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Know the lingo!

Knowing a few new terms can help you better understand recipes and be more comfortable cooking. Here are some of the most common words you will find.

  • Bake: cooking in the oven.
    • Usually used to describe the way you cook breads, cakes, cookies, and similar foods.
  • Braise: a way to make tough cuts of meat more tender.
    • First, brown the meat in a skillet on the stove.
    • Then add a small amount of liquid, and cover the skillet with a lid or aluminum foil.
    • Cook using low heat, in the oven, or in a slow cooker with a lid, until the meat is tender.
  • Boil: cooking a liquid on the stove, or cooking something in a liquid, until many large bubbles quickly and continuously appear all over the surface.
  • Caramelize: The process of "sautéing" (see below) a meat, fruit, or vegetable until their natural sugar begins to brown.
    • Allow an item to sit undisturbed in a saute pan to speed up the caramelization process.
    • Stir only occasionally, without allowing food item to burn.
  • Chop: cutting into pieces.
  • Cream: stirring or mixing ingredients fast and hard, by hand or with an electric mixer, until they are soft and creamy.
    • You may see this in a recipe for a cake or cookies, which will say to cream the butter and sugar together.
  • Dice: cutting into small cubes, about ¼ to ½ inch in size.
  • Mince: cutting into tiny pieces, even smaller than dicing.
  • Poach: gently cooking on the stove in a liquid like water, milk, wine, or stock (not oil).
    • The liquid should not be hot enough to boil.
  • Roast: cooking uncovered in the oven.
    • Usually used to describe the way you cook meat and vegetables.
  • Sauté: cooking in a small amount of oil or butter on the stove on medium to high heat, stirring often.
  • Simmer: cooking in a liquid just below boiling point on the stove, usually over low or medium-low heat.
    • Small bubbles appear in the liquid, but they don’t appear as quickly or continuously as in boiling.
  • Stir-fry: cooking ingredients in a small amount of oil on the stove over high heat.
    • The ingredients are usually cut all the same size so they cook quickly and evenly.
    • You stir-fry by lifting and turning ingredients with a spoon or spatula during the stir-fry process.
  • Whip: stirring or mixing ingredients together fast and hard, until they are light and fluffy.
    • You can do this with a fork, a whisk, or an electric mixer.

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.