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