The Most Common Cooking Terms and Techniques: Improve Your Skills

Restaurant Kitchen for Common Cooking Terms and Techniques

I want to take some time and go through some common cooking terms and techniques because when you are first learning to cook, this can be a foreign language to you.

And I don’t want you to get discouraged if you start looking at recipes and start thinking that you have no idea what they are talking about.

Now, you can always google something if you are going through a recipe and don’t know what a technique is.

But here I want to go through the most common terms to help make you feel comfortable enough in knowing what recipes are asking you to do.

Importance of Common Cooking Terms & Techniques

Don’t gloss over this section.

I know it might not seem important and you want to get to the meat of the post, but it is important to understand why these cooking terms and techniques are important before we move forward.

1. Understanding

Recipe on an iPad

These cooking terms and techniques are used in pretty much every style of cooking.

By grasping these, you will be able to read and understand most recipes.

There is nothing worse than reading a recipe you want to try and getting to a term or a technique that you have never heard of.

“They want me to dredge this? What the heck is that”.

It can be frustrating, and it brings me into my next reason.

2. Experience

Bowl of Noodles Over a Flame- Common Cooking Terms and Techniques

If you don’t understand these terms and techniques, you are going to shy away from recipes that use them.

That means your experience is going to be very limited.

When you limit yourself, cooking is not as fun. And you get bored with eating the same thing all the time.

This leads to not cooking.

Now, you may be just learning to cook, so not knowing these terms are ok and expected.

But you have to be able to step outside your comfort zone to expand your abilities.

These are going to give you a strong foundation for cooking.

3. Learning

Fried Egg with Toast, Bacon, Sauce, and Salad

The experience and foundation you build here is going to help you learn more about cooking down the line as well.

These common cooking terms and techniques are going to be building blocks for you.

Shortly, you are going to learn about them. Then you need to put them into practice.

After that, you will have a much stronger cooking ability and be able to take on more challenging recipes.

4. Confidence

Fancy Plate of Food

This is the final reason what we are talking about here is so important.

Confidence.

Feeling a certain way about something. Knowing that you can pick a recipe and be able to make it.

This is an area many people struggle in because they are afraid to just try something without knowing how it will turn out.

Confidence in the kitchen is something you want to grow as much as possible.

It is going to give you passion and joy for cooking.

Think about that for a minute. When you are good at doing something, don’t you usually enjoy doing it?

Whatever reason you want to learn to cook for, such as losing weight or being healthier, building that confidence is going to be key in making you stick with it.

Common Cooking Terms & Techniques

Dictionary for Common Cooking Terms and Techniques

Now that you understand the importance of common cooking terms and techniques, we can get into what they are.

I want to point out that now is a great time to save this post or get my free printable here of just the cooking terms and techniques.

This is going to be a great help to you later on when you need to reference it.

Al dente

This usually refers to pasta and it is when you cook it until just firm. This can include vegetables as well.

To cook pasta al dente, cook it for 6 or 7 minutes. Then try tasting a piece of the pasts. If it is still crunchy, cook it at 30 second intervals until it’s firm but not crunchy.

Veggies will take about 5-10 minutes depending on what kind of vegetable you have.

Bake/Roast

Surrounding your food with a consistent temperature on all sides. The entire oven reaches a certain temperature. Typically, you cook the food in an oven using dry heat.

Bake or Roasted Chicken for Common Cooking Terms and Techniques

Baste

Moisten food while cooking it by spooning, squirting, or brushing a liquid, such as stock, onto the food to add flavor and prevent it from drying out.

Basting

Beat

In a circular motion, rapidly whisk, spoon, or use a mixer to create a smooth mixture.

Blanching

A technique used to cook veggies just enough without leaving them mushy or discolored.

Steps to Blanching:

1.  Prepare an ice bath- put water and ice into a large bowl.

2. Heat a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Use about 1 gallon of water per pound of food to be blanched.

3. Add salt to the water. Make sure it is very salty.

4. Immerse the food in the boiling water until cooked.

5. Drain and transfer food to the ice bath to quickly cool.

6. Once cool, remove food from ice bath and pat dry.

How To Blanch Vegetables

Boil

In reference to liquid- to reach or cause to reach the temperature at which it bubbles and turns to vapor.

In reference to food- to cook or be cooked by immersing in boiling water or stock.

Braise

First, cook the food in butter or oil until brown, then gently simmering in a small amount of liquid over low heat for a long period of time in a covered pan until tender.

Broil

Expose your food to direct heat on a rack or spit. Typically, you place the food on the top rack of your oven to get direct heat, cooking the food quickly. This is often used for melting food like cheese. A typical broiler reaches around 550F.

Brown

Usually done on the stove-top over high heat to brown food.

Caramelize

Heat up sugar until it liquefies and becomes a syrup. You can also caramelize other foods, such as onions or fruit, and is meant to get a brown color and sweet flavor out of the food.

Chop

To cut food into large pieces, generally ½ to ¾ inch.

Cream

Beat ingredients together (usually sugar and a fat) until smooth and fluffy.

Dash

1/8 teaspoon.

Diced

Cut into small squares typically 1/4 to 1/8 inch. When you dice, you want to make your pieces a consistent size so that they cook evenly.

Diced Tomatoes, Peppers, and Onions

Dredge

Lightly coat uncooked food with a dry mixture, like flour, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs. After it is dredged, the food is typically pan fried or sautéed.

Dress

Coat foods with a sauce, much like you would a salad or wings.

Drizzle

To pour liquid back and forth over a dish in a fine stream, usually melted butter, oil, syrup, or melted chocolate.

Dust

Coat food lightly with a powdery ingredient, such as confectioners’ sugar or cocoa. Think of dusting French toast with powdered sugar.

Fillet

Cut the meat away from the bone. This refers to a piece of meat, poultry, or fish.

Flambé

To drizzle a flammable liquor over a food while its cooking. It is then ignited just before serving.

How To Flambe

Fold

When you combine light ingredients, such as whipped cream or beaten eggs whites, with a heavier mixture, using an over-and-under motion.

Grease

Coat the interior of a pan or dish with shortening, oil, or butter to prevent food from sticking during cooking.

Julienne

Cut food, such as vegetables, into long, thin matchstick-like strips about 1/16 to 1/8 inch.

Knead

The process of mixing dough into a uniform mass using the hands or a mixer.

Marinate

Soak food in a sauce or flavored liquid for a long period of time. This is usually done to a meat, poultry or fish.

Minced

Cut food into as small of pieces as possible. You will see this done often with garlic.

Minced Garlic

Pan Fry

Cook larger chunks of food over medium heat, flipping once only. Flipping it only once helps keep the food moist and tender.

Pinch

1/6 Teaspoon. You can also use your fingers to grab a pinch of the ingredient.

Poaching 

This involves gently cooking something in simmering liquid between 140F to 180F. This typically refers to delicate items such as eggs or fish.

How to Poach:

1. Bring the poaching liquid (water, stock, or whatever the recipe calls for) to a boil on the stove.

2. Add whatever you are poaching to the pot. The liquid should cover it by about an inch.

3.Reduce heat to just below a simmer. The liquid shouldn’t be bubbling but the surface will appear to ripple.

4. Cook thoroughly.

How to Poach an Egg

Purée

To mash or grind food until it is completely smooth. A good example of this would be baby food.

Sauté

This is a French term meaning “to jump”. Sautéing involves cooking uniformly cut ingredients at a high heat with oil, often without letting them sit in the pan for too long.

Steps to Sauté:

1.       Cut ingredients uniformly to ensure they cook evenly.

2.       Add 2 -3 teaspoons of oil to the sauté pan.

3.        Preheat the pan on medium-high heat.

4.        Add ingredients.

5.        Reduce heat to medium.

6.        Cook thoroughly, keeping ingredients in constant motion in the pan.

How to Saute Onions

Sear

To brown the surface of meat by quick-cooking over high heat. This will help to seal in the meat’s juices.

Shred

Done on a grater with larger holes, resulting in long, smooth stripes to cook or melt.

Shredding Cheese Common Cooking Terms and Techniques

Simmer

Bring a pot to a boil, then reduce the heat until there are no bubbles.

Sliced 

A vertical cut down the length of the food. Unless the recipe specifies, you can cut it as thick or thin as you like.

Sliced Apple

Smidgen

1/32 teaspoon.

Steam

To cook food on a rack or in a steamer set over boiling or simmering water.

Steep

To soak a dry ingredient in a liquid just under the boiling point to extract the flavor, much like you would do with tea.

Steep Tea For Common Cooking Terms and Techniques

Stew

Cook food covered over low heat in a liquid for a long period of time.

 Whip

To beat food with a whisk or mixer to incorporate air and increase volume.

How to Make Whipped Cream

Whisk

To beat ingredients with a fork or a whisk.

Zest

Shaving the outer, colored peel of a citrus fruit. Typically done with a zester as shown below.

Buy Here

The Takeaway

Steak, Butter, Garlic, Peppercorn, Salt, and Knife on a Cutting Board

We have covered a lot of different common cooking terms and techniques in this post.

So many so that is might seem a little overwhelming.

Always keep in mind that you are working on your understanding to gain experience, learn, and build your confidence in the kitchen.

You might read through these definitions several times and still forget what it means when you come across it in a recipe.

So, be sure to save this post, go to my printables page or click here to save a copy of these common cooking terms and techniques.

Common Cooking Terms and Techniques
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Published by Amy

I have always had a strong passion for health and fitness, as well as helping others. So much so, that I went on to receive my Level 1 Precision Nutrition Certification. My goal is to help others feel at their best! I know it can be a struggle to reach your fitness goals, whether it is losing weight, getting in shape, or improving your overall health. I want to help you reach your goals and find what works best for you so you can stick to it! Let's work on making you Happy Healthy and Strong!

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