Savoring the Language of the Kitchen: A Guide to Culinary Lingo
The world of culinary arts is as vast and varied as the cultures and cuisines it encompasses. At its core, however, lies a shared language that transcends borders and kitchens, connecting us all through the universal love of food.
Our 'Culinary Arts Terms and Definitions' is your gateway to this rich lexicon, demystifying the jargon and shining a light on the intricate techniques and traditions that chefs and line cooks around the world hold dear. Whether you're embarking on a culinary journey or seeking to refine your vocabulary, let our comprehensive list below be your compass in the expansive landscape of culinary terminology.
- Al Dente: Italian for "to the tooth". This term refers to pasta or rice that is cooked until it is firm when bitten—not too soft or overcooked.
- Bain-Marie: A cooking technique where a container with food is placed into another larger container filled with water, typically to melt chocolate or cook delicate dishes gently.
- Baste: To moisten food during cooking with its own juices or another liquid, such as a marinade or melted butter, to enhance flavor and prevent it from drying out.
- Béchamel: A white sauce made from milk, butter, and flour.
- Bias: Cutting food an angle, typically 45 degrees, to increase the surface area or for aesthetic reasons.
- Blanch: Quickly boiling food, usually vegetables or fruits, and then plunging it into cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Boil: Cooking liquid at a temperature that produces rapid bubbles and steam.
- Bouquet Garni: A bundle of herbs, typically bay leaves, thyme, and parsley, often tied together with butcher's twine or enclosed in a cheesecloth bag, used to infuse soups, stews, and broths with flavor.
- Braise: Cooking technique where food is first seared at high temperatures, then finished in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid, resulting in a flavorful and tender dish.
- Brine: A saltwater solution, often flavored, used for preserving or flavoring food.
- Brunoise (broo-nwaz): French culinary term referring to a specific way of cutting vegetables into very small cubes, typically measuring 1/8-inch on each side.
- Caramelize: The process of cooking sugar or foods containing sugar (like onions) until they turn brown and develop a deeper flavor.
- Chiffonade: Finely slicing or shredding leafy vegetables or herbs into thin strips.
- Chinois (shin-wah): A conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh, used for straining sauces and soups.
- Clarify: Removing impurities from a liquid, like butter or broth, to make it clear.
- Confit: Cooking and preserving meat (usually duck or goose) in its own fat.
- Coulis: A thick sauce made from pureed and strained fruits or vegetables.
- Crudités: Raw vegetables served as an appetizer, often with a dip.
- Dash: A small amount of an ingredient, typically less than 1/8 teaspoon.
- Deglaze: Using a liquid, like wine or broth, to loosen the browned bits from a pan after cooking meat or vegetables.
- Demi-glace (dəmi ɡlas, 'half glaze'): A rich brown sauce in French cuisine, made by reducing Espagnole sauce and brown stock.
- Dollop: A small, usually rounded amount of a food or ingredient, typically one that is softer or wetter.
- Dredge: Coating food in flour, breadcrumbs, or another dry mixture before cooking.
- Emulsify: Mixing two immiscible liquids, such as oil and vinegar, so that they become a unified mixture, often using an emulsifying agent like mustard or egg yolk.
- En Papillote: A method of cooking where food is placed inside a folded pouch (usually parchment paper) and then baked.
- Espagnole (eh-spae-nyowl): A basic brown sauce, one of the mother sauces in classical French cuisine, made with brown stock, tomatoes, brown roux, and various seasonings.
- Fillet: A boneless piece of meat or fish. It can also refer to the technique of removing the bones from a piece of meat or fish.
- Flambé: A cooking method where alcohol is added to a hot pan and then ignited.
- Fond: The browned bits and caramelized drippings left in a pan after cooking, often used as the base for sauces.
- Ganache: A mixture of chocolate and cream, often used as a filling or icing.
- Hollandaise (hɑ-lən-deɪz): An emulsified sauce made from butter, egg yolks, and lemon juice or vinegar.
- Julienne Cutting food, usually vegetables, into thin, matchstick-sized strips.
- Macerate: To soften or break up food, especially fruit, by soaking in a liquid, often with sugar, alcohol, vinegar, or their own juices, to enhance flavor and texture.
- Marinate: Soaking foods, especially meats, in a seasoned liquid mixture to enhance their flavor and sometimes to tenderize them.
- Mirepoix: A flavor base made from diced vegetables (usually carrots, onions, and celery), used in many dishes.
- Mise en Place: French for "everything in its place". Organizing and preparing ingredients before starting to cook.
- Parboil: Partially cooking food by boiling, typically as a preparatory step for another cooking method like roasting or frying.
- Pâté: A spreadable paste made from ground meat and fat, often liver.
- Pinch A small amount of an ingredient, typically taken between the thumb and forefinger.
- Poach: Cooking food gently in liquid, just below the boiling point.
- Purée: A smooth mixture made by blending food, usually vegetables or fruits.
- Quenelle: An oval or egg-shaped dumpling, often made of fish or meat paste.
- Reduction: The process of simmering a liquid to decrease its volume and concentrate its flavors.
- Roulade: A dish made of a flat piece of meat or pastry that is spread with a filling and rolled up.
- Roux: A mixture of fat (often butter) and flour used to thicken sauces and soups.
- Sauté: Cooking food quickly in a small amount of oil or butter over high heat.
- Sear: Browning the surface of food quickly at high temperatures.
- Simmer: Cooking liquid just below the boiling point, with bubbles gently rising to the surface.
- Sous Vide: A method of cooking where food is sealed in a plastic bag or container and cooked in a water bath at a precise temperature.
- Temper: Gradually introducing a hot liquid to a cold or room temperature ingredient, like eggs, to raise its temperature without curdling or solidifying.
- Truss: Tying a roast or poultry with string to hold its shape during cooking.
- Umami: One of the five basic tastes, often described as savory or meaty. It's associated with ingredients like soy sauce, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
- Velouté (və-lü-ˈtā): A stock-based white sauce, often made from chicken, fish, or veal stock thickened with a roux.
- Whisk: A cooking tool used for stirring and beating. Also, the action of using this tool.
- Yield: The amount of food produced after cooking or processing.
- Zest: The outer colored part of citrus fruit peel, often used for flavoring.
These terms are widely used in the culinary arts field and understanding them can enhance your culinary journey.■
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