Complicated culinary terms – simplified
Next time you go to a restaurant, you've got this!
Have you ever been to a restaurant, opened a menu and immediately checked Google to find out what a specific culinary term means?
Here are a few terms I've read up on to save me some embarrassment when placing an order...
1. Au sec (adj.)
A liquid that has been reduced until dry – usually used to make sauce bases.
2. À la carte (adj.)
An item on the menu that is not a part of the set menu and is priced separately.
3. Au gratin (adj.)
Usually a baked dish that has a browned crust of breadcrumbs or cheese (or both).
4. Au jus (adj.)
Usually refers to steak that has been prepared in its juices.
5. Barding (v.)
To coat a slice of meat with a layer of fat, like bacon or steak. This process helps maintain the moisture of the meat while it cooks, avoiding overcooking.
6. Blanching (v.)
To plunge vegetables or fruits in boiling water, then drop into ice water to stop the cooking process.
7. Braising (v.)
A combination-cooking method that first sears the food at high temperature, then finishes it in a covered pot at low temperature.
8. Brining (v.)
The process of soaking meat in brine or salty juice (very similar to marination).
9. Chiffonade (n.)
Vegetables and herbs finely cut to use as a garnish for plating or soups.
10. Confit (n.)
A process in which the meat is cooked in its fat.
11. Croquette (n.)
A small round roll of minced meat, fish, or vegetables coated with egg and breadcrumbs.
12. Deglaze (v.)
To remove and dissolve the browned food residue, or 'glaze', from a pan to flavour sauces, soups, and gravies.
Short ribs de-glazed with Coke
13. Dress (v.)
To put oil, vinegar, salt, or other toppings on a salad or other food.
14. Fillet (n.)
A boneless slice of poultry, fish or meat.
15. Flambé (v.) -
The process of adding alcohol such as rum or brandy to a hot pan to create flames. Usually done for dramatic effect, or to infuse the food with the rich flavour of alcohol, without the alcohol itself.
Graviera Cheese with Ouzo flambé
16. Frenching (v.)
The process of removing all fat, meat and cartilage from rib bones on a rack roast by cutting between the bones with a sharp paring knife.
17. Harissa (n.)
A spicy, aromatic paste made from a variety of hot peppers and spices, often used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking.
18. Infusion (n.)
The process of extracting chemical compounds or flavours from a vegetable in water, oil, or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the liquid over time.
19. Involtini (n.)
Food such as meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables, wrapped around a filling such as cheese, cured meats, or nuts.
20. Oeuf (n.)
The French word for egg.
21. Parboiling (v.)
The process of cooking food in boiling water until soft or half-cooked.
22. Par cooking (v.)
The process of half-cooking food which will be reheated or cooked later on.
23. Poached (v.)
A cooking technique that involves cooking food by placing it in a liquid like milk, water, or wine. Usually referring to eggs or fish.
24. Praline (n.)
Nuts cooked in boiling sugar until crisp and brown. Usually used in ice creams and other desserts.
25. Quatre épices (n.)
Literally means 'four spices'. Consists of pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger (or cloves). Used to season vegetables, gravies or soups.
26. Sautéing (v.)
To cook food on a high flame. A usual method for stir-fried vegetables or poultry.
Sautéed chicken and vegetables
27. Sear (v.)
A technique used in grilling, baking, or sautéing in which the surface of the food is cooked at a high temperature until a crust forms.
28. Yakitori (n.)
A Japanese dish that consists of small cubes of chicken, which are marinated and grilled.
With more than a hundred such culinary terms, it is difficult to remember every single one. Hopefully, you can share a few more in the comments and educate us even more!