Cooking Processes and Technical Terminologies
When next you hear any of these terms spoken by a chef or someone in the kitchen, i believe you won’t get lost after reading this article. You will sound like a pro. Kitchen/cooking terms is not limited to therms in this article.
Acid – A substance having a sour or sharp flavour. Most foods are somewhat acidic.
Foods generally referred to as “acids” include citrus juice, vinegar and wine. A
substance’s degree of acidity is measured on the pH scale; acids have a pH of less than
Albumen – The major protein in egg whites.
Alkali – A substance that tests at higher than 7 on the pH scale. Alkalis are sometimes
described as having a slightly soapy flavor. Olives and baking soda are some of the few
Allumette – Potatoes, cut into pieces the size and shape of matchsticks: 1/8 inch x 1/8
inch x 1 to 2 inches.
Alum – The astringent effect of this chemical makes it useful in home pickling to give
crispness to cucumbers, melon rinds, onions, green beans and other foods.
Amino Acid – The basic molecular component of proteins and one of the essential
Bain Marie – Simply, a water bath. It consists of placing a container of food in a large,
shallow pan of warm water, which surrounds the food with gentle heat. The food can be
cooked in this manner, either in an oven or on top of a range. This technique is
designed to cook delicate dishes, such as custards, sauces and savoury mousses,
without breaking or curdling them. It can also be used to keep foods warm.
Bake Blind – To partially or completely bake an unfilled pastry crust.
Barding – The practice of wrapping lean cuts of meat to be cooked with thin slices of
back fat. The alternative to this is larding, in which long strips of fat are inserted into the
cut of meat to keep it moist during cooking.
Baste – To brush or spoon food as it cooks with melted fat or the cooking juices
from the dish. Basting prevents foods from drying out and adds colour and flavour.
Baton / Batonnet – Items cut into pieces somewhat larger than allumette or julienne;
1/4 inch x 1/4 inch x 2 to 2 1/2 inches is the standard. Translated to English as “stick” or
Batter – A mixture of flour and liquid, sometimes with the inclusion of other ingredients.
Batters will vary in thickness, but are generally semi-liquid and thinner than a dough.
Used in such preparations as cakes, quick breads, pancakes and crepes.
Bench Proof – Used in yeast dough production. It is the rising stage that occurs after
the dough is formed and moulded, just before baking.
Binder – An ingredient, or apparel, used to thicken a sauce or hold together another
mixture of ingredients.
Blanch – Moist heat technique of cooking foods in boiling water for a brief period of
time. This applies primarily to vegetables so as to reduce their final cooking time, but
blanching may also be done to fish or meat.
Blend – To amalgamate ingredients of different textures to a smooth texture by mixing
them with spoon, beater or liquidizer.
Bloom – To soften and rehydrate gelatin in warm liquid before use.
Boning Knife – A thin-bladed knife used for separating raw meat from the bone; its
blade is usually about 6 inches long.
Braise – A moist cooking method in which the main item, usually meat, is seared in fat,
then simmered in stock or another liquid in a covered vessel.
Brazier/Brasier – A pan, designed specifically for braising, that usually has two
handles and a tight fitting lid. The pan often is round, but may be square or rectangular.
Breading Procedure – The standard procedure for coating raw or cooked foods with
breadcrumbs, nuts or a meal such as cornmeal. The item is first dipped in a seasoned
flour and then passed through an egg wash, followed by the crumbing of choice. The
principle of this technique gives foods, which are to be baked, deep fried or pan fried, a
coating that adds not only flavour and texture, but will protect the item from losing some
moisture during the cooking process
Brigade System – The kitchen organization system instituted by Auguste Escoffier.
Each position has an assigned station and well-defined tasks and responsibilities.
Brine – A solution of salt, water and seasonings used to preserve foods.
Broil – A dry-heat cooking method in which items are cooked by a radiant heat source
placed above the food.
Brown – A procedure involving the searing of the outer services of an item, such as
meat, so as to create a Mailard Protein Reaction inhibiting the juice flow somewhat.
Brunoise – A very fine dice usually applied to vegetables: 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch square.
Butcher – A chef, or purveyor, who is responsible for butchering meats, poultry and
occasionally fish. In the brigade system, the butcher may also be responsible for
breading meat and fish items and other mise en place operations involving meat.
Butterfly – To split food (meat, fish, fowl) down the centre, cutting almost — but not
completely — through. The two halves are then opened flat to resemble a butterfly.
Caramelize – To heat sugar until it liquefies and becomes clear caramel syrup, ranging
in colour from golden to dark brown. Fruits and vegetables with natural sugars can be
caramelized by sautéing, roasting or grilling, thereby giving them a sweeter flavour and
golden glaze. Other items can be caramelized in fat
Channel – (Canelle) To create small V-shaped grooves over the surface of
fruits or vegetables for decorative purposes with a canelle knife. The fruit or vegetable is
then sliced, creating a decorative border on the slices.
Clarify – To remove sediment from a cloudy liquid, thereby making it clear. To clarify
liquids, such as stock, egg whites and/or eggshells are commonly added and simmered
for approximately 15 minutes. The egg whites attract and trap particles from the liquid.
After cooling, strain the mixture through a cloth-lined sieve to remove residue. To clarify
rendered fat, add a little hot water, which is then evaporated over high heat for about 15
minutes. Next, the mixture should be strained through several layers of dry cheesecloth
and chilled. The resulting layer of fat should be completely clear of residue. Clarified
butter is butter that has been heated slowly, so that its milk solids separate and sink and
can be discarded.
Concassé – The term for chopping a vegetable coarsely. This is used most often when
referring to chopped tomatoes.
Cure – To treat food by one of several methods for preservation purposes. Examples
are smoking, pickling (in an acid base), corning (with acid and salt) and salt curing,
which removes water.
Deep-Fry – A dry alternative cooking technique that cooks food in hot fat or oil deep
enough so that it is completely covered. The cleanliness and temperature of the fat are
extremely important. When the fat is not hot enough, the food absorbs fat and becomes
greasy. When the fat is too hot, the food burns on the exterior before it has cooked
through. Fat at the correct temperature will create a golden crisp, dry exterior and moist
interior. An average fat temperature for deep-frying is 375ºF (175 C), but the
temperature varies according to the food needing to be fried. Use a deep-fryer, an
electric fry pan or a heavy pot and a thermometer for deep-frying.
Deglaze – The process of removing browned small particles of food from the bottom of a
pan after sautéing (usually meat). The technique requires the removal of the excess fat from the pan. A small amount of liquid, usually an acid-based item such as wine, is added to the pan and then heated with the remaining juices; it is then stirred to remove browned particles of food from the bottom. The resulting mixture is reduced to concentrate the flavours and becomes the basis for a sauce.
Devein – To remove the blackish-grey vein from the back of a shrimp. The vein can be
removed with a special utensil called a deveiner or with the tip of a sharp knife. Small
and medium shrimp are deveined purely for aesthetic purposes. However, because the
veins in large shrimp contain grit, they should always be removed.
Dice – To cut food into tiny cubes: between 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch square.
Dijonnaise – The name given to dishes that contain mustard or are served with a sauce
that contains mustard.
Dredge – An action that lightly coats food, which is going to be pan fried or sautéed,
with a fine film of flour or cornstarch. The coating helps to brown the food and provides
a crisp surface. Foods must be cooked immediately to avoid the coating becoming
soggy. Foods that require a final coating will be dredged in flour first, then egg wash and
finally in the final coating of breadcrumbs, cornmeal, cereal flakes, etc. All foods
prepared in this manner must not be held for any length of time before the cooking
Emincer – To cut fruit into thin slices, shorter than for julienne. This term is most often
used when referring to meats, but it also applies to fruits and vegetables.
Emulsify – To bind together two liquid ingredients that normally do not combine
smoothly, such as water and fat. Slowly add one ingredient to the other while mixing
rapidly. This action disperses tiny droplets (colloids) of one liquid in the other.
Mayonnaise and vinaigrettes are emulsions. Three styles of emulsion are possible:
unstable or temporary; semi-stable, and stable.
Essence/Extract – While the words may be used interchangeably, all essences
are extracts, but extracts are not all essences. A stock is a water extract of food. Other
solvents (edible) may be oil or ethyl alcohol, as in wine, whiskey or water. Wine and
beer are vegetable or fruit stocks. A common oil extract is of cayenne pepper, used in
Asian cooking (yulanda). Oils and water essences are becoming popular as sauce
substitutes. A common water essence is vegetable stock. A broth is more concentrated,
as in beef broth or bouillon. Beef tea is shin beef cubes and water sealed in a jar and
cooked in a water bath for 12 to 24 hours. Most common are alcohol extracts, like
vanilla. It is not possible to have a water extract of vanilla (natural bean), but vanillin (a
chemical synthetic) is water-soluble. Oils, such as orange or lemon rind (zest) oil, may
be extracted by storing in sugar in sealed containers. Distilled oils are not extracts or
essences. Attar of rose (for perfume) is lard extracted rose petal oil.
Fillet – To create a fillet of fish or meat by cutting away the bones. Fish and boning
knives help produce clean fillets.
Fold – To combine a light mixture, like beaten egg whites, with a much heavier mixture,
like whipped cream. In a large bowl, place the lighter mixture on top of the heavier one.
Starting at the back of the bowl, using the edge of a rubber spatula, cut down through
the middle of both mixtures, across the bottom of the bowl and up the near side. Rotate
the bowl a quarter turn and repeat. This process gently combines the two mixtures.
Fritter – Food that has been dipped in batter and deep-fried or sautéed. These may
consist of vegetables, meat, fish, shellfish or fruit. The food may be dipped in or mixed
with the batter and dropped into the hot fat to form little balls. Japanese tempura fried
foods are a type of fritter, though this term is not applied to it.
Fondue – There are several different types of fondue, the most notable of which is
cheese. Fondue is a Swiss communal dish shared at the table in an earthenware pot
over a small burner.
Fry – To cook food (non-submerged) in hot fat or oil over moderate to high heat. There
is very little difference between frying and sautéing, although sautéing is often thought
of as being faster and using less fat.
Grill – In the United Kingdom, the same as a “broiler” in Canada; in Canada a grill is a
device for cooking food over a charcoal or gas fire outdoors.
Grind – To reduce food to small pieces by running it through a grinder. Food can be
ground to different degrees, from fine to coarse.
Infuse – To steep an aromatic ingredient in hot liquid until the flavour has been
extracted and absorbed by the liquid. Teas are infusions. Milk or cream can also be
infused with flavour before being used in custards or sauces.
Infusion – An infusion is the flavour that has been extracted from any ingredient, such
as tea leaves, herbs or fruit, by steeping them in a liquid, such as water, oil or vinegar.
Joint – To cut meat and poultry into large pieces at the joints using a very sharp knife.
Julienne – Foods that are cut in long thin strips. The term is usually associated with
vegetables, but may be applied to cooked meat or fish.
Kebab – Also spelled kabob, these are skewers of meat, fish or vegetables grilled over
a fire. All countries serve some version of this dish.
Knead – To mix and work dough into a smooth elastic mass. Kneading can be done
either manually or by machine. By hand, kneading is done with a pressing-folding turning
action. First, the dough is pressed with the heels of both hands and pushed
away from the body so the dough stretches out. The dough is then folded in half, given
a quarter turn, and the process is repeated. Depending on the dough, the kneading time
can range anywhere from five to 15 minutes. During kneading, the gluten strands
stretch and expand, enabling dough to hold in gas bubbles formed by a leavener, which
allows it to rise.
Larding – A technique by which thin strips of back fat or vegetables are inserted into a
piece of meat. These strips help the meat to remain juicy during cooking. Larding with
vegetables gives the meat a contrast of colour plus the addition of flavour. This
practice is not used as often now because of the higher quality of meat available.
Liaison – The process of thickening a sauce, soup or stew. This includes all roux
(starch and water mixtures slurries, beurre maniere‚ Panada, and egg yolks, with or
without cream). Egg yolks must be tempered with hot liquid before adding to the liquid
to prevent curdling.
Macerate – Soaking fruit or vegetables in wine, liquor or syrup so that they may absorb
these flavours. Salt and sugar macerations are used to draw excess moisture out of the
food for a secondary preparation. This is done for canning, jam and preserve making,
and to remove bitter flavours from vegetables.
Marinate -To soak food in a seasoned liquid mixture for a certain length of time. The
purpose of marinating is to add flavour and/or tenderize the food. Due to the acidic
ingredients in many marinades, foods should be marinated in glass, ceramic or
stainless steel containers. Foods should also be covered and refrigerated while they are
marinating. When fruits are soaked in this same manner, the process is called
Mince – To cut food into very tiny pieces. Minced food is cut into smaller, finer pieces
than diced food.
Mise en Place – A term used in professional kitchens to describe the proper planning
procedure for a specific station, which means putting everything in place.
Mousse – Sweet or savoury dishes made of ingredients that are blended and folded
together. These mixtures may be hot or cold, and generally contain whipped egg whites
to lighten them. Cream is also used to lighten these dishes, though when used in large
quantities, these preparations are called mousselines.
Mousseline – A fine puree of raw forcemeat that has been formed into an emulsion and
has the addition of cream. The product is then cooked and nominally served hot. The
term can also describe as hollandaise sauce, which has lightly whipped cream
folded into it.
Napé – To completely coat food with a light and thin even layer of sauce.
Nicoise – Foods cooked in the style of Nice, France. These dishes may include garlic,
Nicoise olives, anchovies, tomatoes and green beans. Salad Nicoise is the most famous
of all these dishes, consisting of potatoes, olives, green beans and vinaigrette dressing.
Parboil – To boil food briefly in water, cooking it only partially. Parboiling is used for
dense food like carrots and potatoes. After being parboiled, these foods can be added
at the last minute to quicker-cooking ingredients. Parboiling ensures that all ingredients
will finish cooking at the same time. Since foods will continue to cook once they have
been removed from the boiling water, they should be shocked in ice water briefly to
preserve colour and texture. Cooking can then be completed by sautéing, or the
parboiled vegetable can be added to simmering soups or stews.
Pare – To remove the thin outer layer of foods by using a paring knife or a vegetable
Poach – To cook food by gently simmering in liquid at 160º to 170º Fahrenheit. Deep
poach is where the item to be cooked in this manner is submerged. Shallow poach is
where the item to be cooked is placed in a flavourful cold liquid that only comes part
way to the top of the item. The pan is covered with a paper cartouche and the item is
cooked to doneness. The residue liquid (cuisson) is strained and used as the foundation
(fond) for the sauce.
Puree – To grind or mash food until completely smooth. This can be done using a food
processor or blender, or by pressing the food through a sieve.