Cooking Terms And Definitions

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When I started reading recipes and teaching myself how to cook, I would come across terms that I either had no clue what they meant or how they were considered different from another word. Take chop and dice for example, aren’t those just two ways to cut? Or wait…is cutting different from chopping? Well actually, those three terms are different!! (You’ll see how in a minute.)

Just like with hobbies, sports, careers, and other various groups, cooking has its own lingo that you’ll need to get familiar with. So, I compiled a basic list of words in my effort to help you learn the lingo and become familiar with some common cooking terms and definitions.

Common Kitchen Lingo: Cooking Terms and Definitions For Beginners

Food Preparation

  • brine – a saltwater mixture used to soak food for pickling, fermentation, or to add flavor to meat prior to cooking (like a marinade)
  • chop – to cut into smaller pieces (non-uniform)
  • crush – to grind or smash food into small particles using a tool such as a mortar and pestle, rolling pin, or garlic press
  • cube – to cut into small (1/2″) cube-like shapes
  • dice – to cut into uniform cubes anywhere from 1/8″ – 1/2″
  • dredge – to apply a light coat of flour or bread crumbs to food right before frying
  • marinade – a liquid (usually oil based) that is strongly seasoned with spices, salts, and herbs used to soak meat hours before cooking in order to add flavor and juiciness
  • mince – to chop food into super fine pieces, to incorporate them better into mixtures (most often done with strong tasting food like garlic and herbs)
  • puree – to blend or mash food into a paste
  • slice – to cut into thin long pieces
  • zest – grated rind from citrus fruits


  • Measuring Spoonsdash – a very small amount, undefined, but about 1/8 or 1/16 of a teaspoon
  • dollop – a scoop or a spoonful of a semi-liquid food (a dollop of whipped cream)
  • pinch – a very small undefined measurement (see dash)
  • to taste – when you add salt or another seasoning while tasting, until you reach the taste that you like the best

Cooking In The Oven

  • bake – to cook in an oven at a medium temperature usually between 350°F – 425°F
  • baste – to moisten roasting food with pan drippings or other liquids
  • broil – to cook with a direct heat source coming from above your food, broiling is done at a very high temperature for a short period of time


  • boil – to cook food immersed in a boiling liquid around 212°Ffry pan saute
  • par-boil – to partially cook in boiling water before removing to finish cooking by another method
  • blanch – to immerse in boiling water, then quickly remove and cool to stop the cooking process
  • braise – a combination cooking method starting with pan frying (a few minutes on each side) and then covering with liquid and finishing by slow cooking
  • deep fry – to cook food completely immersed in hot oil or fat
  • pan fry – to cook food in shallow oil/fat, not fully immersed
  • saute – to cook in a small amount of oil/fat over high heat for a short amount of time
  • sear – to burn or scorch the outer surface of meat quickly to create a crust on the edge of the meat
  • simmer – to slowly cook in liquid at a low gentle temperature
  • steam – an indirect cooking method that uses hot steam to cook the food, commonly used for vegetables


This list is a great beginning point to learning some of the most useful culinary terms. I realize there are many more terms I have not included, but I just want to give you a basic list that will help you get comfortable with common cooking terms and ultimately save you time in the kitchen! You can look up more terms here in this extensive culinary dictionary.

Let me know if you think of any other terms you would like me to add in the comment section below! As always, I would love to hear from you.

See you next time In The Kitchen With Me,



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