14 most confused cooking phrases, outlined


Has a term you didn’t know ever stopped you from trying a new recipe? When it comes to cooking, there are many methods that the average chef may not be familiar with, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from more complicated dishes and desserts. We’ve consulted some of the best cooking school experts around the country to help define some of the elusive culinary terms so you can chop, dice, and fold them like a pro.

Chef Lance Nitahara, assistant professor of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, told TODAY Food that having a basic education can be very helpful as many people now get their cooking instructions from outside sources such as YouTube videos Knowledge of some culinary terms. “Understanding the terminology for techniques used can lead to a better understanding of the technical aspect of cooking through communication,” he said.

Here are some of the cooking terms that may bother you when you see them in a recipe:


“This is rarely used in the industry,” said Nitahara. “It describes a measure that barely fills the volume measure it describes. For example, a ‘sparse cup’ would be just below the top measure of the cup rather than aligning or piling up.” Scant can also sometimes be used to describe a measurement of dry items that could be packaged but are not, for example, a cup of unpackaged brown sugar.


“Sweating means cooking something without giving it a color,” said Frank Proto, director of culinary operations at the Institute of Culinary Education, TODAY. “This is mostly done with vegetables and flavors when you want to get some of the moisture out by cooking them over low to medium heat with some fat.” For example, when making risotto, you sweat out the onions to cook them, but you don’t want them to color.

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Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Citrus peel

“The peel of a citrus fruit is the colorful outer shell of the fruit peel, also known as the fruit’s flavedo,” said Nitahara. “The peel of the fruit doesn’t have the white pulp just below it, and recipes that call for the peel generally don’t have the pulp because it’s bitter and astringent.” Citrus peel is intensely aromatic but has very little flavor and this is due to the essential oils trapped in the cells of the peel. Zest can be used to add flavor and aroma to desserts, sauces, or meat. “I use them a lot to enhance the flavor and aroma of beets with orange juice icing,” said Nitahara.

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Kristin Dough


“A classic julienne is a cut of vegetables that measures 1/8” x 1/8 “x 1” to 2 “, said Nitahara. “It’s about the size of a match.” A julienne cut can also be described as an imprecise, thin, longer cut of an object, for example as thinly sliced ​​carrot sticks for a salad.

Bouquet garni

“This is a bundle of herbs tied with string to flavor soups, broths, and stews,” said Proto. “Tying the herbs together before adding makes it easier to fish out when you’re done cooking.” You can use all of the herbs in a bouquet garni, but a basic one can include a bay leaf, parsley stalks, and thyme.

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Classic oven braised brisket

Jamie Geller


“Devitrification is when you add liquid to a saucepan or pan that was used to brown meat or vegetables to lift the stock – small caramelized pieces and juices – from the bottom of the pan,” Proto said. “I always tell my students that the stock contains a lot of flavor, that’s why we remove the stock from the pan with devitrification and stir it into the liquid – we often make a sauce for the dish.” Do not let the stock burn, otherwise it will develop a bitter taste.

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Red wine braised short ribs

Nathan Congleton / TODAY


“Wrinkle is more commonly used in pastry applications when you combine two items of different weights without blowing out the air,” said Proto. “For example, if you’re making soufflé, you need to mix the egg whites into the heavy base while keeping it aerated. Take the spatula and scrape it on the side of the bowl closest to your body, then twist it when it reaches the curve over and gently slide the spatula back over the mixture in the opposite direction. Keep folding until the items are mixed. “Proto said you want to avoid stirring vigorously in irregular directions, whereby the air is knocked out.

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6-ingredient chocolate ganache soufflé cake

JoAnn Swenson / Floriole Bakery, Chicago

To reduce

“Reduction is the application of heat to a liquid to boil or boil until some or all of the water in the liquid has evaporated,” said Nitahara. “This makes the liquid more intense in taste, color, and aroma, and it can also thicken the liquid if the liquid contains starch, gelatin, fiber, or other thickening agents.”


“Ties are the process of tying an object with butcher’s string to prepare it for cooking,” said Nitahara. “This is most commonly used with roast meat or whole poultry. Binding does two things. First, after cooking the item is shaped for presentation. It also allows the item to be cooked more evenly.” If an item is not trussed, the thinner parts of it will overcook when the thicker parts are cooked to doneness so that the truss can create a more even, more uniform shape to prevent this.

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Roast chicken with mushrooms

Nathan Congleton / TODAY


“Blanching is when you put food in boiling water for a short time and then dip it in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process,” Proto said. Final cooking time is usually not the final step in the cooking process. This cooking technique preserves the color of a food, kills enzymes in food, and makes it easy to remove the skin of some foods like tomatoes and peaches.

Minced meat

“Chopping is a quick process of chopping food by rocking the curved part of the knife back and forth over the item to be shredded,” said Nitahara. “This results in a finely sliced ​​item that can be used for stuffing or garnishing.” Items that you typically shred would include onions, garlic, shallots, or other flavorings.

Chop coarsely

“Roughly chopping an object briefly cuts an object into relatively evenly sized pieces, regardless of the evenness of the shape,” said Nitahara. “This often happens with foods that are not highlighted as a visual accompaniment, but are made into a sauce or flavor enhancement.”


“A classic little cube is an item that is cut to dimensions of 1/4” x 1/4 “x 1/4″, said Nitahara. ” A classic medium cube is cut into the dimensions 1/2 “x 1/2” x 1/2 “.

water bath

“If you’re cooking on a large scale, water baths can be used to keep the food warm,” Proto said. “To do this, fill a baking sheet with water and place it on the back of the oven. Then place food in smaller trays and place them side by side over the water bath to keep them warm.” Another use for water baths is to make puddings, soufflés, and crème brûlée. “When baking, a water bath is insulated so they cook slower and more evenly,” Proto said.

“The steam from a water bath or water bath can also be used to gently boil egg yolks without stirring it into the classic hollandaise sauce,” said Nitahara.

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Lidia Bastianich's cherry bread pudding

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Knowing these culinary terms can make executing the next recipe that will grab your attention a lot easier. However, if you forget one of them or come across another unfamiliar word, don’t sweat.

“When I’m at home and cook for my loved ones, nobody will notice whether I’ve cut my Juliennes an inch longer than the classic technique requires,” said Chef Nitahara. “A thin, long slice of carrot will definitely do.”

Nitahara said it’s important to remember that the ability to cook doesn’t just come from the brain, it comes from the heart.

“Precision measurements may be vital in a restaurant, but at home it’s more important to make sure the food tastes good, and we can only do that if we really enjoy the process,” he said. “The wise men of generations past have been cooking this way for their families for years. I don’t think my grandma even had a measuring spoon, let alone a ruler, to measure her vegetable slices.”