Tag Archives: terminology

Cooking Terms, part 3

Don’t forget about parts 1 and 2 of this series.  We are making our way through the alphabet.  I hope you find these make you a better foodie and cook!

-leaven – any agent that causes a dough to rise.  Yeast is what most of us think about with leavening.  But baking soda, baking powder, and eggs are also leavening agents.

-macerate – soak a food in a liquid to infuse flavor.  This is usually used in reference to fruit.  This is similar to marinate.

-marinate – soaking meat, fish, or vegetables in a seasoned liquid mixture.  Most marinades are acidic, so you should not use an aluminum container.

-mince – to chop food into very small pieces.  For my purposes, this is the smallest cut I would refer to.  If you’ve been following along, largest to smallest is chop, dice, and mince.

-mirepoix – a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery used to flavor sauces, stews, and soups.  In cajun cooking, you omit the carrots and add bell pepper.  You will likely not run into this term in a recipe.  However, it is good to know that these are a good flavor base.  You can always add some carrots or celery if they are omitted but the other two or there.  These ingredients bring a base flavor without being overpowering of an entire dish, if used in the right quantities.

-mise en place – This term is used in professional kitchens.  When you watch cooking shows, you notice that they have all of the ingredients measured out into small little containers that can just be dumped in at the appropriate time.  THAT is mise en place.  For a home cook, I don’t find this entirely feasible all the time, nor would my husband appreciate all of the dishes.  HOWEVER, I do think it is important to at least gather together all of the necessary ingredients, so you can easily add them when needed.  This also prevents you from getting halfway through a recipe and realizing you don’t have an ingredient you need.

-noodle – Similar to pasta, but the dough contains egg.

-parboil – partially cook a food in boiling water.  This is similar to blanching, although blanching usually involves chilling the food quickly in an ice bath after, whereas parboiling does not.

-pasta – a product made from a dough of flour and water.

-pinch – a measuring term roughly equivalent to 1/16 teaspoon.  When I use this, I generally mean I “pinched” a bit of salt and threw it in.

-pan vs pot – I generally refer to a pot as something with deeper sides.  Anything you would commonly boil water in is a pot to me.  A pan is something wider and more shallow.  Like a skillet could also be a pan.

-proof – dissolving yeast in a mixture of sugar and water to allow it to become bubbly.  This can help you make sure you have good yeast.  I generally use instant yeast, which does not require proofing.  When making products with a long rising time, you can decrease that time by using a “proofing oven”.  Heat your oven to the lowest temperature possible with a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack.  Once heated, place your dough in an oven safe bowl covered with a towel on the top rack.  Shut the oven door and turn off the oven.  This will generally cut rising time at least in half.  However, for some doughs, the rising time is a good time for developing a yeasty flavor (such as for some French breads).  By cutting down the time, you may lose some flavor.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Cooking Terms, part 2

Here’s the next installment of terms used in cooking, food, and menus.  I hope you find these helpful, and don’t forget to check out part 1 from last week if you missed it!

-farro – a cereal grain that was common back in ancient Egypt.  It is a member of the wheat family, so it will contain gluten.  It can be used in pasta and risotto like dishes.  It is often confused with spelt, but is a different grain.

-fold – a technique of gently adding a fluffy ingredient to a richer batter.  This term is often seen connected with egg whites and whipped cream.  The point is to combine the egg whites or cream into the batter without losing all of the air.  To fully combine, you will lose some air.  Just be as patient and gentle as you can.  A circular motion is often helpful.

-fry – to cook in hot oil.  Deep fry means to submerge in hot oil.  Pan fry is fairly synonymous with sauteing.  So not all frying is bad for you.

-germ – this is the embryo in a whole grain kernel.  Whole grain flours will contain the germ.  You can buy germ separately, with wheat germ being the most common.

-herbs – the fragrant leaves of plants.  These are different from spices.  You can generally substitute dried herbs for fresh.  However, dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor, so you generally want to start with about ⅓ as much as fresh.

-jelly roll pan – a sheet pan that has sides up to about 1 inch deep.  Many people use jelly roll pans for baking cookies.  While this is fine, these are different from a cookie sheet, which does not have a rim.

-kefir – a fermented milk beverage.  While it has similar taste or texture to liquid yogurt, it is not actually a yogurt based product.

-knead – working a dough to develop the gluten.  This can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.  A dough is done being kneaded when it is smooth and elastic.  You fold the dough in half, push it away from you, turn it a quarter turn, then repeat.

Until next time, happy cooking and eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!


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Cooking Terms, part 1

I’ve wanted to do a series of posts for a while highlighting more technical cooking and food terms.  Some of these you may never see in an actual recipe.  But understanding the concept will make you a better cook.  Others you will see in a recipe, so it is always good to have an idea what these terms really mean (although recipe authors may have their own meanings).  Some may make you a more savvy shopper at the grocery store.

-al dente – Italian for “to the tooth”.  This is the term usually used to refer to the correct way to cook pasta.  Pasta should be tender, but not soggy.  There should be a little resistance when you bite into it.

-beurre – French word for butter.  You see this word in sauce names, such as beurre blanc.  You know that it is a butter based sauce.

-binder – an ingredient used to thicken.  Eggs, roux, flour, and cornstarch are common binders.

-bouquet garni – a bundle of herbs tied together with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth.  You place it in a soup or stew to flavor while cooking.  By bundling, it is easy to remove your stems/large leaves when ready to serve.

-chop – This is a generic term for cutting food into bite size pieces.  It generally means a coarser or larger cut than say mince or dice.

-cobbler – a baked fruit dessert with a biscuit like crust

-crisp – a baked fruit dessert with a pastry like crust

-cocoa powder – usually sold as unsweetened cocoa powder, this is the product from the grinding of cocoa liquor.  Dutch process cocoa powder has been treated with an alkali.  Cocoa powder is naturally acidic.  You have to be careful substituting Dutch cocoa for regular cocoa if the recipe needs acidity of cocoa.

-convection oven – An oven equipped with a fan to circulate the air.  Products will cook more evenly and up to 25% faster.  It is generally recommended that you can decrease the temperature by 25 degrees when using a convection oven.

-dash – Refers to a small amount of seasoning, generally considered somewhere between 1/16 and ⅛ teaspoon.

-deglaze – Removing the brown bits from a pan after browning another ingredient (usually meat).  You add a small amount of liquid to the hot pan, then scrape the pan to remove the bits.  This is useful for adding flavor to a dish.  However, you could also use this same technique with water to help clean a pan that has a lot of burnt bits on the bottom.

-dice – to cut food into small cubes.  I often use dice as something between chop and mince.

That’s all for now.  Hope you find these helpful!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!


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