Cooking Basics: What Does it All Mean?

Cooking basics - utensils

Cooking basics - utensils

Have you ever picked up a new recipe that called for a term you weren’t familiar with?  Or you thought you knew what it meant but you weren’t positive? To clear up any confusion, here’s a list of common cooking terms and their definitions:

Cooking Terms

Chop:  Cut into small pieces with a knife.

Crush:  Press to extract juice or grind into fine particles.

Cube:  Cut into squares 1/2-inch or larger with a knife.

Cut up:  Cut into pieces with scissors (dried apricots, for example)

Dice:  Cut into squares smaller than ½-inch with a knife.

Grate:  Cut into tiny particles using the small holes of grater (lemon).

Mince:  Cut into very small pieces with a knife.

Pare:  Cut off outer covering with knife or vegetable peeler.

Peel:  Strip off outer covering.

Score:  Cut surface of food about ¼-inch deep with a knife to facilitate cooking, flavoring or tenderizing.

Shred:  Cut into long, thin pieces using large holes of grater or a knife (cheese).

Slice:  Cut into thin, flat pieces with a knife.

Sliver:  Cut into long thin pieces with a knife.

Snip:  Cut into very small pieces with scissors.

Combining Ingredients

Beat:  Mix ingredients vigorously with a spoon, hand beater or electric mixer until smooth.

Blend:  Mix ingredients until they are very smooth and uniform.

Cut in:  Distribute solid fat in dry ingredients by cutting with a pastry blender with a rolling motion or cutting with two knives until particles are desired size.

Fold:  Combine ingredients lightly using two motions:  first cut vertically through mixture with a rubber spatula; then slide spatula across bottom of bowl and up the side, turning mixture over.  Continue down-across-up-over-motion while rotating bowl ¼ turn with each series of strokes.

Mix:  Combine ingredients in any way that distributes them easily.

Stir:  Mix ingredients with circular or figure-eight motion until of uniform consistency.


Bake:  Cook in oven.

Boil:  Heat until bubbles rise continuously and break on the surface.  For a rolling boil, the bubbles form rapidly.

Braise:  Cook covered in small amount of liquid over low heat in 300 degree F to 325 degree F oven.

Brown:  Cook until surface of food changes color, usually in a small amount of fat over medium heat.

Cook and Stir:  Cook, rapidly in small amount of fat, stirring occasionally.

Panfry:  Cook uncovered in a small amount of fat.

Poach:  Cook in hot liquid just below the boiling point.

Roast:  Cook uncovered in the oven on a rack in a shallow pan.

Scald:   Heat liquid just below the boiling point.  Tiny bubbles form at the edge.

Simmer:  Cook in liquid until just below the boiling point.  Bubbles form slowly and collapse below the surface.

Stir-fry:  A Chinese method of cooking uniform pieces of food in a small amount of hot oil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Special Terms

Baste:  Spoon liquid over food during cooking to keep it moist.

Blanch:  Plunge food into boiling water for a brief time to preserve color, texture and nutritional value or to remove skin from fruit or nuts.

Chill:  Refrigerate food to make it cold.

Cool:  Allow hot food or liquid to come to room temperature.

Lard:  Insert strips of fat in uncooked lean meat to make it more tender and flavorful.

Marinate:  Refrigerate food in a liquid that will tenderize it or add flavor.

Reduce:  Boil liquid, such as gravy, uncovered to evaporate liquid until the desired consistency and to intensify flavor.

Soften:  Let cold butter, margarine or cream cheese stand at room temperature until soft.

Toast:  Brown food in oven or toaster.

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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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