Bonus Post: Glossary of Cooking Terms

Bonus Post:  Glossary of Cooking Terms

I went to culinary school for a very brief semester in my 20s.  This post is just going to share with you some essential, some interesting cooking terms of things I do a lot in the kitchen.  Sometimes we do things all the time and don’t know the real term for them, so I’m going to define a lot of them here. 

This post will be ongoing as I think of more terms to add.

Al Dente:  In Italian, it literally means “to the tooth.”  When cooking pasta, it’s cooking it just long enough to be done, but where it is still firm and has a good bite to it.

Berbere:  an Ethiopian spice mix that traditionally is a blend of chili peppers, cumin, garlic, coriander, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek.  It reminds me a little bit of a curry spice blend and also of a chili seasoning blend.  Try it on these recipes.

Blanching:  very briefly and partially cooking a food in boiling water.  For instance, when making Creamy Rice Casserole with Chicken and Broccoli, you blanch the broccoli before mixing into the casserole to soften the broccoli without fully cooking it.

Calabrian chili paste:  Hot spread sauce is a fiery blend of eggplant, mushrooms, chili peppers, sundried and fresh tomatoes, garlic, salt and vinegar (the brand I buy, Tutto Calabria, is a small producer in Calabria, Italy)

Chiffonade:  a term that refers to a way to cut leafy herbs or vegetables, especially fresh basil.  For this technique, you stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll them into a cigar shape.  Then you slice thinly to get very delicate pieces.  A basil chiffonade is usually added on top of the dish at the end, such as over eggs or a tomato salad.

Chinese Five Spice:  a blend of five spices that includes star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, and Szechuan peppercorns

a chiffonade of basil

Creaming:  a baking term.  This is the technique used to blend butter and sugar together before adding the wet ingredients.

Deglaze:  a technique includes using an acid (vinegar, citrus fruit, or alcohol) to scrape bits off a pan before making a sauce or gravy.  For instance, when searing Sweet Fire Pork Chops, you remove the pork chops from the pan.  To deglaze it, you pour white wine in the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan before adding the rest of the Sweet Fire sauce ingredients.

Mise en Place:   a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift.


The writer and chef Dan Charnas uses the concept of mise en place as a “philosophy” and “system” for what chefs believe and do, even going so far to call it an “ethical code.” In the kitchen, the phrase is used as a noun (i.e., the setup of the array of ingredients), a verb (i.e., the process of preparing) and a state of mind. All of these uses, however, refer to someone who knows to be well-prepared. (found on Wikipedia)

Panko breadcrumbs:  Japanese-style breadcrumbs, made without the crusts of bread

Parcook (aka parboil):  to boil (a piece of food) for a short time often before cooking it fully in another way.  For instance, in my Red Zin Bucatini, I parcook the pasta in water before finishing it in the Red Zin.

deglazing a pan with white wine

Ras El Hanout:  A North African and Middle Eastern spice blend that includes coriander, turmeric, cardamom, sea salt, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Slurry:  when making a soup, a slurry can be used to mix ingredients together that helps the soup blend.  For instance, when making West African Peanut Soup, you ladle some broth into the peanut butter and tomato pasta and mix those together separately before adding it all back to the soup.


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