Kitchen Key Terms Complete List (A-Z) / Food Production Key Terms / Culinary Terms / Kitchen Jargons

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Food Production Key Terms / Kitchen Terms / Culinary Terms / Kitchen Jargon

In the world of food production and cooking, there are a variety of key terms and kitchen terms that are important to understand. These terms cover everything from ingredients and cooking techniques to measurements and equipment.

Some common food production key terms include mise en place, which refers to the organization and preparation of ingredients before cooking; emulsify, which describes the process of combining two liquids that don’t normally mix, such as oil and vinegar; and deglaze, which involves adding liquid to a pan to loosen up the browned bits of food left behind after cooking.

Additionally, there are many kitchen terms that are essential for any home cook or professional chef to know. These can include things like julienne, which means to cut food into thin, matchstick-like pieces; sauté, which involves cooking food in a small amount of oil or butter over high heat; and simmer, which is a cooking method that involves cooking food in liquid over low heat for an extended period of time.

  • Aging / Aging – The process of allowing the natural tenderization of meats over time in a controlled environment.
  • A la – A French phrase used in menu writing to indicate the style of preparation – eg; Chicken Ala King, etc.
  • A la Carte – Items prepared to order as per the guest’s choice from the menu.
  • Albumen – The principal protein found in egg whites.
  • Allemande (ah-leh-mind)- German style, a sauce made by adding lemon juice and a liaison to a veloute made from veal or chicken stock; used to make several small sauces of the veloute family.
  • Al Dente – A French phrase meaning firm to the bite, not soft or mushy.
  • A. P Weight – As purchased; which indicates the weight of an item before trimming or processing.
  • Acidic / Acid – foods such as citrus juice, vinegar, and wine that have a sour or sharp flavor (most foods are slightly acidic); acids have a pH of less than 7.
  • Almond Paste – Finely ground almonds mixed with sugar.
  • Alkali – Known as a base, any substance with a pH higher than 7 eg: baking soda is one of the few alkaline foods.
  • Allumette (al-yoo-meet) – French term for matchstick cut of 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch X 2 inches (3 millimeters x 3 millimeters x 5 centimeters) usually used for potatoes or carrots.
  • Amandine – A French term meaning served or prepared with almonds.
  • Appetizers – These are known as first courses, usually small portions of hot or cold foods intended to whet the appetite in anticipation of the more substantial courses to follow.
  • Au gratin (oh-grah—tan) – Foods with a browned or crusted top; often made by browning food with a bread-crumb, cheese, and/ or sauce topping under a broiler or salamander.
  • Aus Jus – A French phrase meaning served with natural juices or gravy without a thickening agent.
  • Aus Sec – A French phrase meaning to cook until dry.
  • Bacteria – Single-celled micro-organisms, some of which can cause diseases, including foodborne diseases.
  • Bake / Baking –  To cook food by surrounding it with hot dry air. similar to roasting, the term baking is usually applied to bread, pastries, vegetables, and fish.
  • Bain-marie – Hot water bath used to gently cook food or keep cooked food hot. An example is a container for holding food in a water bath.
  • Baking Soda – Sodium bicarbonate, an alkaline compound that releases carbon dioxide gas when combined with an acid and moisture; used to leaven baked goods.
  • Baking Powder- A mixture of sodium bicarbonate and one or more acids, generally the cream of tartar and/ or sodium aluminum sulfate, used to leaven baked goods; it releases carbon dioxide gas if moisture is present in a formula. 
  • Barbecue – To cook food on a grill or spit over hot coals or burning hardwood/hardwood charcoals or in an enclosed pit. A tangy tomato or vinegar-based sauce is used for grilled foods, and depending upon the type of barbecue the item may be seasoned or marinated before cooking.
  • Bard / Barding – To cover a piece of meat with salt pork or slices or bacon before cooking. For example tying thin slices of fat, such as bacon or pork fetlock, over meats or poultry that have little to no natural fat covering to protect and moisten them during roasting. This method then adds additional moisture and flavor to the cooked food.
  • Baste – To pour dripping or other fat over a food before or during cooking to prevent drying or to glaze the item. Basting shouldn’t be done with stock for meats because this will then wash away the fats that protect it from drying.
  • Batter – Semiliquid mixture of flour and other starchy ingredients and liquids, which have a pouring consistency. For example, a semi-liquid mixture containing flour or other starch is used to make cakes and bread or to coat foods for deep-frying.
  • Beat / Beating – To move a whip or spoon rapidly back and forth to blend products to achieve a smooth texture.
  • Béchamel (bay-shah-mell) – A leading sauce that is made by thickening milk with a white roux and adding seasonings.
  • Beurre manié (burr-man-yay) – The method of combining equal amounts by weight of flour and soft, whole.
  • Beurre noir (burr-war) – The French term for ‘black butter’, whole butter cooked until dark brown (not black) sometimes flavored with vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Beurre noisette (burr-was-zest) – The French term for ‘brown butter’, whole butter heated until it turns light brown, giving off a nutty aroma.
  • Beurre rouge (burr-rouge) – French for ‘red butter’, an emulsified butter sauce made from shallots, red wine, and butter.
  • Bind – To cause two or more items to cohere, unite, or hold together. An example is to bind a croquette mixture.
  • Bisque (bisk) – This is a soup made from shellfish, the classic version of bish is thickened with rice.
  • Bivalves – Molluscs such as clams, oysters, and mussels that have two bilateral shells attached at a central hinge.
  • Blanch – To cook a food item partially and very briefly in boiling water/liquid or hot oil. For example, blanching vegetables in boiling water.
  • Blanc – French term for white. For example, Beurre Blanc (burr-blank) is French for “white butter”.
  • Blanch / Blanching – To cook a food item partially and very briefly in boiling liquid or hot oil. Usually, this is a technique for the pre-preparation of a food item for finishing later.
  • Blanquette (blahn-keht) – A white stew made of a white sauce and meat or poultry that is simmered without first browning.
  • Blend – To mix two or more ingredients so completely that they lose their separate identities.
  • Béarnaise (bare-nayz) – A sauce made of butter and egg yolks and flavored with a reduction of vinegar, shallots, tarragon, and peppercorns.
  • Bloom – A measure of the strength of gelatin, Additionally refers to a whitish layer that forms on chocolate due to the separation of the cocoa butter.
  • Boil – To cook the food item in a boiling liquid. Very few items are boiled because which this process the food might dry.
  • Boiling – A moist heat cooking method that uses convection to transfer heat from a hot (approximately 212°F/ 100 C) liquid to the food submerged in it. The turbulent waters and higher temperatures cook foods more quickly than poaching or simmering.
  • Bouchées (Boo-shay) – A kind of small puff pastry shells that can be filled and served as bite-size hors-d’oeuvre or petit fours.
  • Bouquet Garni – Fresh herbs of various types, tied together and used as a flavoring agent. Used for flavoring stocks, sauces, soups and stews
  • Bouquetiere (boo-kuh-ty-ehr) – The French term meaning to serve with a bouquet of vegetables.
  • Braising – A combination cooking method in which foods are first browned in hot fat, then covered and slowly cooked in a small amount of liquid over low heat. Also, Braising is referred to as cooking method 1) The food item is browned and then cooked covered in a small amount of liquid. 2) The cooking of unbrowned vegetables slowly in a small amount of liquid.  
  • Bran – The tough outer layer of cereal grain and the part highest in fiber.
  • Breaded / Breading – Coating a food item with bread or crumbs. Such food items are then usually fried, baked, or broiled.
  • Break (curdling) – When liquid such as milk. or a mixture such as a sauce loses its ability to hold particles or oils it contains in suspension. This is normally caused by exposure to a rapid temperature change or excess heat. The term break is also known as ‘Curdling / Curdle’.
  • Broil / Broiling – The cooking of a food item with radiant heat.
  • Broth – This is a flavourful liquid obtained from the long simmering of meats and/ or vegetables.
  • Brown stew – A kind of stew in which the meat is first browned in hot fat.
  • Brown stock – This is a richly colored stock made of chicken, veal, beef, or game bones along with vegetables. All of these items are caramelized before they are simmered in water with seasonings.
  • Brigade – A system of staffing a kitchen so that each worker is assigned a set of specific tasks, such tasks are often related to cooking methods, equipment, or the types of foods being produced.
  • Brioche (bree-ohsh) – This is a rich yeast bread containing large amounts of eggs and butter.
  • Butter Cream Icing – A combination of powdered sugar and /or sugar syrup with butter and/or shortening and possibly other ingredients to form an icing. 
  • Cake – Refers to a broad range of pastries, including layer cakes, coffee cakes, and gateaux. Cake can also refer to almost anything that is baked, tender, sweet, and sometimes frosted.
  • Calorie – The amount of heat needed to raise one kilogram of water by 10 degrees Celsius. Term calorie is also used as a measure of food energy. 
  • Caramelization – The process of browning of sugars when exposed to 300 degrees F heat.
  • Carbohydrates – Any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that combine in the form of sugar, starches, and cellulose.
  • Casserole – A heavy dish suitable for food to be baked in and food baked in a casserole dish.
  • Celsius – The thermometric scale on which 0° Celsius is the freezing point and 100° Celsius is the boiling point of the water.
  • Calrify – To clear a liquid, such as consomme, by adding slightly beaten egg white.
  • Coagulation – The process of becoming thick or solidifying. In the kitchen, it usually refers to the firming of protein as food is exposed to some type of heat.
  • Coat – To cover with a layer, usually thin, of some substance, such as flour, aspic, or oil.
  • Consistency – The degree of density, firmness, or solidity of a mixture.
  • Convenience food – Any food which has been partially or fully prepared by the manufacturer or producer.
  • Course – A food or group of foods served at one time or intended to be eaten together.
  • Contamination – The transfer of bacteria from one food to another.
  • Compound Butter – A mixture of butter and supplementary ingredients. Primarily, they are used to enhance flavor in various dishes, in a fashion similar to a sauce.
  • Danger Zone – 45° F to 140° F or 7° Celsius to 60° F is the range of temperature in which the bacteria multiply the most rapidly.
  • Deep Fry – To cook food by submerging it in hot fat or oil.
  • Deglaze – The removal of caramelized sugars and other food particles from a pan by swirling with liquid or water.
  • Degrease – To skim the fat from the top of a liquid such as a sauce or a stock. For example, using bread to decrease the oil from the sauce.
  • Dredging – Process of coating food with flour or other substance without the use of a batter or binding agent.
  • Elastin – A type of connective tissue in meat that does not dissolve in cooking.
  • Emulsion – The combination of two incompatible liquids, such as oil and water.
  • E.P Weight – Edible Portion (E.P)– It refers to the weight of the food item after trimming and preparation is done.
  • Fermentation – The interaction of yeast and carbohydrates which develops carbon dioxide gas and alcohol.
  • Fiber – Indigestible carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Florentine – Garnishing a dish with spinach.
  • Fold / Folding – The process of gently mixing one ingredient with another.
  • Fondant – Finely Crystallized sugar syrup worked into a smooth, creamy frosting or candy.
  • Food Cost – The cost of the ingredients used in the preparation of the food.
  • Fry / Frying – To cook in hot oil or fat.
  • Garni – To add a garnish or decoration to a finished food.
  • Garnish – The artistic complementing of a food item with other food or edible items.
  • Gelatinization – The process of converting into a jelly.
  • Gluten – The protein-based substance in wheat flour that builds the structure of baked items or goods.
  • Gram – The basic unit of weight in the metric measurement system.
  • Griddle – The process of cooking food on a flat, solid surface.
  • Grill / Grilling – The cooking of food items over an open heat source on a screen or grid.
  • Gross Piece – The centerpiece of a buffet platter.
  • Herb – A wide variety of aromatic plants used for seasoning and garnishing foods. Many of these plants also have medicinal value.
  • Kosher Style – Foods that have been blessed by a rabbi or those prepared by the Jewish dietary laws.
  • Jardiniere – The French term meaning the serving of a food item garnished with vegetables.
  • Jus Lie – A French term referring to meat juice that has been lightly thickened with either arrowroot or cornstarch.
  • Kilo – The prefix used in the metric measurement system means 1000. 1000 grams is called 1 Kilogram.
  • Lard – The soft, white, solid, or semi-solid fat rendered from the fatty tissue of the hog.
  • Larding – To insert a strip of fat into a piece of meat before cooking.
  • Laison – A binding and enriching agent used in the finishing of sauces, usually composed of egg and cream, or raw butter.
  • Liter – The basic unit of volume measurement in the metric system. It is equal to slightly more than one quart.
  • Marinate / Marinate – To soak food is a flavorful liquid to add flavor and to tenderize.
  • Mask – To Cover a food item completely with a sauce.
  • Mise en Place – A French meaning everything in place. The key to efficient kitchen preparation.
  • Mirepoix (meer-pwah) – Mixture of vegetables, herbs, and spices used to enhance the flavor of meat, fish, and shellfish dishes. Common ingredients are onion, celery, carrot leek, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, clove, thyme and rosemary.
  • Mix – Method of combining ingredients in such a way that the parts of each ingredient are evenly dispersed in the total product.
  • Nouvelle Cuisine – A modern style of cooking that emphasizes light sauces and seasoning and shortened cooking time, sometimes combined.
  • Nutrient – Anything having food value. It is that which is in food that supports the life system.
  • Pan-Fry – To cook a food item in a moderate amount of fat or oil.
  • Papillote – French term denoting the cooking of an item wrapped in paper or possible foil.
  • Par-boil – To partially cook in simmering or boiling the liquid.
  • Par-cook – To cook partially by any method.
  • Pasteurized – Partial sterilization of a substance, particularly a liquid, at a temperature and for a length of time sufficient to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Pathogen – An infectious microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, protozoa, prion, or fungus. 
  • Portion Control – The measurement of a food item to ensure that the standard amount is served to the customer. This action is primarily to have control over the food cost.
  • Proteins – Are Extremely complex combinations of amino acids that occur naturally in different food items. Proteins are essential constituents of all living cells.
  • Puree – Making a puree into mash product to a fine pulp, usually by forcing it through a sieve or putting it into a blender.
  • Recipe – A list of ingredients and a set of instructions for the preparation of a dish.
  • Reduce – To boil or simmer a liquid to a small volume. Usually, this is done to concentrate flavors.
  • Roast – To cook food by surrounding it with dry heat.
  • Rough Prep. – It is the preliminary preparation of ingredients to the point of being ready to cook.
  • Roux – Roux is flour and fat cooked together and used to thicken sauces. Roux is typically made from equal parts of flour and fat by weight. 
  • Royal Icing – The combination of egg white, powdered sugar, and cream of tartar is used as a decorative frosting for used in cakes.
  • Sachet Bag- Herbs and spices tied in a cheesecloth/muslin bag, used for the flavoring of stocks, sauces, and soups.
  • Sauce – A Flavourful liquid, usually thickened which is used to enhance the flavor and give moisture to the food.
  • Sauté – To brown a food item quickly in very little fat or oil.
  • Scald – To bring a liquid to a temperature just below the boiling point.
  • Scaling – The weighing of ingredients or prepared food mixtures for use, such as the scaling of cake batter. Scaling of all items is more frequently done at the bakery.
  • Score – To cut narrow gashes in a crossbar or straight patterns across the outer surface of a food item. For example, scoring the turkey before roasting.
  • Sear – To brown the surface of a food item with a short application of high heat. This process is used to develop the flavor or color.
  • Season / Seasoning – 1) To enhance the flavor by the addition of salt or other ingredients. 2) To mature and bring to a proper condition by aging or special preparation, this usually applies to the processing of meat.
  • Simmer – To cook food in a liquid that is just below the boiling point. The temperature of the liquid will be 200°F / 93°C at sea level and normal pressure and the bubbles will break gently below the surface of the liquid.
  • Short – Used to describe a product that is very crumbly and tender due to its high fat content.
  • Sift – Put flour, sugar, or other similar substances through a sieve to ensure a fine grain.
  • Smother – To cook in a covered kettle until tender.
  • Spice – 1) Any number of aromatic vegetable products used to season or flavor food (eg: Cardamom, Clove, nutmeg, black pepper, etc.). 2) The addition of zest or flavor to a dish is also referred to as a spice.
  • Straight Flour – Flour milled from all parts of the wheat kernel except the bran.
  • Strong flour – Flour with a high gluten content such as winter patent flour.
  • Sauerkraut (sau-erkraut) – It’s a ‘sour cabbage’ dish which is finely cut raw cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid formed when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage leaves.
  • Sweat – To cook in a small amount of fat or oil over low heat.
  • Syneresis – The release of liquid from a gel.
  • Temper – The gradual raising of the temperature of a cold liquid by the addition of a hot liquid. Normally done to avoid the breaking or the cold food item.
  • Turntable – 1) A rotating platform which is on a pedestal, used for holding cakes that are being iced and decorated. 2) A glass turntable is inside the microwave oven, rotating the food in the turntable helps even out the exposure to microwaves the food evenly during the process.
  • Variety Meat – The non-skeletal meats of the dressed carcass. These include liver, tongue, kidneys, heart, etc.
  • Vitamin – Any of a variety of groups of compounds present in foods in small quantities that are necessary for regulating body functions.
  • Wash – 1) Brushing or coating a food item with a liquid such as egg white, milk, or egg wash. 2) The liquid used to coat a food item. 3) The application of the coat to a food item is also called a wash.
  • Whip – To beat with a rapid lifting motion to incorporate air into a product.
  • Weak Flour – Flour that has a low gluten content, such as cake flour or all-purpose flour.
  • Whitewash – A thin mixture of starch, such as flour or cornstarch, and cold liquid used to thicken sauces or other liquid items.
  • Zest – The coloured portion of the peel of citrus fruit. Examples: Orange Zest, Lemon Zest, etc.
Also Read: Key Baking Terms
By understanding these food production key terms and kitchen terms, cooks can better navigate their way around the kitchen and create delicious meals with confidence.

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