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Kitchen Notes


by Michael Chu
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I find that whenever you're discussing a topic with or trying to explain something to others, it's best to have a common vocabulary. This is true in the kitchen as much as it is in the professional world. Here is my kitchen dictionary, compiled from the top of my head, the internet, and various cookbooks.

Al dentePasta that is fully cooked on the outside and slightly underdone on the inside. The pasta should give slight resistance when bitten into, but not hard or overly soft.
BakeTo cook food in an oven. Baking large or whole pieces of food is generally referred to as roasting.
Bake blindAlso blind baking. To bake a crust without a filling. This step is used to solify the crust so the later addition of filling will not soak into the crust to make it soggy or less structurally sound.
BarbequeTo slowly cook food on a covered grill. Barbeque is a grilling style.
BlanchTo plunge food into boiling water briefly, then into cold or ice water to halt the cooking process.
BoilTo cook food in a liquid heated to the point where large bubbles break the surface. A rolling boil is when the bubbles cannot be dissipated by stirring. At sea level, 212°F
BraiseTo cook food by first browning in oil followed by a long simmer partially in a liquid. This technique is most often used on meats that are tough when cooked for short periods of time and need the longer cooking time to break down connective tissue.
BroilTo cook food directly under the heat source. Typically refers to placing food immediately under an oven broiler.
BrothThe liquid resulting from boiling vegetables or meat in water.
BrunoiseTo cut into cubes of 1/8 inch. Usually, begin with a julienne and cut the strips into small cubes.
Chef's knifeThe main knife of the French kitchen. A versatile cutting instrument capable of fine control (capable of cutting a vegetable into a brunoise) and with enough strength to hack through bones.
ChiffonadeTo cut into thin shreds. Usually applied to leafy vegetables or herbs.
ChopA cutting motion that involves pressing the edge of the blade straight through the object. In a recipe, this refers to cutting into rough chunks.
CoreThe center of a fruit or the removal of the center of a fruit.
CutThe act of seperating a large object into small parts. Usually performed with a knife or other sharp object (blades of a food processor).
DashAbout 1/16 teaspoon or 1/2 pinch.
Deep fryTo cook food by submerging it completely in hot fat.
DeglazeTo heat a small amount of liquid with the intention of removing browned bits of food left from pan frying. This step is performed after the food and excess fat has been removed. The liquid is often wine or stock and the resulting mixture is used as a base for a sauce to accompany the pan fried food.
DiceTo cut into equal sized cubes. Depending on the application, the cubes can be as small as 1/4 inch or as large as 3/4 inch. Usually performed by cutting into the object parallel to the board, then cutting length wise along the object, and finished by cutting across the previous cuts to form cubes. This technique keeps the object together as long as possible to minimize cuts.
FatIn cooking, usually refers to oil or butter. In food preparation, refers to, well, fat.
FoldTo gently combine an aerated mixture with a heavier mixture. A rubber spatula is used to cut through the mixture and up the side of the bowl to bring the mixture on the bottom to the top. The bowl is rotated 90° and the motion repeated.
FondThe browned pieces of meat left on a traditional pan after pan frying.
FryTo cook food in hot fat over moderate to high heat. See deep fry and pan fry.
GrillTo cook food on a metal grate set over a heat source. Commonly referred to incorrectly as barbeque.
JulienneFood is cut into strips about 1 to 2 inches long and 1/8 in. by 1/8 in.
MinceTo chop very finely. Usually performed with a rocking motion with a chef's knife.
Nonstick cookwarePots and pans coated with a chemical layer that reduces or eliminates bonding between the metal and the food. Requires that non-metal utensils are used in cantact with the cookware.
PanCookware that has at minimum one long handle (may have additional handles). Typically, it is shallow. A lid is optional.
Pan fryTo cook food in hot fat in a skillet or fry pan over moderate to heat heat. Usually uses more fat than a saute. Typically the objective of a pan fry is searing or fond.
ParbakeTo cook partially in the oven.
ParboilTo cook food partially by boiling it briefly in water. Typically, you would use a blanch to parboil food. The technique is used to prepare dense foods for cooking with more delicate foods so that all the ingredients are done cooking at the same time.
PareTo remove the skin or outer layer of fruits or vegetables. Usually performed with a paring knife or vegetable peeler.
Paring knifeA small knife usually constructed in the same shape as a chef's knife but dimensionally reduced. Used for paring, cutting small objects, or activities that need more precision than a chef's knife is capable of.
PinchTo squeeze together tightly with fingertips. Measurement: about 1/8 teaspoon.
PoachTo gently cook food in liquid just below the boiling point. The surface of the liquid should be moving, but not producing bubbles yet. Between 160190°F to 180190°F.
PotCookware that has two handles and a lid. If it has a long handle then it may be referred to as a pan. Typically, it is deep.
PreheatTo increase the temperature of an oven to the desired baking temperature prior to the insertion of food.
ReduceTo boil a liquid until the volume is reduced. The final product is referred to as a reduction.
RoastGenerally, to cook food in an oven in an uncovered pan. This term is usually used for whole or large pieces of food. Oven cooking chopped pieces of food is usually referred to as baking.
SaucepanA round pan with a long handle, tight fitting cover, and relatively deep. Extremely versitle, but used best for making soups and sauces, boiling, and braising.
SauteTo cook food in a saute pan over direct heat with a little fat. The objective is to cook the food quickly and with enough space and movement to allow most of the excess moisture to evaporate. It's not a saute if the food is simmering in its own juices. By the way, saute means "jump" in French and is named for the tossing technique used to keep the food moving and evenly cooked.
ScaldTo heat a liquid until just below its boiling point. When referring to non-liquids, to plunge vegetables into boiling water to loosen the skin. See also blanch.
SieveAlso called a strainer, this device has a mesh or perforated bottom and is used to sift dry ingredients or strain liquids.
SimmerTo cook gently in a liquid at a temperature low enough to just barely produce tiny bubbles that break the surface. About 185-195°F.
SliceA cutting motion that involves drawing the edge of the blade, with pressure, along and through the object. This is an efficient cut.
Smoke pointThe temperature at which a fat begins to break down and produce smoke and harsh smells. The fat should not be used once its smoke point has been reached. Smoke point lowers for a fat everytime it is heated.
SteamTo cook over boiling water such that the food is cooked by the vapors.
Stir fryTo cook food in a large pan over very high heat while constantly stirring the food. Traditionally the pan used is a wok.
StockThe strained liquid from cooking vegetables or meat and seasonings in water.
StrainTo pour liquid through a filter with the intention of removing particles in the liquid. A sieve or cheesecloth is often used as the filter. Also, this term refers to pressing solid matter through a sieve to produce a pureed texture (as in baby food).
Traditional cookwareRefers to any pot or pan that is not non-stick. The preferred traditional pan has a stainless steel interior and either an aluminum core or is aluminum clad. Proper preheating of the cookware and using a little oil before adding food will have a non-stick result. However, eggs and fish will probably stick no matter what - use a non-stick pan for those.
WokA multipurpose pan with round bottom and sloping sides. Non-stick woks with flat bottoms are popular for use in America because of the flat stovetop. With American stoves, it is often difficult to produce good stir fry with a wok because the sloping sides cool too quickly.
ZestThe aromatic outermost layer of skin on a citrus fruit. The white pith is not part of the zest. Can be removed from fruit with a paring knife, but is easiest removed by a Microplane Zester (or a woodworking rasp).

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Written by Michael Chu
Published on June 10, 2004 at 09:36 PM
6 comments on Glossary:(Post a comment)

On February 17, 2006 at 04:13 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Also, another useful definition is parbake, which means to partially bake, typically in the case of dough for breads or (in my case) deep-dish pizza dough. Anyone who's bitten into pizza with half-crispy, half-uncooked-dough crust would probably agree that parbaking goes a long way to improving the quality of the meal. Speaking of which, I'd be interested to see a deep-dish pizza recipe...

On February 17, 2006 at 04:13 AM, Michael Chu said...
In baking of crusts, this term is also used interchangably with baking blind or blind baking. I'll add them to the glossary.

Regarding the deep dish pizza, you may have to wait a while, but that is on my bin list of potential topics.

On February 17, 2006 at 04:14 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Hi. I'm British and I stumbled across this site from the BBC website.

Loving the site, although I just wanted to point out that this glossary would require an international edition :)

According to the Cambridge Dictionary:

Grill : to cook something by direct heat, especially under a very hot surface in a cooker (aka Broil in the US).

Grill (2) : a frame of metal bars over a fire on which food can be put to be cooked.

Barbeque : a metal frame on which meat, fish or vegetables are cooked outside over a fire, or a meal prepared using such a frame (this is both the UK and Australia definition).

Cheers, Anonymous (as I haven't bothered to register yet)

On February 17, 2006 at 04:14 AM, Michael Chu said...
Definitions of cooking terms change when you move from one region to another (and sometimes the dictionary provides the "common" definition while the term may have a very specific definition to chefs). This glossary is here to have a glossary for some of the terms that I'll be using in my articles - by no means a definitive collection.

On February 17, 2006 at 04:15 AM, an anonymous reader said...
As suggested by your British donor, the term "barbecue" tends to open the door to controversy. I suggest you consider (commercial) Smoking (90 to 150 deg.F for extended time periods), Barbecuing (approximately 15 to 24 hrs at 225 deg.F), and Grilling (essentially high-heat cooking although there are Direct and Indirect methods).

On February 16, 2007 at 12:08 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Braising
You should add the definition of "braising" to the glossary. It is used in the definition of "saucepan", but it is never defrined.

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