Aerate - A synonym for sift; to pass ingredients through a fine-mesh device to break up large pieces and to incorporate air into the ingredients to make them lighter.
Al dente - "To the tooth," in Italian. The pasta is cooked just enough to maintain a firm, chewy texture.
Bake - To cook in the oven. Food is cooked slowly with gentle heat, causing the natural moisture to evaporate slowly, concentrating the flavor.
Baste - To brush or spoon liquid fat or juices over meat during roasting to add flavor and to prevent it from drying out.
Batter - A mixture of flour, fat, and liquid that is thin enough in consistency to require a pan to encase it. Used in such preparations as cakes and some cookies. A batter is different from dough, which maintains its shape.
Beat - To smoothen a mixture by briskly whipping or stirring it with a spoon, fork, wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer.
Bias-slice - To slice a food crosswise at a 45-degree angle.
Bind - To thicken a sauce or hot liquid by stirring in ingredients such as eggs, flour, butter, or cream.
Blackened - A popular Cajun-style cooking method in which seasoned foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until charred.
Blanch - To boil briefly to loosen the skin of a fruit or a vegetable. After 30 seconds in boiling water, the fruit or vegetable should be plunged into ice water to stop the cooking action, and then the skin easily slices off.
Blend - To mix or fold two or more ingredients together to obtain equal distribution throughout the mixture.
Boil - To cook food in heated water or other liquid that is bubbling vigorously.
Braise - A cooking technique that requires browning meat in oil or other fat and then cooking slowly in liquid. The effect of braising is to tenderize the meat.
Bread - To coat the food with crumbs (usually with soft or dry bread crumbs), sometimes seasoned.
Broil - To cook food directly under the heat source.
Broth or stock - A flavorful liquid made by gently cooking meat, seafood, or vegetables (and/or their by-products, such as bones and trimming) often with herbs, in liquid, usually water.
Brown - A quick sauting, pan/oven broiling, or grilling method done either at the beginning or end of meal preparation, often to enhance flavor, texture, or eye appeal.
Brush - Using a pastry brush, to coat a food such as meat or bread with melted butter, glaze, or other liquid.
Bundt pan - The generic name for any tube baking pan having fluted sides (though it was once a trademarked name).
Butterfly - To cut open a food such as pork chops down the center without cutting all the way through, and then spread apart.
Caramelization - Browning sugar over a flame, with or without the addition of some water to aid the process. The temperature range in which sugar caramelizes is approximately 320F to 360F (160C to 182C).
Chiffon - Pie filling made light and fluffy with stabilized gelatin and beaten egg whites.
Chop - To cut into irregular pieces.
Clarify - Remove impurities from butter or stock by heating the liquid, then straining or skimming it.
Coat - To evenly cover food with flour, crumbs, or a batter.
Coddle - A cooking method in which foods (such as eggs) are put in separate containers and placed in a pan of simmering water for slow, gentle cooking.
Combine - To blend two or more ingredients into a single mixture.
Confit - To slowly cook pieces of meat in their own gently rendered fat.
Core - To remove the inedible center of fruits such as pineapples.
Cream - To beat vegetable shortening, butter, or margarine, with or without sugar, until light and fluffy. This process traps in air bubbles, later used to create height in cookies and cakes.
Crimp - To create a decorative edge on a piecrust. On a double piecrust, this also seals the edges together.
Crisp - To restore the crunch to foods; vegetables such as celery and carrots can be crisped with an ice water bath, and foods such as stale crackers can be heated in a medium oven.
Crush - To condense a food to its smallest particles, usually using a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin.
Crystallize - To form sugar- or honey-based syrups into crystals. The term also describes the coating.
Curd - Custard-like pie or tart filling flavored with juice and zest of citrus fruit, usually lemon, although lime and orange may also be used.
Curdle - To cause semisolid pieces of coagulated protein to develop in food, usually as a result of the addition of an acid substance, or the overheating of milk or egg-based sauces.
Cure - To preserve or add flavor with an ingredient, usually salt and/or sugar.
Custard - A mixture of beaten egg, milk, and possibly other ingredients such as sweet or savory flavorings, which is cooked with gentle heat, often in a water bath or double boiler. As pie filling, the custard is frequently cooked and chilled before being layered into a prebaked crust.
Cut in - To work vegetable shortening, margarine, or butter into dry ingredients.
Other great resources for cooking terms
- Crisco.com - This helpful list of both common and uncommon cooking terms serves as a helpful reference guide in the kitchen. Definitions from A to Z.
- Bakers Dictionary - The Bakers dictionary is a free technical resource with over 1000 baking terms listed and defined.
- Gourmet glossary - Glossary of cooking ingredients, in particular those used in Greek and Mediterranean food.
- Glossarist - cooking glossaries and cooking dictionaries.