The Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

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Cooking & Baking Glossary

Cooking & Baking Glossary

Before you pull out the mixing bowls, brush up on your vocabulary with these popular terms.

  • Al Dente

    To cook pasta until a slight firmness remains when bitten.

  • Assemble

    To gather necessary ingredients for a recipe together.

  • Bake

    To cook food in an oven.

  • Baste

    To brush or spoon a melted fat (such as butter), a liquid (such as a stock) or a marinade over food as it cooks to give flavor and moistness.

  • Batter

    A mixture that is thin enough to pour or spoon; often made of flour, eggs and milk.

  • Beat

    To stir rapidly by hand or with a mixer to combine ingredients or incorporate air into mixture (eg: egg whites, whipping cream).

  • Bind/Binder

    To add a thickening ingredient such as an egg, flour or cornstarch, to hold ingredients together in soups, sauces or gravy.

  • Bite-Sized

    To cut or tear food into small enough pieces to eat in one bite.

  • Blacken

    To cook meat or fish in a very hot skillet to give a dark, crispy crust.

  • Blanch

    To immerse food into boiling water for a short time, and then transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. This brings out the color in vegetables and can loosen skins on peaches or tomatoes.

  • Blend

    To stir together two or more ingredients until just combined.

  • Boil

    To heat a liquid mixture until bubbles break the surface; a full rolling boil cannot be stopped by stirring.

  • Bone/Debone

    To remove the bones from poultry, meat or fish.

  • Braise

    To brown meat or vegetables in fat over a high heat. Place meat or vegetables into a heavy pot with a small amount of liquid, and then cover and cook slowly for several hours. Can be cooked in the oven or on the stove-top.

  • Bread

    To coat food in a dry ingredient such as flour, bread crumbs, cornmeal or cracker crumbs before sauteing or frying.

  • Brine

    A strong mixture of water, salt and vinegar. Mixture can be used on meats to add flavor, tenderness and moistness. Spices, herbs and sweeteners can also be used in this mixture.

  • Broil

    To cook directly above or below a heat source in the oven or on the grill.

  • Broth

    To cook meat, vegetables or fish in water. Other ingredients such as seasonings, onions or celery can be added for additional flavor.

  • Brown

    To cook food quickly over a high heat, often on the stove-top, to give the surface color and seal in juices.

  • Brush

    To coat a food lightly with a marinade or liquid using a pastry brush.

  • Butterfly

    To cut a food, such as shrimp, down the center, almost but not completely through.

  • Can

    To preserve food by placing it into a glass jar. Follow the recommended safe canning procedures.

  • Caramelize

    To heat sugar until it dissolves and turns into a golden syrup, or to cook a food (such as onions) over low heat until they become soft, golden brown and sweet.

  • Carve

    To cut food into slices (usually meat) using a sharp knife.

  • Chafe

    To keep food warm using a container such as a chafing dish or casserole, which has a heat source underneath (eg. candle).

  • Chill

    To cool food in the refrigerator until completely cooled throughout.

  • Chop

    To cut food into slightly irregular cubes or pieces.

  • Chunk

    To cut food into large pieces, larger than a cube.

  • Clarify

    To remove solids from a liquid to yield a clear liquid, most often used with butter to remove milk solids.

  • Coats a Spoon

    To test for doneness; a cooked egg-based mixture (such as a custard) leaves a thin layer on a metal spoon when dipped into the mixture.

  • Coddle

    To cook eggs in simmering water, and remove from heat when eggs are cooked, as desired. Sometimes called poach.

  • Combine

    To stir two or more ingredients with a spoon, or to beat on Low speed with a mixer, until mixed together.

  • Core

    To remove the center of a fruit or vegetable, which contains seeds, with a knife or apple corer.

  • Cream

    To beat together two or more ingredients, such as butter and sugar, until the mixture is smooth, creamy, uniform consistency.

  • Crimp or Flute

    To press together two pastry layers on edge of pie crust, sealing the dough and at the same time creating a decorative edge using fingers, a fork, or other utensil.

  • Crumble

    To break up into small pieces.

  • Crush

    To reduce to crumbs, powder, or small pieces.

  • Cube

    To cut meat or vegetables as examples into 1/2-inch equal-sided squares.

  • Curdle

    To overcook a mixture, such as an egg-based recipe, causing the mixture to separate. The mixture will appear lumpy. Another example is when acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, to milk is added to milk which will then thicken and become lumpy.

  • Cut in

    To mix a cold fat (such as butter) with flour or dry ingredients by hand until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. This can be achieved by using a pastry blender or two tableware knives.

  • Dash

    To add a tiny amount of an ingredient.

  • Deep Fry

    To cook food by submerging in hot oil.

  • De-fat/Degrease

    To spoon or drain fat or grease from a soup, stock, sauce or gravy. Chilling the liquid first can make this easier.

  • Defrost

    To thaw food.

  • Deglaze

    To pour water, wine or stock over browned pan drippings. Stirring helps loosen drippings, while cooking to reduce to a rich liquid for sauces.

  • Devil

    To add a spicy ingredient, such as hot pepper sauce or mustard, to food, such as eggs, making deviled eggs.

  • Dice

    To cut into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick cubes.

  • Dilute

    To reduce the strength of a mixture by adding liquid.

  • Dip

    To slowly, but briefly, lower food into a melted mixture such as chocolate.

  • Dot

    To place or sprinkle small pieces of an ingredient, over top of food, such as butter, over a fruit filling on a pie.

  • Drain

    To pour liquid or fat from food through a strainer or colander, such as after cooking pasta.

  • Dredge

    To coat food with a dry ingredient, such as flour, bread crumbs or cornmeal before frying.

  • Dress

    To apply a salad dressing to a salad before serving. Can also mean to clean poultry or fish before cooking.

  • Drizzle

    To slowly pour a thin liquid mixture over food, such as a cookie, a quick bread or to pour a thin stream of salad dressing or vinaigrette over a salad.

  • Drop

    To place cookies by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet.  Also, can mean a small amount of liquid, such as food coloring.

  • Dry Heat

    To cook by roasting, broiling or grilling.

  • Dust

    To coat lightly with an ingredient, such as flour or powdered sugar.

  • Emulsify

    To force ingredients, such as oil and a liquid, that normally wouldn't mix into a creamy mixture. Mayonnaise and salad dressing are two examples. The emulsion is created by slowly adding one liquid to the other and beating rapidly.

  • Fillet

    To cut bones from fish, meat or poultry.

  • Firmly Packed

    To press an ingredient, such as brown sugar, tightly into a measuring cup.

  • Flake

    To pull food, such as cooked fish, with a fork, producing small pieces as a test for doneness. Cooked fish should should break away easily into small pieces.

  • Flambe

    To pour liquor over a warm food, usually on the stove-top, and ignite.

  • Flip

    To turn over, such as turning pancakes, to finish cooking on the other side.

  • Floret

    To break or cut fresh broccoli or cauliflower into small clusters.

  • Flour

    To coat food with a dry ingredient or a mixture of dry ingredients, such as white flour or other dry ingredients.

  • Fluff

    To beat a mixture until light and soft.

  • Fold/Fold In

    To gently combine a light, airy mixture (such as beaten egg whites) with a heavier mixture. Place the lighter mixture on top of the heavier mixture, and using a rubber spatula, cut vertically down through mixtures across the bottom of the bowl and up the opposite side. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn with each stroke.

  • Frost

    To cover a cake or cookie with icing or frosting.

  • Froth

    To beat a light mixture or beverage until bubbles or foam form on the surface.

  • Fry

    To cook food in hot oil over medium to high heat until brown and crisp.

  • Garnish

    To decorate a finished food, often with an herb, fruit or vegetable.

  • Glaze

    To coat food with a very thin mixture that will be smooth and glossy.

  • Golden Brown

    To visually test for doneness of a light to medium brown color on foods, such as cookies and cakes.

  • Grate

    To cut food into shreds, using a grater.

  • Grease

    To coat the surface of the baking pan with shortening to prevent food from sticking.

  • Grease and Flour

    Coat baking pan with shortening before lightly dusting with flour to prevent food from sticking. Commonly used when baking cakes.

  • Grill

    To cook food on a grate over a heat source, such as hot coals, or a gas grill.

  • Grind

    To reduce food to small particles. Often nuts, spices or coffee are ground. Can use a mortar and pestle, food processor, blender or small food grinder.

  • Hard Ball Stage

    To cook sugar mixture until a drop of boiling syrup (250 to 265°F) placed into cold water forms a rigid, but somewhat, pliable ball in candy making.

  • Hull

    To remove green stem and leaves from a strawberry. Can also mean to remove the outer husk of some nuts.

  • Husk

    To remove the outer leaves of a vegetable, such as fresh corn, or to remove the outer husk of some nuts.

  • Ice/Icing

    To cover a cake or cookie with mixture, such as frosting.

  • Inject

    To force fluid into a food, most often meat, for flavor and moistness.

  • Julienne

    To cut food, such as carrots, into 1/8-inch equal-sided strips, often 1x1/8x1/8- inch.

  • Knead

    To work dough by hand, or with a dough hook of an electric mixer, into a smooth ball to develop the gluten, or structure, of the dough.

  • Marinate

    To soak or brush food with a seasoned liquid for tenderness, moisture and flavor.

  • Matchstick

    To cut food, such as carrots, into thin strips that are about 1x1/8x1/8-inch.

  • Melt

    To apply heat to change a food from a solid to a liquid, such as butter or chocolate.

  • Mince

    To cut into very small pieces, such as garlic.

  • Mix

    To stir two or more ingredients until mixture is thoroughly combined and uniform in texture.

  • Moist Heat

    To cook, such as braising, stewing, or pot roasting.

  • Muddle

    To crush or mash with a spoon or tool called a muddler. Often used with mint leaves and sugar.

  • Pan Broil

    To cook food quickly in a preheated pan with little or no butter or oil.

  • Pan Sear

    To cook tender cuts of meat in butter or oil in a heavy skillet over high heat, which produces a golden crust.

  • Par Boil

    To cook food partially in boiling water, then continue cooking using another method. For example, par boiling potatoes and then threading on skewers and grilling.

  • Pare

    To cut off a thin layer of skin on a food, such as potatoes or apples, with a paring knife or vegetable peeler.

  • Partially Set

    To test for doneness in which the mixture is set but still fluid enough to add ingredients, such as when making gelatin.

  • Pat

    To lightly touch a surface to flatten.

  • Pea-Sized Crumbs

    To describe the size of the pieces in a mixture of flour, butter and other ingredients.

  • Peel

    To remove the skin or rind from a fruit or vegetable.

  • Pinch

    To add a tiny amount (about 1/16th teaspoon) of a dry ingredient such as salt. The amount should be able to be held between the thumb and forefinger.

  • Pipe

    To decorate food with a mixture, such as frosting or whipped cream, using a pastry bag or tube.

  • Pit

    To remove the stone or seed of a fruit, such as cherries, apricot and peaches. This is sometimes called the stone.

  • Pith

    To remove the stone or seed of a fruit such as cherries, apricot and peaches. This is also what the stone is called.

  • Plump

    To soak dried fruits or vegetables in liquid until they swell.

  • Poach

    To cook food in a liquid to just below the boiling point. Often used to cook eggs, fruit or poultry.

  • Pound

    To flatten or tenderize a piece of meat.

  • Process

    To cook, following safe recommended canning procedures, sealing the filled canning jars. Also to beat ingredients, using a food processor.

  • Pulse

    To use an on and off speed motion when combining a mixture in a food processor or blender.

  • Pulverize

    To reduce to a powder or dust.

  • Puree

    To mash or grind food until a thick, smooth consistency is achieved.

  • Quarter

    To cut or divide into four equal parts.

  • Reconstitute

    To soak dried foods in a liquid to rehydrate.

  • Reduce

    To boil a sauce or liquid rapidly until the sauce is boiled down or evaporated and it thickens.

  • Reheat

    To re-warm food.

  • Render

    To heat a solid animal fat over low heat until melted; remove solids.

  • Rice

    To push a soft food, such as potatoes, through a potato ricer or strainer.

  • Rind

    To describe the outer skin of citrus fruits.

  • Roast

    To cook meat or vegetables in a shallow, uncovered pan in the oven. This yields a brown exterior and a moist interior.

  • Rolling Boil

    To describe a mixture that cooks or boils so hard it cannot be stirred down.

  • Roll Up Jelly-Roll Fashion

    To roll dough and filling together, beginning with narrow side of dough, and ending with a log shape. Seal ends of dough.

  • Rub

    To apply a seasoned mixture, dry or a paste, onto the surface of meat, providing flavor to the meat. 

  • Saute

    To cook food quickly in a small amount of oil or fat in a skillet until light brown.

  • Scald

    To heat liquid to just below the boiling point until tiny bubbles form around the edge.

  • Score

    To cut shallow slashes, along the surface of meat, to tenderize. The peel of a vegetable, such as cucumbers, can also be scored for a decorative look.

  • Scramble

    To stir gently with a fork or spoon while cooking; eggs are often scrambled.

  • Sear

    To brown meat quickly in a skillet over high heat or using a broiler to seal in meat juices.

  • Season

    To apply a flavor ingredient, such as salt and pepper. Cast iron pans are also seasoned by rubbing the pan with solid shortening and heating in the oven. This coats the pan and prevents sticking and rusting of the pan.

  • Seed

    To remove the seeds from a fruit or vegetable.

  • Separate

    To divide in half or into parts. Sometimes referred to when removing the egg yolk from the egg white.

  • Set

    To test for doneness when the surface of the food is firm to the touch.

  • Shave

    To slice a very thin layer, such as chocolate, for a garnish.

  • Shell

    To remove the outer covering of foods, such as eggs, nuts, or fresh peas.

  • Shred

    To cut into narrow strips with a shredder or food processor, using the shredding disk. Can also mean to shred cooked meat or poultry by pulling apart with two forks.

  • Sieve

    To strain dry or wet ingredients through the holes of a strainer or sieve. Eg. removing seeds from raspberry jam.

  • Sift

    To pass an ingredient, such as powdered sugar, through a sieve or sifter to make smooth and lump-free.

  • Simmer

    To cook foods gently in a liquid at a low temperature at just below the boiling point. Tiny bubbles appear on the surface.

  • Skewer

    To thread meat, such as vegetables or fruit, onto metal rods or bamboo sticks called skewers for grilling.

  • Skim

    To spoon off top layer of fat, such as for gravy or soup.

  • Skin

    To remove the outer layer on meat, fish, or poultry.

  • Slice

    To cut into thin, flat pieces, or to cut through with a knife.

  • Sliver

    To cut food into long, thin strips.

  • Snip

    To cut food into long, thin strips.

  • Soft Ball Stage

    To cook a sugar mixture until a drop of boiling syrup (usually between 234 to 240°F) is put into cold water. A soft ball that flattens when removed indicates it is at the soft ball stage in candy making.

  • Soft Crack Stage

    To cook a sugar mixture until a drop of boiling syrup (usually between 274 to 290°F) is put into cold water. If the syrup separates into hard threads, it is at the soft crack stage in candy making.

  • Soft Peaks

    To beat whipping cream or egg whites until peaks curl over when beaters are lifted out of the bowl.

  • Spread

    To cover evenly.

  • Sprinkle

    To scatter lightly.

  • Steam

    To cook on a rack above boiling liquid in a tightly covered pan.

  • Steep

    To soak dry ingredients, such as tea, coffee or spices, in a hot liquid.

  • Stew

    To cook food in enough liquid to barely cover the ingredients in a tightly covered pan. Usually cooks for several hours on the stove-top or in the oven.

  • Stiff Peaks

    To beat whipping cream or egg whites until the peaks stand up straight when the beaters are lifted up out of the bowl.

  • Stir

    To mix ingredients in a circular motion with a spoon.

  • Stir Constantly

    To stir during the entire time the mixture is cooking.

  • Stir-Fry

    To cook small pieces of food quickly in a large pan over high heat, stirring constantly.

  • Stock

    A well-flavored broth that is made by simmering meat, poultry, fish or vegetables with herbs, spices or vegetables.

  • Strain

    To remove any solids from a liquid by pouring through a sieve or colander.

  • Stuff

    To fill a cavity in poultry or a vegetable (eggplant, zucchini, tomato) with a well-seasoned mixture prior to cooking.

  • Sweat

    To cook vegetables in a small amount of fat over low heat in a covered pan, until juices form and vegetables begin to brown.

  • Thaw

    To defrost frozen food.

  • Thin

    To add more liquid to a mixture to dilute.

  • Thread

    To place chunks of vegetables, meat or fruit on a skewer.

  • Toast

    To brown food by heating in a toaster or under the broiler, such as bread, or in an oven when cooking nuts.

  • Toss

    To turn food over lightly with a large spoon and fork to coat ingredients; often a term used with salads.

  • Trim

    To cut off unwanted fat on meat, or to remove stems or leaves on fruits or vegetables.

  • Wedge

    A triangular shape; such as a wedge of lemon, or a wedge of pie.

  • Whip

    To combine two or more ingredients using a wire whisk. Also can be a kitchen tool with looped wires, incorporating air as the mixture is beat. Sometimes referred to as a whisk.

  • Whisk

    To combine two or more ingredients using a kitchen tool with looped wires, incorporating air as the mixture is beat. Sometimes referred to as whip.

  • Wilt

    To heat food until limp, such as to add a hot dressing to leafy vegetables like spinach for a wilted spinach salad.

  • Zest

    To remove the outer layer of a citrus fruit, using a zester or paring knife.