Cooking Terms Every Mum Should Know

Cooking Terms Every Mum Should Know

If you have a new found love of cooking  inspired by the terrific recipes on this website, then you may be a little unsure about some of the terms used in the recipes.

POP | Stay at Home

Blanch, saute, poach…….what does it all mean?

Cookbooks can sometimes be too technical when using terms for cooking procedures. Aside from onions giving you tears, these instructions are probably hurting your brains more because they sound so French, Italian or Old English. And it’s not just the cooking instructions that can give you a headache, but also unfamiliar ingredients!

We’d advise you not to enrol in cooking classes just yet. Basically, this collation of definitions might help you make sense of it all!

Al Dente : Cook until firm but not mushy (usually applies to pasta and vegetables).

Au Gratin: A browned or crusted top, usually using cheese or breadcrumbs and cooked in a rich white or cheese sauce.

Au jus:To serve with the natural juices or gravy.

Basting: To brush or spoon liquid fat or juices over meat during roasting. Adds flavour and will prevent it from drying out.

Batter: A mixture of flour, fat and liquid that is thin enough in consistency to require a pan to encase it. Used in such preparations as cakes and some cookies. A batter is different from dough, which maintains its shape.

Beat: To smooth a mixture by briskly whipping or stirring it up with a spoon, fork, wire whisk, rotary beater or electric mixer.

Bechamel: A rich white sauce infused with milk, herbs and butter.

Bind: To thicken a sauce or hot liquid by stirring in ingredients such as eggs, flour, butter or cream.

Blanch: To boil briefly to loosen the skin of a fruit or a vegetable. After 30 seconds in boiling water, the fruit or vegetable should be plunged into ice water to stop the cooking action and then the skin easily slices or peels off.

Braise: A cooking technique that requires browning meat in oil or other fat and then cooking slowly in liquid. The effect of braising is to tenderise the meat.


Broth (Stock) : A flavoursome liquid made by gently cooking meat, seafood or vegetables (and/or their by-products, such as bones and trimming) often with herbs, in liquid (usually water).

Brown: A quick saute, pan/oven broiling or grilling method done either at the beginning or end of meal preparation, often to enhance flavour, texture or eye appeal.

Brush: Using a pastry brush to coat a food such as meat or bread with melted butter, glaze or other liquid.

Butterfly: To cut open a food such as pork chops down the centre without cutting all the way through and then spread apart.

Caramelise: Browning sugar over a flame with or without the addition of some water to aid the process.

Cream:To beat vegetable shortening, butter or margarine, with or without sugar, until light and fluffy. This process traps in air bubbles, later used to create height in cookies and cakes.

Cure: To preserve or add flavour with a soaking ingredient, usually salt, spices and/or sugar is used.

Dash: A measure approximately equal to 1/16 teaspoon.

Dust:To sprinkle food lightly with spices, sugar or flour. A light coating of food.

Fillet : To remove the bones from meat or fish.

Fold: To cut and mix lightly with a spoon to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.

Glaze : A liquid that gives an item a shiny surface. Examples are fruit jams that have been heated or chocolate thinned with melted vegetable shortening.

Infuse: To soak herbs, teas or fruits in liquid to extract their flavors.


Julienne:  To cut vegetables into matchstick-sized strips.

Knead: To work dough with the heels of your hands in a pressing and folding motion until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Marinate: Coat or immerse foods in an acidic-based liquid or dry rub, to tenderise and add flavour before cooking and eating.

Mince: To chop into very fine pieces.

Moisten: Adding enough liquid to dry ingredients to dampen but not soak them.

Water Bath or Bain Marie
Water Bath or Bain Marie     

Parboil: To partially cook in boiling or simmering water.

Pare: To remove skin or rind with knife.

Pinch: Half the amount of a dash.

Poach: To simmer in liquid.

Reduce: To cook liquids down so that some of the water evaporates.

Roast (Bake): To cook foods by surrounding them with hot, dry air, usually adding a small amount of oil (in an oven or covered BBQ).

Saute: To cook  food quickly in a small amount of oil in a skillet or frying pan over direct heat.

Score: To tenderise meat by making a number of shallow (often diagonal) cuts across its surface.

Sear: Sealing in a meat’s juices by cooking it quickly under very high heat.

Simmer: Cooking food in a liquid at a low enough temperature so that small bubbles begin to break the surface. A very low boil.

Sweat:  To cook in small amount of fat over low heat, usually covered.

Water bath:  Also known as Bain-marie. A gentle cooking technique in which a container is set into a pan of simmering water.

Whip: To incorporate air into ingredients such as cream or egg whites by beating them until light and fluffy.

Whisk: To mix or fluff by beating.

Zest: The thin brightly coloured outer part of the rind of citrus fruits.

What other cooking terms do you know that we haven’t included? Let us know in the comments below!

About Author

Nicole Millard

Nicole is Stay at Home Mum's amazeballs Social Media Manager. She has a wicked sense of humour and terrible taste in sandals. Her temper is legendar...Read Morey and she has the two cutest kids in the entire planet - and the tallest husband! She was a Gympie girl but now resides in Brisvegas and likes a good wine or two! Read Less

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