Culinary Terms

Are you a beginner in the culinary industry? Well, this article is perfect for you!

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Chefs, restaurateurs, and servers should be at least familiar with these cooking terms to speed things up in the kitchen. These common culinary terms range from different ways to prepare food and sauces to kitchen items to dishes themselves. 

Culinary terms originate from Classic French and Italian Cuisine and still being used up today. That’s why do not fret if you found yourselves pronouncing French words in the list.

Table of Contents

Now, allow us to help you interpret and understand the food and cuisine you serve by giving you a list of common culinary terms.

What are the basic culinary terms?


A la carte \ä-lə-ˈkärt \

: separate list of priced items from a menu, not part of a set meal

Al dente  \ äl-ˈden-tā \

: cooked just enough, not too soft, not too form; usually referring to pasta and vegetables

Au gratin \ ō-ˈgrä-tᵊn \

: covered with breadcrumbs or cheese, or both, and browned

Au Poivre \ ō-ˈpwäv(rᵊ) \

: served or prepared with ground black peppercorn, often referring to steak


Bain-marie  \ ban-mə-ˈrē \

: a cooking utensil holding hot water in which food in smaller pots is placed for slow cooking; also known as a water bath or double boiler

Bake \ ˈbāk \

: to cook food using dry heat, usually in an oven

Bard \ ˈbärd \

: to cover the meat with strips of fat before cooking to avoid overcooking

Baste \ ˈbāst \

: to pour juices or liquid such as melted butter, fat, or pan drippings to keep it moist

Bisque \ ˈbisk \

: a thick, creamy soup made with a strained broth of game or shellfish

Blanch \ ˈblanch \

: to put in steam or boiling water for a short time; usually referring to fruits and vegetables

Blend \ ˈblend \

: to combine two or more ingredients until smooth in texture

Braise \ ˈbrāz \

: to cook slowly the large ingredients by searing them in hot fat, at high temperature, and covered in liquid

Brining \ ˈbrīn \

: the process of soaking meat with salted water before cooking – e.g brining Turkey for a Family Dinner

Broil \ ˈbrȯi(-ə)l \

: to cook food to direct heat on a rack; often used for melting cheese


Chiffonade \ shi-fə-ˈnād \

: finely cut or shredded herbs and vegetables often used as a garnish for soup

Chop \ ˈchäp \

: to cut ingredients into large squares

Cocotte \ kȯ-ˈkȯt \

: French name for an enamel-coated, cast iron heatproof dish, often used for the long cooking process

Cream \ ˈkrēm \

: to beat sugar and fat into a thick, creamy froth 

Cube \ ˈkyüb \

: to cut ingredients or food into small cubes, usually about 1/2 inch


Dash \ ˈdash \

1/8 teaspoon

Deep fry \ ˈdēp-ˈfrī \

: to cook in immersed hot fat or oil

Deglaze \ (ˌ)dē-ˈglāz \

: to dissolve and remove the browned residue from a pan

Degrease \ dē-ˈgrēz \

: to dissolve or remove the fat from the surface of a soup, hot liquid, or stew; often known as fat trimming

Dice \ ˈdīs \

: to cut into smaller pieces, usually from 1/4 to 1/8 chunks

Dredging \ ˈdrej \

: to coat food with dry ingredients, usually flour, before cooking

Dress \ ˈdres \

: to coat foods with oil, vinegar, or other toppings in salad

Drizzle \ ˈdri-zəl \

: to pour the liquid back and forth in the food in a fine amount, usually melted chocolate, oil, syrup, or butter


Emulsify \ i-ˈməl-sə-ˌfī \

: to whisk to ingredients to a thicker texture; usually done with mustard

Escabeche \ ˌeskəˈbāchā \

: to fry a marinated fish in a sauce of olive oil, vinegar, herbs, vegetables, and spices


Fillet \ ˈfi-lə \

: a slice of boneless meat, fish, or poultry; a French term for cutting a boneless beef, such as filet mignon

Flambé \ fläm-ˈbā \

: a process of pouring some liquor such as rum, cognac, or brandy over food on a hot pan 

Fold \ ˈfōld \

: to combine light ingredients with a heavier mixture using an over-and-under mixing motion 

Frenching \ ˈfrench \

: to trim or cut meat, fat, and cartilage from the rib bone on a rock roast; often done to a pork rib, lamb, or beef


Gazpacho \ gəz-ˈpä-(ˌ)chō \

: a Spanish fish of cold, uncooked soup which usually contains tomatoes, garlic oil, cucumber, onions, and vinegar

Glaze \ ˈglāz \

: to coat food with sauces or jellies

Grate \ ˈgrāt \

: to create tiny pieces of food such as cheese by rubbing on something rough

Gratin  \ ˈgra-tᵊn \

: baking ingredients sprinkled with breadcrumbs or cheese under a grill to give a crust

Grease \ ˈgrēs \

: to coat the interior of the pan with oil or butter to prevent the food from sticking during cooking


Harissa \ hə-ˈri-sə \

: a spicy North African and Middle Eastern cooking made from dried chilies, oil, salt, and seasonings


Infuse \ in-ˈfyüz \

: to place the ingredient into a liquid or to steep in water so as to extract its flavor or chemical compounds 

Irradiation \ i-ˌrā-dē-ˈā-shən \

: the process of exposing food to radiation in order to eliminate disease-causing bacteria and germs from foods

Isinglass \ ˈī-zᵊn-ˌglas \

: a transparent, pure form of whitish gelatin prepared from the air bladders of fishes and used as a clarifying agent


Jacquard \ ˈja-ˌkärd \

: to poke holes into the meat’s muscle to tenderize it; commonly known as needling

Jeroboam \ ˌjer-ə-ˈbō-əm \

: an oversized wine bottle holding about three litters

Julienne \ ˌjü-lē-ˈen \

: a preparation or garnish of food that has been cut into short, thin strips


Kipper \ ˈki-pər \

: a whole herring that has been split into a butterfly fashion  from tail to head, salted, pickled, or gutted

Kirsch \ ˈkirsh \

: a dry, colorless, unaged brandy distilled from the fermented cherries 

Knead \ ˈnēd \

: working dough into a uniform mass by folding, stretching, and pressing with hands


Lactobacillus \ ˌlak-tō-bə-ˈsi-ləs \

: a bacterium ( a genus from Lactobacillus) that produce lactic acids usually found in fermented products such as yogurts 

Larding \ ˈlärd \

: to insert strips of fat into a piece of meat that doesn’t contain much fat 

Liaison \ ˈlē-ə-ˌzän \

: a binding or thickening agent of cream and egg yolks used to thicken soups or sauces


Macerate \ˈma-sə-ˌrāt \

: to soften or break into pieces by using a liquid, often referring to fruit or vegetables 

Marinade \ ˌmer-ə-ˈnād \

: to soak foods, usually meat and fish, in a seasoned or acidic liquid before cooking to enrich their flavor

Mince \ ˈmin(t)s \

: to cut as small as possible using a chef’s knife or food processor

Mirepoix \ mir-ˈpwä \

: a flavor base made from diced onion, carrot, or celery, and sometimes ham or bacon as a basis for soups, sauces, and stews

Mise en place \ ˌmē-ˌzäⁿ-ˈpläs \

: the preparation and organization of ingredients before cooking


Nappe \ ˈnap \

: to coat the back of a spoon or food with glaze

Needling \ ˈnē-dᵊl \

: injecting fat or flavors to the ingredient to enhance its flavor 

Noisette \ nwə-ˈzet \

: A small, round, tender cut of lean meat, often referred to as medallion or mignonette

Nutraceutical \ ˌnü-trə-ˈsü-ti-kəl \

: used to describe food, such as food supplements or fortified food, that gives health benefit in addition to its basic nutritional value 


Ort \ ˈȯrt \

: a morsel of food leftover after a meal

Ouzo \ ˈü-(ˌ)zō \

: a colorless anise-flavored liqueur from Greece


Pan-fry \ ˈpan-ˌfrī \

: to cook in a frying pan with a small amount of fat over medium heat

Pâté \ pä-ˈtā \

: a spread or mixture of ground, seasoned meat 

Parboil \ ˈpär-ˌbȯi(-ə)l \

: to briefly cook the food by boiling, then removing before they are fully cooked, then cook it again in another way

Par cook  \ (ˈ)pär+ \

: the process of not fully cooking the food, so that it can be reheated later

Pinch \ ˈpinch \

: 1/16 teaspoon

Poach \ ˈpōch \

: to cook delicate items, such as eggs and fish, in barely simmering liquid

Purée \ pyu̇-ˈrā \

: to grind or mash food until completely smooth


Quenelle \ kə-ˈnel \

: a poached oval dumpling of creamed fish or meat often served as a sauce


Render  \ ˈren-dər \

: to cook the fat out of something, such as bacon

Resting  \ ˈre-stiŋ \

: let the meat sit out of the oven or stove on a wire rack with a catch pan underneath before serving

Roast \ ˈrōst \

: to cook in an oven or above fire using dry heat

Roux \ ˈrü \

: a mixture of flour and butter, or other fat, used as a thickening agent in a soup or sauce


Sauté  \ sȯ-ˈtā \

: to fry food quickly over relatively high heat

Scald \ ˈskȯld \

: to heat liquid almost to a boil until bubbles begin to form around the edge 

Score \ ˈskȯr \

: to cut slits on the surface of a food

Sear \ ˈsir \

: a technique used in grilling, baking, or sautéing in which the surface of the food is cooked at a high temperature until it forms a crust

Shred \ ˈshred \

: done in a grater with larger holes, resulting in long strips to cook or melt

Simmer \ ˈsi-mər \

: to stew gently below or just at the boiling point

Steam \ ˈstēm \

: to cook food in a steamer over boiling or simmering water

Steep \ ˈstēp \

: to allow dry ingredients to soak in a liquid until the liquid takes on its flavor; often referred to in coffee, tea, juice, or spices

Stew \ ˈstü \

: to cook covered food in a liquid over a low heat


: gently heating vegetables in a little oil, with frequent turning and stirring to ensure released liquid will evaporate


Tempering \ ˈtem-pər \

: to raise the temperature of a cold ingredient by adding hot or boiling liquid

Trussing \ ˈtrə-siŋ \

: to tie meat or poultry woven through the bird parts by using a needle to create a more compact shape before cooking; often used in turkey with a string


Unleavened  \ ˌən-ˈle-vənd \

: made without yeast or baking powder; often referred to in bread


Velouté \ və-ˌlü-ˈtā \

: a soup or sauce made with chicken, fish stock, or veal and creamed and thickened with flour and butter

Victual  \ ˈvi-tᵊl  \

: food for humans


Whip \ ˈ(h)wip \

: to eat food with a mixer to incorporate air and produce volume; often referred to in eggs, cream, or sauces

Whisk \ ˈ(h)wisk \

: a cooking utensil used to blend ingredients in a whipping motion


Xylitol \  ˈzī-lə-ˌtȯl \

: crystalline alcohol found in most fruits and vegetables and used as a sugar substitute chewing gums, mints, and candies


Yakitori  \ ˌyä-ki-ˈtȯr-ē \

: a Japanese bite-sized marinated beef, seafood, or chicken skewered and grilled


Zest \ ˈzest \

:  a piece of peel in citrus fruits that contains oil and provides aroma and flavor