowl, up and over, close to surface. The process is repeated, while slowly rotating the bowl, until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. 

Fricassee: to cook by braising; usually applied to fowl or rabbit.

Fry: to cook in hot fat.

Glaze: to cook with a thin sugar syrup cooked to crack stage; mixture may be thickened slightly. Also, to cover with a thin, glossy icing.

Grate: to rub on a grater that separates the food in various sizes of bits or shreds.

Grill: to cook on a grill over intense heat.

Grind: to process solids by hand or mechanically to reduce them to tiny particles.

Julienne: to cut vegetables, fruits or cheeses into thin strips.

Knead: to work and press dough with the palms of the hands or mechanically, to develop the gluten in flour.

Lukewarm: neither cool nor warm; approximately body temperature.

Marinate: to flavour and moisturise pieces of meat, poultry, seafood or vegetable by soaking them in or brushing them with a liquid mixture of seasonings known as a marinade. 

Meunière: dredged with flour and sautéed in butter. 

Mince: to cut or chop foods into extremely small pieces.

Pan-broil: to cook uncovered in a hot fry pan, pouring off fat as it accumulates.

Pan-fry: to cook in small amounts of fat.

Parboil: to boil until partially cooked; to blanch. 

Pare: to remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable.

Peel: to remove the peels from vegetables or fruits.

Pickle: to preserve meats, vegetables and fruits in brine.

Pit: to remove pits from fruits.

Planked: to cook on a thick hardwood plank.

Plump: to soak dried fruits in liquid until they swell.

Poach: to cook very gently in hot liquid kept just below the boiling point.

Purée: to mash foods until perfectly smooth by hand, by rubbing through a sieve or food mill, or by whirling in a blender or food processor.

Reduce: to boil down to reduce the volume.

Refresh: to run cold water over food that has been parboiled, to stop the cooking process quickly.

Render: to make solid fat into liquid by melting it slowly.

Roast: to cook by dry heat in an oven.

Sauté: to cook and/or brown food in a small amount of hot fat.

Scald: to bring to a temperature just below the boiling point.

Sear: to brown very quickly by intense heat.

Shred: to cut or tear in small, long, narrow pieces.

Sift: to put one or more dry ingredients through a sieve or sifter.

Simmer: to cook slowly over low heat at a temperature of about 180. The surface of the liquid should be barely moving, broken from time to time by slowly rising bubbles.

Skim: to remove impurities, whether scum or fat, from the surface of the liquid during cooking, resulting in a clear, cleaner-tasting final produce.

Steam: to cook in steam in a pressure cooker, deep well cooker, double oiler or a steamer made by fitting a rack in a kettle with tight cover.

Sterilise: to destroy micro-organisms by boiling, dry heat or steam.

Stew: to simmer slowly in a small amount of liquid for a long time.

Stir: to mix ingredients with a circular motion until well blended of uniform consistency.

Toss: to combine ingredients with a lifting motion.

Truss: to secure poultry with string or skewers, to hold its shape while cooking.

Whip: to beat rapidly to incorporate air and produce expansion, as in heavy cream or egg whites.

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