Starting a food business is exciting, especially when cooking is your passion. However, navigating the culinary world calls for more than just a love for food. It also demands an understanding of the language of the kitchen— a list of cooking terms that you must master. In this post, we’ll talk about the top 20 cooking terms you must know to start your food business.
- Al Dente
- Sous Vide
20 Cooking Terms You Must Know
Here are 20 cooking terms that’ll set you up for success:
1. Al Dente
An Italian term that means “to the tooth”, this cooking term refers to pasta or rice cooked to be firm when bitten. The pasta or rice must not be too hard, but not too soft—just right in the middle. The pasta or rice should also offer a bit of resistance when you bite into it, rather than being mushy.
Many chefs and home cooks aim to perfect this method of cooking pasta since it provides a more satisfying texture. To test for this, chefs would bite into a piece of the pasta or rice they cooked to see if it reached the desired firmness.
Emulsification refers to a process that combines two ingredients together which normally don’t mix well, such as oil and water. Chefs do this by breaking down the particles of one ingredient into very small droplets and dispersing them in the other ingredient. The process results in a uniform mixture or emulsion.
This cooking term refers to a two-step cooking method. First, it involves searing food at a high temperature and then finishing it off in a covered pot at a lower temperature while sitting in some amount of liquid, often broth or wine. Chefs typically use this method to cook meats and vegetables.
Braising works well for cooking tougher cuts of meat since the slow cooking process allows the tough collagen in the muscle to break down into gelatin. This process results in a tender and flavorful dish. Similarly, hearty vegetables can benefit from this technique because the braising liquid puts in additional flavor as they cook.
Deglazing refers to a technique that comes after you’ve sautéed or seared food in a pan. When you cook food this way, you often get small bits of browned food residue sticking to the bottom of the pan. This residue is known as “fond” and it’s packed full of flavor.
This cooking term describes food briefly boiled and then immediately cooled down using ice water or cold water. Chefs often do this with fruits, vegetables, or nuts. The quick change in temperature from hot to cold stops the cooking process instantly, which benefits the food in multiple ways.
In particular, cooks blanch food like tomatoes, peaches, or almonds. The process can help remove their skin easily.
It’s also a common method used to prepare food for freezing because it can help prevent loss of flavor, color, and texture that might otherwise occur. As a result, many home cooks and chefs blanch food frequently.
This technique requires you to soak food, often meat, in a seasoned liquid mixture called a marinade before cooking it. Marinating adds flavor and, in some cases, tenderizes the food.
Marinades often contain acid (e.g., vinegar, wine, or citrus juice), oil, and seasonings. The acid can help tenderize the meat by breaking down some of its fibers. On the other hand, the oil and seasonings add flavor.
This one refers to a technique that involves adding alcohol to a hot pan to create a burst of flames. The word “flambé” is French and means “flamed” or “flashed.”
Cooks use this technique for several reasons. For one, the flames can give the food a unique flavor by burning off the alcohol while leaving behind the essence of the liquor. It can also add complexity and depth to the dish.
This culinary knife technique involves cutting food into long thin strips, similar to matchsticks. Common julienned items include carrots, bell peppers, and other firm vegetables or fruits.
The standard size for a julienne cut is 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch by 2 inches. However, the length can vary based on the specific recipe or presentation. Additionally, cooks often use this type of cut for garnishes or to cook items quickly and evenly.
This refers to a boneless piece of meat, poultry, or fish. The term comes from the French word “filet,” meaning a thread or strip, which reflects the shape of a fillet.
Hence, when it comes to fish, a fillet is the flesh of the fish. The flesh usually comes from both sides of the spine, which has been cut away from the bones in a single piece. When you fillet a fish, you remove the bones to create a boneless piece of fish that’s easier to cook and eat.
On the other hand, with meat and poultry, a fillet often refers to a piece that has been cut or sliced away from the bone. For instance, a chicken breast fillet would be the breast meat that has been removed from the bone and skin.
Mincing refers to chopping food into very small pieces. It’s a common technique used for ingredients like garlic, onions, and herbs.
When you mince something, you cut food into pieces smaller than a dice or as small as possible. You must do this to distribute the flavor of the minced ingredient evenly throughout the dish. For instance, mincing garlic lets its flavor be dispersed throughout the dish more effectively than if you chop it into larger pieces.
Pureeing involves breaking down food until it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency. Chefs do this using various kitchen tools such as a blender, food processor, immersion blender, or even a sieve.
Cooks use this method to make soups, sauces, baby food, and more. It also allows for a uniform texture and consistency and concentrates the flavor of the food. For example, tomato puree is smoother and has a more intense flavor than chopped tomatoes.
Poaching describes a gentle cooking method that involves simmering food in liquid at a relatively low temperature. Chefs often use this technique with delicate food. These include eggs, fish, or fruit, which could fall apart or dry out with more aggressive cooking methods.
The poaching liquid, which can be water, stock, or wine, among others, gets heated to a temperature between about 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit (70 to 82 degrees Celsius). This is a significant point, as the temperature is lower than boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius). Additionally, the liquid should show only a few bubbles around the edge of the pan, not a full rolling boil.
Then, chefs submerge the food fully in the liquid and cook it. The low, steady heat helps cook the food evenly and keeps it tender. For added flavor, chefs add aromatics like herbs, spices, or vegetables to the poaching liquid.
Parboiling refers to a technique where cooks partially cook food, often vegetables or raw meat, in boiling water. They then remove the food before it’s fully cooked. Next, they immediately cool the food down to prevent it from cooking further. They usually do this by plunging it into cold water, similar to blanching.
Chefs parboil food to precook an ingredient. They do this to reduce the final cooking time or to prepare an ingredient that has to be cooked another way.
For example, potatoes can be parboiled before roasting. This ensures they’re fully cooked and tender inside. Ribs can also be parboiled before grilling to ensure they cook thoroughly and to remove some of the fat.
A roux refers to a mixture of fat and flour cooked together and used as a thickening agent, particularly in French cuisine. It serves as the base for many sauces, gravies, and soups.
Making a roux involves melting a fat—such as oil, butter, or margarine—in a pan. Then, chefs whisk in an equal amount of flour and cook the mixture until it reaches the desired color. Next, they cook the flour in the fat. This helps eliminate its raw flavor and allows the roux to thicken a liquid.
Tempering gradually increases the temperature of an ingredient sensitive to heat to prevent it from cooking or curdling. Cooks often do this with eggs, chocolate, or yogurt.
Their goal is to create a smooth, uniform mixture. Tempering also prevents unwanted texture changes that occur with sudden temperature changes.
Simmering involves keeping a liquid at a temperature just below boiling. When a liquid simmers, small bubbles form slowly and burst before reaching the surface. This works in contrast to a full boil, where large bubbles continuously break the surface.
Chefs use this method to make stews, soups, and sauces. This technique also lets the ingredients cook slowly and meld together over a long period. The process results in deep, complex flavors. It’s also a gentle method that tenderizes tough cuts of meat over time.
17. Sous Vide
Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, is a method where food is placed in a plastic bag or vacuum-sealed pouch. Chefs then submerge it in a water bath held at a precise temperature.
Sous vide cooking requires specific equipment. These include an immersion circulator or a sous vide oven to maintain the water bath at the desired temperature. The process can take longer than traditional cooking methods. However, it gives you a great degree of control over the result, making it a favorite technique among chefs and cooking enthusiasts.
Sautéing refers to food cooked in a small amount of fat over relatively high heat. The word “sauté” comes from the French verb “sauter”, which means “to jump”, a reference to the tossing motion often used when sautéing food.
Chefs often use this to cook vegetables or pieces of meat cut into small, uniform sizes. They must cook the food quickly so that it browns on the outside but remains tender on the inside.
Zest refers to the outermost, colored part of citrus fruit peel. It contains lots of beneficial oils. Cooks often use the oils in cooking to add flavor to a variety of dishes. The zest also contains the fruit’s essential oils, which gives it a highly concentrated citrus flavor.
Chefs do this using a tool called a zester. However, you can also use a grater, a peeler, or a knife. The goal is to remove only the thin layer of colored peel, not the underlying white pith, which tastes bitter.
Degreasing refers to the process of removing excess fat from a dish, such as a soup, stock, stew, or sauce. Chefs do this to improve the dish’s flavor, make it lighter or less rich, or reduce its fat content for health reasons.
One common method for degreasing involves chilling the dish. Once the dish cools, the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easier to remove. However, if you want to speed things up, you can use a spoon to carefully skim off the fat while the dish cooks.
Frequently Asked Questions
The 15 cooking terms are al dente, emulsify, braising, deglaze, blanch, marinate, flambe, julienne, fillet, mince, puree, poach, parboil, roux, and temper.
Some terms for cooking are al dente, emulsify, braising, deglaze, blanch, marinate, flambe, julienne, fillet, mince, puree, poach, parboil, roux, temper, simmer, sous vide, sauté, zest, degrease.
The five culinary terms are al dente, emulsify, braising, deglaze, blanch
From mastering basics like sautéing and simmering, to more specialized techniques like sous vide and tempering, these cooking terms will help you create unique and delicious dishes. So, bookmark or print this guide and start mastering these cooking techniques now!
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