Cooking terms for food preparation (A-Z)
A term used when you are assembling ingredients to make a dish or recipe. Usually a mixing bowl or larger container is selected in the first place to allow the collection of ingredients to combine without spilling.
To mix together ingredients quickly with rapid motion and usually with a wooden spoon or with an electric mixer. It is normally in order to trap some air into a mixture and make the end product light and open in texture.
Usually means mixing water with another ingredient. Sometimes it is corn flour that had to be blended with water (when making a sauce) and this means using a wooden spoon or the back of a wooden spoon to crush the lumps and make the mixture smooth. Using a Blender means to use a stick blender or a food processor to make a smooth mixture from one that is initially lumpy such as when making a soup. The amount of blending will cause the result to be partially lumpy or very smooth like a puree.
Using a knife to reduce the size of ingredients such as potatoes or onions. This aids the cooking by reducing the time to cook. The size of chopping is controlled by the terms ‘finely’ for small chopping; or into quarters for products like potatoes. Chop into florets means to cut the natural form such as a broccoli head or a cauliflower into pieces that have the stalk and flower and are as regular in size as is possible. The art of chopping is highly regarded and needs careful practise.
This term can mean the use of a knife or the use of scissors. Cutting means products are reduced in size. This can be to aid quicker cooking or just to portion the product and make it easier to mix with other ingredients. Cut can be helped by instructions such as ‘in half’ or ‘into quarters’. ( also see Snipping)
After slicing the product can be further cut. Each slice can be chopped into strips and the strips cut across to produce small cubes. All sides of diced ingredients can be cooked and will absorb flavours and give out their flavours to other ingredients
Egg and Crumb
This is a method of coating food to protect it during cooking giving a crisp and crunchy golden coating to the food. The crumbs can be bread, cornflakes crushed up, oatmeal or semolina.
A slower method of adding flour to a cake mixture usually carried out with a metal spoon or a spatula in a figure of eight style movement.
A food ingredient can be grated by hand or in a food processor with a grater attachment. Grating is a way of reducing the ingredient into small slivers that will cook quickly, melt, mix or become easier to eat. Graters have different sizing from very fine for lemon zest, parmesan cheese grating or larger sizes for cheddar and carrots or apples. Ready grated products help the consumer and are popular now – ready grated cheeses in particular.
A special technique where the knuckles of your hands work a dough to make it smoother perhaps in readiness to roll out. In breadmaking kneading is more vigorous and will stretch the dough and make it elastic.
A method of immersing or soaking food products in a flavoursome mixture known as a marinade. This adds flavour, sometimes colour and sometimes helps the tenderness of the product. For example, you can marinate chicken in yoghurt, sausages in soy and balsamic vinegar.
Traditionally a potato masher is used even if you are mashing peas, parsnips or swede. Some chefs now ’smash’ ingredients using the end of a rolling pin giving a texture mash (soft lumps) rather than a smooth end product.
To combine ingredients together, until they do not separate. Usually using a spoon or wooden spoon and at a steady rate to avoid spillage.
Peeling is a process by which the outer, inedible layer of an ingredient is removed. Historically potatoes were peeled prior to cooking and there are many different types of peelers – fixed blade peelers (the Lancashire peeler) and swivel bladed peelers. A small vegetable knife can also be used for peeling and with improving skill a very thin layer can be peeled from fruits and vegetables to help them cook more evenly or have improved mouth feel.
Even today the rolling pin is still vital in the kitchen. Rolling out make dough thinner so that it can line tins and will cook to crispness
To use a utensil such as a spoon to move the ingredients in order to mix them or to prevent sticking on the base of a pan, or to aid thickening to a smooth end result.
To cut across an ingredient such as a tomato. Slices can be thick or thin. Pre-slicing is a way of making food more convenient for the cook and is commonly seen with bread, cheeses, hams and pre-cooked meats.
Snipping is a term that indicates the choice of kitchen scissors. It is an easy way for products such as chives where small pieces can easily be added to salads.
Cooking products in dry heat in an oven. Shelf position in the oven is quite important the higher the shelf the hotter the oven temperature and the quicker the products will cook. Fan ovens blow the heat around and all the shelves cook evenly at the same temperature.
This means baking a product such as a pastry flan without the filling in the oven. It helps to get the base layer of pastry really crisp. You can buy baking beans made from ceramic for baking blind. Cover the pastry flan with baking paper and drop in the ceramic beans to add weight and hold down the pastry. Lift the paper after about 15 minutes and check to see if the pastry has dried. If so, you can carefully remove the paper containing the baking beans and shoot them back into their storage jar ( take care they are HOT.) Allow them to cool and use again and again for baking blind.
Cooking in water ‘on the move’ at boiling point( 100 C) on the cooker hob. Mostly a lid is placed over the pan to retain the heat and keep in the steam. The lid needs to allow some steam to escape or it will rattle so tilt the lid slightly on the pan. Usually boil is a first step and is followed by the term simmer which is a gently boil ( see simmer)
A slow and moist method of cooking that helps to make meat tender and vegetables soft and juicy. Rapid searing of the outside of a meat joint is followed by resting the meat on a vegetable layer. Enough stock or water is used to cover the vegetable layer. The cooking dish is then covered with either a lid or foil to sealing the cooking container. Cook gently at a moderate heat for up to an hour. Tougher cuts of meat such as topside or silverside can be cooked successfully this way.
To cook in a frying pan that is usually shallow and flat. Frying is carried out on the cooker hob. A stir-fry pan is deeper with sides that enable you to stir quite rapidly and cook over a high heat. It is wise to choose a non-stick frying pan.
Deep frying is using a deep pan on the hob at least one third to a half full of cooking oil. A basket is usually used to hold the product to be cooked this way and to drain off the oil when the product is cooked. It is popular for Indian products such as samosa and puri, and English products such as doughnuts and battered fish and chips! I would strongly recommend buying a thermostatically controlled deep-fat fryer for safety. Frying tends to give wonderful flavour and texture to food.
Dry frying is using a frying pan on the hob and placing ingredients such as bacon, lardons ( cubes of bacon), chorizo, pancetta or sausages directly into the pan without adding any oil or fat. The frying actually begins once some fat from the product melts and begins to come out of the product and lubricate the pan. It extracts oil and fat from the product and uses it to cook the product.
Shallow frying uses a shallow layer of oil or fat to cover the base of the frying pan in order to cook fairly thin products such as eggs, sausages, chops, breaded fish, burgers.
A hot, intense and direct method of applying heat to a product. The grill compartment of the cooker should enable the grill tray to have shelf positions nearer or further away from the heat. Thin products are best as the heat can penetrate one side then you can turn it over and cook the other side. Best products are sausages, bacon, tomatoes and of course bread for toast. Always keep an eye on grilling it can be fast and furious.
Poaching is a gently moist method of cooking and is either carried out on the hob or in the oven. Either way requires the product to be covered with a well-fitting lid or a foil wrap. Moisture such as water, white wine, apple juice or stock is needed. Usually the base of the cooking container is covered in a thin layer of juice and the product laid into the moisture along with other flavourings such as bay leaves, star anise, black peppercorns or similar. Salmon fillets or whole fish can be poached. Medium heat is used to create steam to gently cook the product without drying it out.
A method of cooking in hot fat or oil in a hot oven. The fat can be meat fat such as lard or dripping. Oil is usually corn oil as it can be heated to a high temperature. Hot fat browns the food and give it a recognisable golden crispy coating. Roast potatoes are a good example of classic English roast potato. Modern cooking reduces the amount of fat by coating products in oil before cooking and laying the products on a tray. ‘Oven-bake’ is sometimes used as a cooking term for lower-fat roasting.
Cooking in water or stock just below boiling point. Usually you boil first and then turn down the heat so that the food simmers just below boiling point. It prevents boiling over!! This requires you to recognise that you need to control the temperature by adjusting the number or setting for the hob ring you are using.
Steaming is a fat free method of cooking that is suitable for vegetables and puddings. It can be carried out in a saucepan with a lid on the hob but usually a steamer tier or stack is placed over a saucepan and a top lid traps all the steam. If you have more than one layer you can cook cauliflower in one layer and carrots in another. This saves fuel and also makes good use of the hob, one pan cooking what might otherwise need two pans. You can buy electric steamers.
Microwave is a quick way to re-heat food products and to cook moist products. It relies on the water in the food getting hot and spreading the heat through the food. It is a good idea to rest the product for about 30 seconds to allow time for the heat to spread. Also if the product is wet ( soup or baked beans) stir it because this will help the heat to spread and you will avoid cold spots. Take care NOT to super-heat products such as coffee. Over-heating, especially where milk is involved, can cause the heat to be trapped and then explode out when a spoon is put into the mug. Time is a very important control on a microwave. Cooking in a microwave sometimes requires adjusting the power level. It can be an effective way to cook moist mixtures such as porridge, bolognaise sauces and custard, sauces and many vegetables and fruits.
More cooking terms:
To fry off in butter or oil using a pan on the hob. Sometimes a lid is used after the initial stage to prevent too much moisture loss. Sweating is a newer name for the process of sautéing. It is used when flavours need to be developed and texture needs to be softened but the browning process is not needed.
Blanching is the immersing of products into freshly boiling water. Sometimes this is carried out pre-freezing to prevent off-colours developing during frozen storage. Peas and runner beans are blanched to retain their lovely green colour when frozen. Some products are blanched to help the removal of their skins such as tomatoes or peaches.
A way of helping to give flavours to an ingredient such as milk. Rose leaves or black peppercorns, bay leaves or vanilla pods can be allowed to stand in milk for a period of time to infuse the milk with their flavours. They are then removed and are not part of the final dish. Fruit infusions are now a popular tea substitute – the flavoured water is infused using a ‘bag’ which is then removed.
Many products are glazed. Glazing improves the out surface of a product by making is shiny, richer in colour or sweeter. Commonly an egg and milk ‘wash’ can be brushed on to pastry and scones. Water with salt is a glaze that can be applied to bread rolls to give a crunchy crust and apricot jam sieved and made more runny with boiled water can be applied to flans, fruit tarts, currant buns and pastry to give a shine and a gloss that remains after cooking and cooling. Meats can be glazed using gravy and a little sugar and mustard. Glazed roasted ham uses apricot jam to provide the shine and caramelised layer to the surface. Pate often has a glaze of butter to prevent the surface drying out and the colour darkening. Glazes are edible outer layers that make products look more appetising.
Seasoning is an art that needs to be practised. It marks a great chef from an ordinary cook. Initially salt and pepper were ‘the seasonings’ that every cook used. Seasoning brings out the natural flavour of the food products. It is not the dominant flavour. Now we know about global cuisines the range of seasonings coming from herbs and spices and other ingredients are increasing and ‘non-seasoned’ food is hard to find. Developing seasonings has become a big food industry as flavour additions are created artificially and using natural mixtures and are added to plain flavoured products such as potatoes. Nowadays it is hard to think of having only plain crisps. Understanding and developing skills in seasoning food requires the knowledge and understanding of the effect of many ingredients and how they change and develop on cooking.
Blending is the thorough mixing of ingredients by reducing the particle size. Blending is possible in a food processor. Smooth soups, puree or pastes can be produced by blending.
Blending method a technique for sauce making by mixing flour and water together to create a mixture without lumps that is then stirred into and re-boiled in a liquid. Custard made with traditional custard powder is an example, or thickening a stew with cornflour or 'Bisto' type product.
Making food products appear more exciting and enticing by presenting them in styled containers or with props that are appropriate. Food styling is usually carried out for food photography but the principles apply to serving food in a stylish way