I used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen and watch Julia Child (full disclosure-I love Julia Child) for hours. She was so real and funny. She knew how to make you feel that you could cook anything. Because of her, I used to think how cool it would be to be a chef. Obviously, I didn’t take that road, but I have never given up the dream of becoming a chef not just a cook (I know that isn’t going to happen, but I still dream about it). Now I spend my time in the kitchen at the computer trying to create recipes that taste good, look good and are good for you. But what good is a great recipe if you don’t know what the words mean? There is a whole other language that is spoken in the cooking world. Some words you can guess the meaning, but for others you need a food dictionary. So I thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the most common words in the cooking language. Keep it handy and soon no recipe will be out of reach.
It’s true what they say about a bad cut-it can be quite traumatic. That applies not only to hair, but also food. Cutting your ingredients the right way is essential if you want a great end product. Here are the most common “cuts.”
- Chop -To cut into bite-sized pieces with quick, heavy blows of the knife.
- Cube -To cut into little cubes that are usually ½ -1 inch.
- Dice -To cut into really tiny cubes that are anywhere from ¼’ to 1/8 of an inch.
- Grate -To take a large piece of something and make it smaller by rubbing against a coarse surface. Usually requires some type of grater.
- Julienne -To cut into long skinny strips that are 2 inches long and 1/16th of an inch wide.
- Mash -To make food soft by crushing, beating or squeezing with a fork or masher.
- Mince -To finely cut something as small as possible using a knife, grinder, blender or food processor.
- Pare -To cut off the outside covering of items such as potatoes and apples.
- Peel -To strip the outer covering of foods like oranges and grapefruits.
- Score -To make shallow or deep cuts in a decorative pattern with a point or knife. This allows food to cook more evenly.
- Shred -To cut into very fine strips or pieces.
- Slice -To cut into even slices, many times across the grain.
- Snip -To cut into small uniform lengths using kitchen shears.
Cooking 101 – Terms
Once you have your food prepped and ready to go, it’s important to cook it the right way. Here’s what all those fancy cooking terms really mean:
- Bake -To cook in the oven.
- Blanch -To plunge food into boiling water for a few seconds (up to a minute or two) and then immediately place in cold water. This is used to loosen skin, brighten color and enhance flavor.
- Braise -To cook in a small amount of liquid in order to concentrate flavor.
- Broil -To cook close to a direct heat source. This will cook your meat quickly and give a nice brown exterior.
- Grill -To cook above a heat source (gas, charcoal, wood) in the open air.
- Pan -fry-To cook larger pieces of food in a small amount of hot fat, turning only once or twice.
- Parboil -To cook partially in boiling water.
- Poach -To cook in a shallow pan of water that is just below boiling.
- Reduce -To cook liquids down so that some of the water evaporates.
- Roast -To cook, uncovered, in an oven with the goal to produce a well-browned exterior and moister cooked interior. No liquid should contact item being roasted.
- Sear -To cook quickly over a high heat so that juices are sealed inside. Can be done in very hot oven, under a broiler or in a skillet.
Other cooking terms to know
There are few other terms that you need know if you want to make it in the kitchen:
- Al dente -Usually used to describe how to cook pasta. It is when pasta is cooked for shorter period of time so it has a slight resistance when chewed. Fresh pasta can’t be cooked this way, as it is too soft to start with.
- Beat -To blend quickly in order to add as much air as possible so that the end result is smooth.
- Cream -To work a fat against the side of the bowl until smooth adding tiny air bubbles to the mix. Many times sugar is also included.
- Drizzle -To pour a liquid over a food in a thin stream.
- 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 slowing rotating the bowl, until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.
- Resting -To allow a roasted meat or turkey to sit for 20-30 after removing from the oven before slicing. Loosely cover item with foil to maintain heat.
- Sift -To shake through a fine sieve to combine dry ingredients.
Now it’s time to start mastering the cooking language so head to your kitchen and get cooking. Bon Appetite!