Food Term Dictionary
So you’ve probably come into one our events full of excitement, then as the chef demos the food, you’re confronted with words you couldn’t either understand or pronounce.
Don’t fret! We’ve listed the most common terms our chefs use in the kitchens (and they’ve forgotten to translate – again!).
A La Carte – Loosely translated to ‘off the cart’. The modern interpretation is that food/drinks are ordered from the menu and is not part of set menu.
Delving into history, early restaurants oftens had no menus – proprietors often only served what was available and diners did not have a choice. Later on as more affluent restaurants decided give their customer more choices in a form of a ‘cart’ that would be rolled by the waiter. The customer would most often order literally off the cart.
Acid – A substance that is normally sour, required to counteract alkaline liquids. Foods like citrus juice, vinegar and wine that have sharp our sour flavours.
Additive – Substances/chemicals which are added to foods to preserve or prolong foods for longer period of time. The could improve appearance, texture, flabour and/or nutritional value.
Aerate – To incorporate air into foods done by sifting, mixing and/or whisking.
Ageing – A term normally used for meat. This technique normally lets cuts (or the whole carcass) of meat to hang to let it drain of blood, moisture and let rest.
Al Dente – Cooking your pasta to a point where it still has a little bite into the texture. Essentially Means ‘to the tooth’ not overcooking it.
Au Gratin – Simply refers to dishes having a brown crusted top of cheese, breadcumbs or sauce. Typically broilled under a salamander.
Au Jus – Simple refers to dishes being served with Jus. Refer to ‘Jus’
Bain Marie – A method of cooking that involved indirect heat via water (predominantly steam). Using a pot of steaming (non boiling water) with a mixing bowl sitting is usually how its done. Loosely translated as “Marie’s Bath”.
Baking – A cooking methods in which foods are cooked in a closed dry heat environment sans fat.
Baking Powder – A powder that mixture of sodium bicarbonate and/or cream of tartar of sodium aluminium sulphate. It is a leavening (raising) agent in baking. It releases carbon dioxide in the presence of moisture. Double acting baking powder may releave CO2 in contact with moisure and addition gas in realeased when heat is applied.
Ballontine – A term traditionally used referred to a bone thigh part of poutry with forcemeat. Now normally refers to parts of meat being often shaped into a sausage or re-formed to look like a chicken leg, often with the bone left in the middle.
Basic Mother Sauce – Refer to Mother Sauces.
Baste – In order to keep meat moist at all time, this is process in which, you at intervals lather the meat with sauce, marinade and/or fats. This can be done with a brush or simply just spooning the pan juices over the roasting meat.
Beat – (or whisk) Normally a term associated with eggs. It is a technique in which a whisk or a fork is used to incorporate the yolk and eggs until the mixture is one homogenous liquid. Fluffy (with air bubbles) or not is up to the recipe.
Bechamel – Pronouced as ‘Be-sha-mhel’ (french) is one of the mother sauces in modern french cuisine. It is traditionally a mixture of roux and dairy (cream or milk).
Beurre Blanc – Pronouced as ‘Beeur-Blunk’ is a emulsified butter sauce of butter, sallot and white wine.
Beurre Manie – Pronouced as ‘Beeur-Mani’ is equal amouts of flour and soft butter whisk into a simmering sauce to either or both thicken and add sheen or added flavour boost.
Beurre Noir – Pronouced as ‘Beeur-Noah’ is loosely translated as ‘black butter’ but essential butter than has been cooked until dark brown.
Bisque – Pronouced as ‘Bisk’ is a pureed or high flavoured soup of crustacean shells. They may or may not be thickened and/or reduced for consistency.
Blanch – To quickly drop foods into hot rapid boiling water for a short period of time (depending on the food). Depending on recipes, food is then removed from the boiling water and dipped into ice cold water. Refer to ‘Refresh’.
Bouquet Garni – Pronouced as ‘Boo-Kay Gah-ni’ is a bunch of herbs encashed in a stick of celery and tied or in a herb (mulin) bag used of flavouring soups, stocks or sauces.
Butterfly (cut) – To slice a piece of meat; so as to ‘flatten’ or where the side are spread out.
Brine – A mixtue of water, salt and flavouring usually used to preserve food by submerging them in the mixture for long periods of time. Also used to increase moisture content in meats.
Brunoise – Pronounced as ‘Bruh-nwah’ (french) – is a culinary knife cut term in which food in cut into precise cube measurements.
Chiffonade – Pronounced as ‘Shiffon-nad’ (french) is a culinary knife term in which leafy vegetables are sliced into thin strips.
Chinoise – Pronouced as ‘Shi-Noar’ is a conical strainer, normally built out of metal.
Chop – Simple to cut foods! You might require it to be ‘rough’ or ‘fine’ depending on the recipe at hand.
Confit – Pronouced as ‘Con-fee’ (french) is a cooking in which the food is stewed slowly in fat. This is also a way preservation.
Coulis – Pronouced as ‘Coo-li’ (french) is a sauce made out of the puree of vegetables or fruit.
Court Bouillon – Pronouced as ‘Cour-Boolion’ (french) is a liquid simmered with vegetable, seasoning or acid for use of simmer or poaching food.
Couveture – A term to describe the type of chocolate. Normally chocolate containing 32% of cocoa butter.
Crumb – A descripton of a method to add a skin of flour, eggs and breadcrumbs onto particlar foods either to be baked, shallow fried or deep fried.
Deglaze – The process of adding water, stock or wine to a hot pan/baking tray to dislodge fon to create flavoured liquid.
Dice – To cut food into neat cubes! Refer to ‘Brunoise’
Doneness – The level of which the meats is being cooked (degree of doneness). For beef steak; the common range is : bleu, rare, medium rare, medium, medium well done, well done aka. ruined.
Dredge – To coat the foods in seasoned flour or breadcrumbs prior to frying.
Dress – 1. To trim or clean an animal for cooking 2. To add a flavoured liquid to salads to increase flavour and/or texture.
Dry Ageing – Similar to ageing, however, cuts of meat are allowed to continuously hang or sit (with or without salt crust) in a temperature, moisture controlled environment with alot of air flow for prolong periods of time. Up to 300 days are not uncommon for the meat to be dry-aged. This technique is used to enhance the flavour of the meat or improve the texture. Typical ‘water’/moisture loss is 40%.
Emulsification – A chemical process of mixing fat and water together though chemicals, techniques or applied heat. Essentially fat is suspended in water to create a homogenous liquid.
Espagnole – Pronouces as ‘As-Pag-Noll’ is one of the mother sauces in modern french cooiking. The sauce is typically a mixture of roux and brown stock.
Fold – The mixing or ‘folding’ technique requires the user to often a large spoon or a rubber spatula to incorporate two delicate mixtures (often whisked eggs or whipped cream) without the loss of incorporated air in either of the mixtures and/or breaking down (liquefying) of said mixtures.
Fond – Refers to the caramelised stuck food particles at the bottom of a pan or a roasting tray.
Garnish – Edible decorative or embelissments that are used to make food visually more appealing.
Hollandaise – Pronouced as ‘Holendeiz’ is one of the mother sauce is modern frech cusine. Is typically made out of egg yolks, clarified butter and an acid (either lemon or vinegar) over warm bain marie.
Julienne – Pronounced as ‘Juie-anne’ (french) – is a culinary knife cut terms that refers to food cut into ‘matchsticks’ of varying demension. Nomrally refer to (3mm x 3mm x 5cm).
Jus – Pronounced as ‘Zjoo’ (french) – a light gravy made with the liquid drippings of roasted meats. In its simplest form; it is simple the unthickened pan drippings.
Jus Lie – Pronouced as ‘Zjoo-Li’ (french) or fond lie is a suace made by thicking brown stock with starch or roux with Jus.
Marinate/Marinade – A sauce or a liquid favouring made out of aromatics, spices and/or other flavouring to left to cover/soak foods. Foods maybe left marinating from anywhere from a few minutes to a few days! Its always kept in the fridge though.
Maryland – Otherwise known as Chicken Maryland or Maryland Chicken. In the US and UK, this term is known as chicken dish – typically containing some type of fried chicken. In Australia, it simply refers to a butcher’s cut of chicken consisting of the chicken thigh and drumstick.
Mash – A process of which (using a mouli, masher, food processor) to crush food into very small particles. Sometime it may also reiquire the foods to be passed through a sieve for consistentcy.
Mince – To cut or grind food into very small particles.
Mirepoix – Pronouced as ‘Me-ere-Phua’ (french) is the basic medly of chopped vegetables used in modern french cuisine. The mixture typically includes, onion, carrots and celery. Leeks are often considered part of this mix.
Mise en place – Pronouces as ‘Miz-an-Plas’ (french) loosely translates as, “everything in its place” is a common chef’s term for describing all prepatory work he/she has to complete before starting ‘service’.
Mother Sauces – Also known as basic sauces, it is the classic foundation of a hot sauces for modern french cuisine. The 5 mother sauces are: Bechemel, Veloute, Espagnole, Tomato and Hollandaise. Most other sauces in french cuisine are a derivative of these sauces.
Offcuts – Bits and pieces off food trimmings which are not used for the main focus of the dish.
Parcooking – To partially cook foods to be finished/completed later. Normally used for convinience.
Plating – The process of dishing up the food on a plate. Normally foods will be presented on a plate to make is a visually appealing as possible. The use or ganishes for decoration is common.
Poach – A method of cookery that requires foods to be lowered into a simmering liquid. It is generally ‘gentle’ method of cookery. The liquid can be flavoured – but generally is into keep food moist.
Puree – Pronouced as “Pew-ray” (french) – is a culinary to term to ‘mash’ or ‘blitz’ the food to small particles. This is normally done with a food processor.
Refresh – To refresh means to soak the food into cold water (preferably ice water) to replenish lost moisture in the food and/or cool down (stop cooking) the particular food.
Render – To transform solid fat into liquid form by application of heat.
Ricer – A tool that ‘presses’ foods through a sieve like mesh to crush and break foods into small pieces.
Risoni – A type a ‘rice’ shaped pasta often cooked in Italy for children although enjoyed by adults alike.
Roux – Pronounced as ‘Rue’ (french) – is a thickener in a form a paste consisting of cooking flour and fat in equal measurements. Commonly used fats are: butter, oil, meat fat drippings or lard.
The three types of roux are white (no colour), blonde (yellow tinge) and brown (slightly caramelised).
Sabayon – Pronouced as “Saba-Yawn” (french) is sweet dessert sauce made of egg yolks and sugar over heat until thickened.
Salamander – A broiler oven where the heating element is set on the roof on the machine. It is used to quickly brown, cook, broil the top of foods.
Saute – Prounouced as ‘Saw-teh’ (french) – is a culinary cooking term in which foods are briefly cooked over high heat. This is similar to stir-frying.
Sear – To quickly brown the food for colour.
Season – This normally refer to salt and pepper. Normally, most chef will season their foods just before plating.
Service – The common time in which the kitchen is open to serve food. This is usually the most hectic time of the kitchen’s day.
Soccarat – Pronouced as ‘So-karrat’ (Spanish) – usually refers to the bottom caramelised layer of fat & sugars found at the bottom of the paella pan. Similar to Fond.
Soffritto – Italian for Sofrito. See Sofrito
Sofrito – Pronouced as ‘Soft-freeto’ (Spanish) refers to a medly (often onions, garlic, tomato and spices) cooked until a sauce or paste consistency. This forms the base flavours for multiple dishes.
Stir-fry – An asian culinary technique that foods are briefly cooking over high heat with a small ‘pool’ of oil in a wok.
Stock – Essentially a flavoured liquid. Stocks are generally prepared by simmering meat, bones, vegetable in water with or without wine. They are generally classified into white stock (chicken, vegetable, fish, seafood) or brown stock (roasted meat bones or dark meats).
Sweat – To cook food with the omission of colouring the food, usually over low heat to intensify the foods flovour by dehydration.
Tempering – To slowly add warm/hot liquids into eggs while vigorously stirring/whisking the mixture to equalize the temperature without curdling the eggs.
Tomato Sauce – There are three current definitions of this:
1. One of the mother sauces in modern french cuisine. Typically made out of roux and liquidize tomatoes.
2. Italian tomato sauces are a mix of mirepoix and reduced tomatoes with herbs.
3. Process tomatoes sauces commonly available at the shops.
Truss – Typically the process of tying, binding or securing the wings and legs of a fowl (eg. Chicken, Duck) with butcher’s twine or string.
Veloute – Pronouced as ‘Vah-loo-te’ is one of the mother sauces in modern in french cuisine. It is typically a sauce made out of the roux and white stock.
‘Wee’ Chef If you made it here – wait, did you seriously need to know what whisking was? OR did you just read this dictionary in alphabetical order? Either way – congrats!
Often you would hear ‘wee chef’ in professional kitchens, no, we don’t need to get to the toilet – its actually “Oui, Chef” or “Yes, Chef” in French. “Si, Chef” is often common in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese kitchens.
Whisking – With the use of a whisk, generally to incorporate foods together. Depending on recipes whisking my require to aerate the mixture.