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Kitchen Glossary

There are so many terms for cooking, it can sometimes get ridiculous. Below is a list of terms that should help you out.

If you cannot find a term, feel free to drop me a question at the Ask the Chef! page.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N |O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Al Dente

Al dente means that you cook your pasta just to the point where it is underdone. The idea here is that you would finish your item off in the sauce that you are making. When the two are mixed, the sauce goes into the pasta, cooking it to the point of perfection.

A lot of people assume that Al Dente means that you should serve the pasta like that. Slap them in the head. If your pasta is undercooked, don’t use words you do not understand. Pasta should be perfectly cooked when served, not Al Dente!

B

Ballotine

Traditionally a boned thigh part of the chicken, duck or other poultry stuffed with forcemeat and other ingredients. Served hot or cold. Think Turducken.

Braise

Cooking meat or vegetables in a covered or uncovered vessel over slow heat for a long period of time. This allows the gentle disbanding of tough fibers, allowing for a silky, tender final product. Here is a link to a blog that describes the steps in detail

Blanch

Sometimes you need to par-cook an item. This is usually done with hard fruits or vegetables. You plunge the item in boiling water, cook for a few minutes and then refresh them.

Blind Baking

Blind baking refers to pre-cooking your crust with baking weights so your crust does not end up a soggy mess. I prefer to use beans.

Bolster

The thick metal portion joining the handle to the blade.

Brunoise (BROON wazz)

A tiny dice, 1/8th inch thick. (3mm for you metric heads out there.)

C

Caramelize

A complex reaction of chemicals that brown the outside of the food. Usually caused by sugar’s reaction to heat.

Carry Over Cooking

When you remove something from cooking, the temperature will still rise as the meat (or other item) relaxes from the heat. That is carryover cooking. With roasts it can be as high as 20°F. Steaks and the like are usually around 5°F. That’s why you will want to pull the meats at a temperature below what your desired cooking temperature will be. (Example: Pull a large roast at 120°F if you desire a medium roast (140°F))

Culinarian

A cook, chef. Someone who cooks for a living.

Cut (from your shift)

A cook’s nightmare (or dream) depending on the status of rent money. When you are cut you are sent home before the end of your shift.

D

Deglaze

The act of adding an acidic liquid to the bottom of a pan to lift off any brown bits that may have accumulated from searing. Basically, you are recovering the bits of flavor at the bottom of the pan, and making your dishwasher happy at the same time. You just cannot buy that in a can.
Here is a short, crappy video showing what you do when you deglaze:

Doneness

How well a meat is cooked to, determined by temperature (think steak), or by how much it has broken down (like osso bucco).

Dice

Cut into a small cube, size varies depending on the name. It also varies depending on where you work. Your best bet is to figure out what size the chef wants when they ask you. A chef once asked me for brunoise mirepoix for soup garnish. When I returned with it, I found out that he really wanted a small dice instead. Arrgghhh!

Double Syrup

Double Syrup is Simple Syrup that has twice the weight of sugar to water. The ratio is 2:1.

E

F

Fine Brunoise (BROON wazz)

A tiny dice, 1/16th inch thick. (1.5mm for you metric heads out there.)

Food Cost

The magical two words that strike fear into the chef’s heart, and so it should yours. Simply, the cost of goods sold. (CoGS) The cost of the produce, meat, alcohol, (or any other item) required to make the food you served. It is part of the equation to determine whether your business is running well.
Truth is, the lower your overall food cost, the better.

Fond

You know the brown bits that lie at the bottom of your pan when you are searing something delicious? The name for that stuff is gold Fond. Those bits are important, so please, do not put them in the dish, deglaze them and get out that wonderful flavor!

G

H

Heel

The rear third of the blade, used for cutting with a downward force, where the weight of your hand and the blade cut through your food. An example is cutting through butternut squash. You use a downward thrust to get your knife through the squash.

Hone

A better term for Hone is to “steel” your knife. You are setting the burr on the edge back to a point so the knife remains sharp.

I

J

Julienne (julie ENN)

Cut into small strips, 1/8th x 1/8th x 2 1/2 inches thick. (3mm x 3mm x 6.5cm for you metric heads out there.) It can also mean to slice something up into strips. Tread carefully here, the meaning changes depending on where you work, and who you ask. Best just ask for what they really want.

K

L

Large Dice

Officially means to cut into a small cube (3/4 x 3/4 x 3/4 inch), but check with who you are working for, size varies depending on the their ideas.

M

Macerate

Macerating means to soften or break up a food using a liquid. In the case of berries, you add sugar to draw out the natural juices to further break them down. Sometimes alcohol is used, or even salt.

Medium Dice

Officially means to cut into a medium-sized cube (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 inch), but check with who you are working for, size varies depending on the their ideas.

Mise en Place

Literally means “everything in place.” Mise en place is getting yourself ready to do the task at hand. It is also a religion for some people.

N

O

Overused Item

This is the list of the overused items based from your inventory; your report card on how well you did in the last period. The item(s) on this list did not match what should have been used up based on your sales. For example, let’s pretend you started with 10 steaks. Your receipts show you sold 5, but you only had 1 left. In this case you would have used 9 steaks, but only sold 5. Your overuse would be 4 steaks that you need to account for.

P

Purée

Purée can either mean blending food to a liquid (think smoothie), or mashing food to a pulp. (Like mashed potatoes.)

Par-Cooking

You par cook something to be finished later. Before you get all tied up in a knot about this, think. If you had to run a station with about 200 covers a night, would you be cooking your osso buco to order? Hell no. You would have it half way done, to be finished later.

Poach

Poaching is cooking food in a liquid that has few bubbles that barely break the surface. If there are bubbles around the edges and in the center at a continuous rate, that is simmering. If the top is broken and the surface is roiling, that is a boil.

Q

R

Refreshing

You refresh an item by plunging it into cold or ice water. This stops the cooking so you don’t end up with a overcooked soggy mass. You usually refresh an item after blanching it.

Render

Render refers to the melting and reduction of fat from trimmings to a product you can use. For instance, when you render pork fat, it becomes lard. Rendering butter will result in clarified butter.

Return (Knife)

The point where the heel meets the bolster.

S

Sauté

To cook food quickly in a small amount of fat over high heat. Not to be confused with sweating.

Simmer

Simmer is described as cooking liquid that has small bubbles that break the surface of the top. If the top of the liquid is rolling around, then it is boiling. If there is only an occasional bubble breaking the surface, then you are poaching.
Here is a short video I did describing the difference:

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water (by weight) combined and brought to a boil, then cooled.

Small Dice

Officially means to cut into a small cube (1/4 x 1/4 x 1/4 inch), but check with who you are working for, size varies depending on the their ideas.

Sommelier

An expert on wine that will come and help you choose your perfect match for your occasion.

Spatchcock

Removing the backbone of the bird to lay it flat for an even cooking surface. You do this so it cooks quicker, and more evenly.

Spine

The top, thicker portion of the blade, which adds weight and strength to your blade so it’s not flimsy.

Steel

Sometimes called “honing” your knife. You are setting the burr on the edge back to a point so the knife remains sharp.

Sweat

Cooking the food until it softens and is translucent. Often this is confused with sautéing, something that drives the Well Done Chef! nuts.

System D

System D is best described by an example: You have no thermometer for your cooking oil. You use a bread cube to test out the temperature. Your buttercream icing split, and you have no way to make it right? How about some Betty Crocker Icing mixed into it?. Hey, it works, right?

T

True Cost of Food

The amount of the cost of food after you factor in the waste. Described as the formula:

CoG/Percentage of yield. (Expressed as a decimal)

For example, bone-in chicken thighs cost $4.99 a kilogram.
If you have 25 percent waste, then your cost is:

4.99/.75 (1-.25=.75)
=$6.65 per kilogram.

Let’s say you somehow only get 50 percent yield from the chicken legs, then:

4.99/.5 (1-.5=.5)
=$9.98 per kilogram.

So you can see the more yield, the better your final cost. As waste goes up, so does your cost.

U

V

Volumetric Measurements

A volumetric measurement is one that is made by using a tool that measures the volume of the ingredient. For example, a cup.

W

Walk-in

Short for “walk-in refrigerator.”

X

Y

Z