Culinary Terms and Definitions


Welcome to my Culinary Terms pages with entries on topics such as ingredients, preparation methods, wine, cooking equipment, food history, food safety and sanitation, nutrition, prepared dishes and many more.

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1. A sharp, sour or tart flavor.
2. A wine-tasting term for a sharp, sour flavor caused by an abnormally high acid content.

Adobo Sauce (ah-DOH-bo)

A Mexican seasoning paste or sauce made from ground chiles, herbs and vinegar.


1. To dissolve air in a liquid or to expose a liquid to air.
2. To add air to a food (e.g., sifting flour or beating egg whites).


1. The period during which freshly killed meat is allowed to rest so that the effects of rigor mortis dissipate.
2. The period during which freshly milled flour is allowed to rest so that it will whiten and produce less sticky doughs; the aging of flour can be chemically accelerated.

Aioli (ay-OH-lee)

A garlic mayonnaise made in France’s Provence region; it is used as a condiment or sauce.

A la king (ah lah KING)

An American dish consisting of diced foods, usually chicken or turkey, in a cream sauce flavored with pimientos, mushrooms, green peppers and sometimes sherry.

A la mode (ah lah MOHD)

1. French for in the fashion or manner of.
2. In the United States, a dessert item topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Albumen (al-BYOO-mehn)

The clear portion of the egg used as the nutrient source for the developing chick, constituting approximately two-thirds of its internal mass and containing most of its protein and riboflavin; sometimes used in fresh or dried form as a fining or clarifying agent or whipped for general baking and cooking; also known as egg white.

Al Dente (al DEN-tay)

Italian for to the tooth and used to describe a food, usually pasta, that is cooked only until it gives a slight resistance when one bites into it; the food is neither soft nor overdone.


Also known as a base, any substance with a pH higher than 7; baking soda is one of the few alkaline foods.


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.

Amaretto (am-ah-REHT-toh)

An Italian amber-colored liqueur with an almondlike flavor, although it is actually flavored with apricot kernels; it was originally made in Saronno and called Amaretto di Saronno.

Amino Acid

The basic molecular component of proteins; each of the approximately two dozen amino acids contains oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen atoms.

Ancho (ahn-cho)

A dried poblano with broad shoulders tapering to a rounded end; the chile has a brick red to dark mahogany color, wrinkled flesh and relatively mild, fruity flavor with overtones of coffee, licorice, tobacco and raisin.


A member of the herring family found in the Mediterranean Sea and off southern Europe; it has a long snout, a large mouth and a blue-green skin that becomes silvery on the sides and belly; it ranges in length from 5 to 9 in.; usually available in pickled or salted.

Andouille Sausage (an-DOO-ee; ahn-DWEE)

A spicy smoked porked sausage (made with neck and stomach meat); originally from France, it is now a hallmark of Cajun cuisine.

Angel Food Cake

A light, airy cake made without egg yolks or other fats; its structure is based on the air whipped into the egg whites; it is typically baked in a tube pan.

Angus Beef, Certified

A brand created in 1978 to distinguish the highest-quality beef produced from descendants of the black, hornless Angus cattle of Scotland.

Anise (AN-ihs)

1. A small annual member of the parsley family (Pimpinella anisum) native to the eastern Mediterranean region; it has bright green leaves with a mild licorice flavor that are sometimes used as an herb or in salads.
2. Greek for aniseed.

Antipasto (ahn-tee-PAHS-toe)

Italian for before pasta and used to describe hot or cold appetizers, usually simple foods such as cheeses, sausages, olives, marinated vegetables or the like.


1. Finger food served before the meal to whet the appetite; the term is often used synonymously with the term hors d’ oeuvre.
2. The first course of a meal, usually small portions of hot or cold foods intended to whet the appetite; also know as a starter.

Arborio Rice (ar-BOH-ree-oh)

An ovoid, short-grain rice with a hard core, white color and mild flavor; it becomes creamy when cooked and is used for risotto.


A starchy white powder made from the underground stems of a tropical plant, generally used as a thickener; it is flavorless and becomes clear when cooked.

Arugula (ah-ROO-guh-lah)

A leaf vegetable with dark green, spiky, dandelion-like leaves and a strong, spicy, peppery flavor; used in salads; also known as rocket, rucola and rugula.


A clear savory jelly made from clarified meat, fish or vegetable stock and gelatin; it is used to glaze cold foods.

Au Gratin (oh GRAH-tan)

A French term referring to a dish with a browned topping of bread crumbs and/or grated cheese; also known as gratinee.

Au Jus (oh zhew)

Roasted meats, poultry or game served with their natural, unthickened juices.

Au Sec (oh sek)

A French term referring to something cooked until nearly dry.

Baba Ghanoush (bah bah gha-NOOSH)

A Middle Eastern dish of pureed eggplant, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice and garlic and garnished with chopped mint, pomegranate seeds or chopped pistachios; it is served as a dip or spread, usually with pita; also known as mutabbal.


A fabricated cut of the pork carcass, cut from the sides and belly; consisting of fat interspersed with strands of meat, it is salted and/or smoked and available sliced or in a slab.

Bacon, Canadian

A fabricated cut of the primal pork loin; it is a lean, boneless pork loin roast that is smoked; known as back bacon in Canada.


A dense, doughnut-shaped Jewish yeast roll; it is cooked in boiling water, then baked, which gives the rolls a shiny glaze and chewy texture.

Bagel Chips

Thinly sliced stale bagels seasoned with garlic, salt, herbs and/or cheese.

Bain Marie (bane mah-ree)

1. A hot water bath used to cook foods gently or to keep cooked foods hot; also known as a water bath.
2. A container for holding foods in a hot water bath.

Bake Blind

A technique for baking an unfilled pastry or tart shell; the shaped dough is weighted down with dry beans or pie weights, then baked completely before being filled.

Baked Alaska

A dessert composed of liqueur-soaked sponge cake topped with a mound or half-sphere of ice cream, all of which is coated with sweetened meringue and browned just before service.

Baker’s Joy

The proprietary name of a combined vegetable oil and flour spray used to help release baked goods from their pans.

Baker’s Rack

A portable metal rack designed to hold numerous sheet pans or hotel pans; it is used for moving pans of food quickly from one work area to another; also known as a speed rack.


A dry-heat cooking method that heats food by surrounding it with hot, dry air in a closed environment; the term is usually used with reference to cooking breads, pastries, vegetables, fruits and fish.

Baking Powder

A mixture of sodium bicarbonate and one or more acids, generally 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.

Baking Soda

Sodium Bicarbonate, an alkaline compound that releases carbon dioxide gas when combined with an acid and moisture; used to leaven baked goods.

Baklava (BAAK-lah-vah)

A Middle Eastern sweet pastry made with buttered phyllo dough layered with honey, nuts and spices, usually cut into diamond-shaped pieces after baking.

Balsamic Vinegar (bahl-sah-mek)

A dark, mellow Italian vinegar with a sweet-sour flavor; it is made from concentrated grape juice fermented and aged for 15-20 years in a series of wooden casks.

Banana Foster

A dessert created by Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans consisting of a sliced banana quickly sauteed in butter, rum, sugar and banana liqueur, then flambeed and served over vanilla ice cream.


1. To cook foods over dry heat created by the burning of hardwood or hardwood charcoals.
2. A tangy tomato- or vinegar-based sauce used for grilled foods.


Tying thin slices of fat, such as bacon or pork fatback, over meats or poultry that have little to no natural fat covering in order to protect and moisten them during roasting.


Moistening foods during cooking (usually roasting, broiling or grilling) with melted fat, pan drippings, a sauce or other liquids to prevent drying and to add flavor.


Foods cut into matchstick shapes of 1/4″ X 1/4″ X 2″.


A semiliquid mixture containing flour or other starch used to make cakes and breads. 1. The gluten development is minimized and the liquid forms the continuous medium in which other ingredients are disbursed; generally contains more fat, sugar and liquids than a dough.
2. A semiliquid mixture of liquid and starch used to coat foods for deep-frying.

Bavarian Cream

A sweet dessert mixture made by thickening custard sauce with gelatin and then folding in whipped cream; the final product is poured into a mold and chilled until firm.


A clump of dark threads found on a mussel.

Bearnaise Sauce (bair-NAYZ)

A French sauce made with a reduction of vinegar, wine, tarragon, peppercorns and shallots and finished with egg yolks and butter.


A mixing method in which foods are agitated vigorously to incorporate air or develop gluten; a spoon or electric mixer with a paddle attachment is used.

Bechamel Sauce (bay-shah-mell)

A French leading sauce made by thickening milk with a white roux and adding seasonings; also known as a cream sauce and a white sauce.

Beggar’s Purse An appetizer consisting of a small crepe topped with a savory fillling; the edges are pulled up in pleats to form a sack and tied with a chive.

Beignet (ben-YEA)

French for fritter and used to describe a crisp, puffy, deep-fried, New Orleans pastry similar to a doughnut.

Bellini (beh-lee-nee)

1. A cocktail made of pureed white peaches, lemon juice, dry Italian spumante and grenadine.
2. A cocktail made of sparkling wine and peach brandy or peach liquor.

Bench Scraper

A handheld rectangular tool, typically 6 x 3 in., with a stainless steel blade and a rolled handle on one long side; used for cleaning and scraping surfaces.

Beurre (burr)

French for butter.

Beurre Manie

A combination of equal amounts by weight of flour and soft, whole butter; it is whisked into a simmering sauce at the end of the cooking process for quick thickening and added sheen and flavor.

Beurre Noisette

French for “brown butter”; whole butter heated until it turns light brown, giving off a nutty aroma.

Beurre Rouge

French for “red butter”; an emulsified butter sauce made from shallots, red wine and butter.

Biga (BEE-gah)

An aged dough made with yeast or sour dough; used in Italy; it is a type of sourdough starter.


1. An ingredient or combination of ingredients used to thicken or hold a mixture together.
2. A leaf of tough, coarse tobacco that holds a cigar’s filler in place; the binder is usually covered by a leaf of wrapper tobacco.

Bird’s Nest

Very thinly sliced potatoes deep-fried in a cup-shaped basket to form a nest; usually filled with vegetables for service.

Biscotti (bee-SKAWT-toh)

Italian for slices from a twice-baked flattened cookie loaf.

Bisque (beesk)

A thick French cream soup made of pureed fish, shellfish, poultry, meat or vegetables and traditionally thickened with rice.

Bittersweet Chocolate

Chocolate containing minimal amounts of sugar and at least 35% chocolate liquor; eaten as a candy or used in pastries and confections.

Black Bottom Pie

A rich custard pie made with a layer of dark chocolate custard on the bottom topped with a layer of white rum custard.


A Cajun cooking method in which food, usually meat or fish, is rubbed with a spice mixture and cooked in a very hot cast-iron skillet, giving the food an extra-crisp crust.

Black Tea

One of the three principal types of tea; the leaves are rolled and fully fermented before being heated and dried; the beverage is generally a dark reddish-brown color with a strong, full flavor.


Cooking a food very briefly and partially in boiling water or hot fat; generally used to assist preparation (e.g., loosen peels), as part of a combination cooking method, to remove undesirable flavors or to prepare food for freezing.

Bleached Flour

Flour that has been whitened by removing the yellow pigment; flour can be bleached through aging or by adding bleaching and oxidizing agents.


(verb)1. To mix two or more ingredients together until uniformly combined.
2. To combine different varieties or grades of an item to obtain a mixture of a particular character, quality and/or consistancy. (noun) A mixture of two or more flavors or other attributes.

Blini (blee-nee)

Leavened Russian pancakes made from a buckwheat and wheat flour batter; they are usually served as hors d’oeuvre with sour cream and caviar or smoked fish; singular is blin.

Blood Orange

A medium-sized orange with a red or red-streaked white flesh (the color reflects a pigment, anthocyanin, not normally present in citrus); it has a sweet flavor that is less tart than that of a typical orange.


1. A dull gray film or grayish-whitish streaks that sometimes appear on chocolate if the cocoa butter separates; the chocolate’s flavor and cooking properties are not affected; also known as chocolate bloom and fat bloom.
2. A measure of gelatin’s strength.
3. The process of softening gelatin in a cool liquid before it is dissolved.

Blown Sugar

A boiled mixture of sucrose, glucose and tartaric acid colored and shaped using an air pump; used to make decorative objects and containers.

Blue Cheese

1. A generic term for any cheese containing visible blue-green molds that contribute a characteristic tart, sharp flavor and aroma; also known as a blue-veined cheese or bleu.
2. A group of Roquefort-style cheeses made in the United States and Canada from cow’s or goat’s milk rather than ewe’s milk and injected with molds that form blue-green veins; also known as blue mold cheese or blue-veined cheese.

Blush Wine

1. A slightly sweet, light-bodies white wine made from black grapes such as Zinfandel, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon; its color ranges from pale salmon to pink.
2. A wine blended from red and white wines; also known as a light rose.

Boil, Full Rolling

Large bubbles rise and break on the surface of the heated liquid so rapidly that vigorous stirring does not interfere.

Bok Choy

A member of the cabbage family native to southern China; it has long, wide, white, crunchy stalks with tender, smooth-edged, dark green leaves; it is used raw, pickled or cooked; also known as baak choy, Chinese mustard, Chinese white mustard cabbage, celery mustard, pak choi and white mustard cabbage.

Bolognese (boh-loh-nay-see)

An Italian meat sauce for pasta made from ground meat, tomatoes, celery, carrots and bacon and seasoned with garlic, herbs and olive oil; also known as ragu and sugo.

Bombe; Bombe Glacee (baoum)

A French dessert consisting of layers of ice cream and sherbet packed into a round or spherical mold, frozen, then unmolded and decorated for service.

Bon Appetit (boh nah-pay-TEE)

French for good appetite, meaning I wish you a good meal, hearty appetite or enjoy your meal.

Bonbon (bohn-bohn)

1. A small piece of candy, usually chocolate-coated fondant.
2. French for any bite-sized candy, confection or sweetmeat.


A cut of meat containing the bone.

Bordeaux (bohr-DOH)

One of France’s six principal grape-growing and wine-producing regions; it is located in southwest France.

Bordeaux, Red

Red wines from Bordeaux; the principal grapes used are Carbernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and to a lesser extent Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Bordeaux, White

White wines from Bordeaux; the principal grapes used are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and to a lesser extent Muscadelle, Colombard and Ugni Blanc.


A brown sauce flavored with a reduction of red wine, shallots, pepper and herbs and garnished with marrow.

Bosc Pear (Bawsk)

An all-purpose winter pear with a long, tapering neck, dark gold skin overlaid with russet, a tender, juicy, slightly gritty texture and a sweet, buttery flavor; also known as beurre Bosc.

Bouchees (boo-SHAY)

Small puff pastry shells that can be filled and served as bite-size hors d’oeuvre or petit fours.

Bouillon (BOOL-yahn)

French for broth and used to describe a stock made by cooking meat, poultry, fish or vegetables in water; the solids are removed before the broth is used in soups or sauces or as a poaching medium.

Bound Salad

A salad composed of cooked meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, pasta or potatoes combined with a dressing.

Bouquet Garni (boo-kay gar-nee)

A French seasoning blend of fresh herbs and vegetables tied in a bundle with twine and used to flavor stocks, sauces, soups and stews; a standard bouquet garni consists of parsley stems, celery, thyme, leeks and carrots.

Box Grater

Four flat graters, generally of different degrees of coarseness, joined to form a box, usually with a handle on top.


A blackberry and raspberry hybrid named for its progenitor, Rudolph Boysen; shaped like a raspberry, it has a purple-red color and a rich, sweet, tart flavor.


1. Slightly salty; briny.
2. A beer-tasting term for a salty flavor.


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; braising uses a combination of simmering and steaming to transfer heat from the liquid (conduction) and the air (convection) to the foods.


The tough, outer covering of the endosperm of various types of grain kernels; it has a high fiber and vitamin B content and is usually removed during milling; used to enrich baked goods and as a cereal and nutrient supplement.


A spirit distilled from grape wine or the fermented juice of other fruits with a minimum proof of 60 and usually aged in an oak cask; its color, flavor and aroma depend on the wine or fermented juice used and the length of time it ages in the cask.

Bratwurst (BRAHT-wurst; BRAHT-vurst)

A fresh German sausage made from pork and veal, seasoned with ginger, nutmeg and coriander or caraway seeds.

Bread Bowl

A round loaf of bread; the top is sliced off, the center hollowed out and the crust and remaining interior is used as a bowl for soups, stews, or the like, with the bowl being consumed as part of the meal.

Bread Crumbs, Fresh

Crumbs obtained by processing fresh bread in a food processor; they are softer and give more texture to breaded foods than do dry bread crumbs.

Bread Flour

A strong flour, usually made from hard winter wheat and containing 11-13% protein; used for making yeast-leavened breads.


1. A coating of bread or cracker crumbs, cornmeal or other dry meal applied to foods that will typically be deep-fried or pan-fried.
2. The process of applying this coating.

Bread Pudding

A baked dessert made with cubes or slices of bread soaked in a mixture of eggs, milk, sugar and flavorings.


1. To make tea or coffee by boiling or steeping the tea leaves or coffee grounds in water.
2. To make beer.
3.Slang for beer, especially draught.

Brie (bree)

A soft, creamy French cheese made from cow’s milk; it has a pale ivory-gold color, a soft, leathery white rind and a delicate, somewhat nutty flavor; rind-ripened, it can develop an ammonia odor if overly ripe; traditionally named after its place of origin.


1. A salt and water solution.


A method of curing, preserving and/or flavoring certain foods such as meats, fish, vegetables and cheese by immersing them in brine or injecting brine into them; also known as pickling.

Brining Solution

a very salty marinade (generally 20% salinity) used to preserve and/or flavor certain foods; it can be flavored with sugar, herbs and spices.

Brioche (bree-ohsh)

A light, tender French yeast bread enriched with eggs and butter.

Broccoli Rabe (BROK-a lee RAHB)

Broccoli Rabe is a non-heading variety of broccoli. This member of the prolific mustard clan has flavorful leaves and clusters of tiny, broccoli-like buds. It is generally cooked by steaming, frying or sauteing. Trim the bottoms of tough stems and remove fibrous parts of upper stems with a paring knife. To subdue bitterness, blanch briefly, then shock in cold water before cooking.

Brochettes (bro-shettz)

Skewers, either small hors d’oeuvre or large entree size, threaded with meat, poultry, fish, shellfish and/or vegetables and grilled, broiled or baked; sometimes served with a dipping sauce.


A dry-heat cooking method in which foods are cooked by heat radiating from an overhead source.


A flavorful liquid obtained from the long simmering of meats and/or vegetables.


To caramelize the surface sugars of a food by applying heat, invariably through a dry-heat cooking method.

Brown Rice

A form of processed rice with only the tough outer husk removed; the retained bran gives the rice a light tan color, a nutlike flavor and a chewy texture; it is available in long-, medium- and short-grain forms.

Brown Sauce

See Espagnole.

Brown Stock

A richly colored stock made of chicken, veal, beef or game bones and vegetables, all of which are caramelized before they are simmered in water with seasonings.

Brule (broo-LAY)

French for burned and used to describe the browning of a food by means of direct, intense heat.


A meal taken, usually leisurely, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; a combination of breakfast and lunch, it usually offers breakfast foods and almost anything else.


Foods cut into cubes of 1/8″ X 1/8″ X 1/8″. A 1/16″ cube is referred to as a fine brunoise.

Bruschetta (broo-SKEH-tah)

1. An Italian appetizer of toasted bread slices rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and sometimes topped with tomatoes and basil; served warm.
2. In the United States, any of a variety of appetizers made from toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and topped with olives, tomatoes, cheese or other ingredients.

Brut (broot)

A very, very dry Champagne or sparkling wine, drier than one labeled extra dry; contains 0.8-1.5% sugar.

Buche de Noel (boosh dah noh-ehl)

French for Yule log and used to describe a traditional Christmas cake made with genoise and buttercream, shaped and decorated to resemble a log.

Bucheron (BOOSH-rawn)

A tangy but mild French goat’s milk cheese; it has a soft, white interior and usually comes in logs with a white rind or covered in black ash.

Buffer; buffering agent

A substance added to a solution to neutralize the acids and/or bases while maintaining the solution’s original acidity or alkalinity.


1. A meal or social event at which persons help themselves to foods arranged on a table or other surfaces; seating is not always provided.
2. A sideboard table from which foods are served or kept during a meal.

Bulb Baster

A tool used to baste meat, poultry and fish; the basting liquid is drawn into the hollow body by suction created by squeezing the bulb at the other end; available with a hollow, needlelike attachment for injecting the basting liquid into food.

Bulk Buying

Purchasing products in quantity, usually at a lower as-purchased price per unit; also known as discount purchasing and quantity purchasing.

Bundt Pan

A tube pan with curved, fluted sides and used for baking cakes and quick breads.


1. A thick stew from the American South; it is made from pork, chicken, lamb, veal, beef, potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, corn, lima beans and okra.
2. An oatmeal porridge served to English sailors as early as 1750.

Burgundy (boor-guhn-dee)

1. One of France’s six principal grape-growing and wine-producing regions, located in southeast France.
2. The red or white wine produced in this region.

Burgundy, red

The red wines produced in Burgundy, principally from Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes; the wines mature quickly and are generally dry and full bodied, with a tannin content less harsh than that in a Bordeaux.

Burgundy, white

The white wines produced in Burgundy; the wines, made from the Chardonnay grape, are generally dry and full bodied.

Burrito; Burro (bur-REED-toh)

A Mexican and American Southwest dish consisting of a large flour tortilla folded and rolled around a savory filling of chorizo, chicken, machaca, refried beans or the like and garnished with lettuce, sour cream, cheese, tomato, guacamole and so on.


A fatty substance produced by agitating or churning cream; it contains at least 80% milkfat, not more than 16% water and 2-4% milk solids; it melts into a liquid at approximately 98 degrees F and reaches the smoke point at 260 degrees F; used as a cooking medium, ingredient and topping.

Butter, Clarified

Purified butterfat; the butter is melted and the water and milk solids are removed; also known as drawn butter.

Butter, salted

Butter with up to 2.5% salt added; salt changes the flavor and extends the keeping qualities.


A light, smooth, fluffy frosting of sugar, fat and flavorings with egg yolks or whipped egg whites sometimes added; there are three principal kinds: simple, Italian and French.

Butter Curler

A tool with a curved serrated blade; used to produce a shell-like curl of butter by dragging the knife across the butter.


To split food, such as boneless meat, fish or shrimp, nearly in half lengthwise, leaving the halves hinged on one side so that the item spreads open like a book; used to increase surface area and speed cooking.


1. French, pasteurized skim or low-fat cow’s milk cultured (soured) with Streptococcus lactis bacteria; also known as cultured buttermilk.
2. Traditionally, the liquid remaining after the cream was churned into butter.

Butternut Squash

A large, elongated pear-shaped squash with a smooth yellow to butterscotch-colored shell, an orange flesh and a sweet, nutty flavor.


1. A flavor derived from brown sugar and butter, used for cookies, candies, sauces and the like.
2. a hard candy with the flavor of butterscotch.


1. A wine-tasting term for an aroma and sometimes flavor reminiscent of butter; often found in Chardonnays.
2. A larder or pantry used to store provisions.


Slang abbreviation for bring your own bottle, beer, or booze, meaning that guests should bring their own beverages, usually alcoholic.

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