Decoding Your Recipe: Glossary of 20 Cooking Terms

Decode those confusing cooking terms with this mini dictionary!

Do you find yourself scratching your head at the common terms and phrases used in recipes and ingredient lists? Don’t let a host of unfamiliar words keep you from achieving culinary greatness! The following glossary of cooking terms will help you decode your recipes.

Al Dente
In any Italian kitchen, pasta is expected to be cooked al dente, which literally means “to the tooth”. Pasta al dente is cooked to the point at which it is still firm, but can be easily chewed, allowing it to absorb the flavors of its accompanying sauce without becoming soggy or limp.

Bouquet Garni
A variety of herbs, tied together into a bundle, adds flavor and depth to soups, stews, and sauces. You can combine thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves for a traditional bouquet, or experiment, using lavender, sage, or cilantro, depending on the dish. The bundle may be tied together and placed inside cheesecloth for easy removal from your sauce, soup or stock. Don’t have cheesecloth? Simply tie the bundle together with a sprig of thyme.

Blanching vegetables allows them to retain their color and texture after being cooked for only a brief period. Bring water to a boil, place the vegetables into the water for just a moment, and remove them, plunging them into ice water immediately.


This is a liquid with high salt content used to cure or pickle ingredients. Some home cooks use brine to preserve or pickle vegetables, or to preserve meat or fish.

Braising is a slow-cooking method that allows you to use tougher cuts of meat, turning them tender to the point of falling off the bone. Place your cut of meat in a tightly-covered pan with a bit of liquid, and cook on low heat, normally for over an hour. Experience the wonders of braising with our Slow Cooker Clean Eating Pork Tacos recipe.

Caramelizing an ingredient, such as onions or other vegetables, involves allowing them to sauté in oil or butter until their natural sugars begin to brown. The flavor of caramelized vegetables is slightly sweet and nutty, and more complex.

French for “made of rags”, a chiffonade refers greens that are sliced into fine, thin strips.

Clarification is the process of separating an ingredient into fat solids and liquid by cooking at a high temperature. Clarified butter is often used as a seafood dipping sauce and as an ingredient in Indian dishes.

Crème Fraîche
This is a thick and tangy dairy ingredient made by combining bacterial culture and whipping cream. It can be purchased at most grocery stores, and lends a smooth, creamy consistency to sauces and soups.

Deglazing is the process of adding a liquid to a pan in which meat or vegetables have been browned in order to release the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the pan and incorporate them into the flavor from the glaze. Scrape and stir!

(n) A boneless piece of fish or meat; (v) to debone a piece of fish or meat.

This means to make an impression into something, such as pie crust. Many home bakers will simply make indentations in a pie crust using a fork when a recipe calls for fluting.

This method is similar to braising. However, in a fricassee, the cut of meat or poultry is chopped into smaller pieces before simmering in liquid.

This refers to foods, often casserole-style dishes, with a golden brown crust. The crust is usually formed by cheese or breadcrumbs. Check out Julia Child’s Eggplant and Zucchini Gratin recipe!

Julienne vegetables, fruits by cutting them into thin strips. When a recipe calls for julienned greens, roll your greens into a cylindrical shape, and slice away for perfect strips.

This is similar to blanching, and is a process by which you partially cook an ingredient in boiling water.

Paring is the cutting off of the skin or peel of a fruit or vegetable. Commonly pared ingredients include potatoes, carrots, and apples.

Pectin is a thickening agent that helps foods such as jams acquire a gel consistency.

A roux is a combination of flour and a fat, such as butter or oil, that is cooked either briefly or until it darkens. A roux is used to thicken a sauce; a dark roux also adds distinct flavor. Check out the Skinny Ms. Seafood Chowder, featuring an olive oil roux.

Trussing means to tie or secure poultry with twine or skewers so that it holds its shape.

Put your expanded culinary vocabulary to good use with our Skinny Ms. Recipe Collection eBook for only $9.99!

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