Basic Cooking Terms and The Language Used in Recipes


It can be very frustrating when you are trying to follow a recipe, but you don’t understand the cooking terms used. Sometimes even instructions on a packet of pasta can confuse you – what does cook until “al dente” mean? So, let’s have a look at some basic cooking terms and the language used in recipes:

Al Dente

This term is often used with pasta and literally means “to the tooth/bite”. Boil the pasta until is tender but still has some “bite”, not soggy and falling apart. Packet pasta usually takes 5-10 minutes in boiling water.


This term is often used when roasting chicken or cooking meat in a marinade. You will need to regularly “baste” the meat with the juices or sauce to keep it moist. You can use a spoon to spoon the juices or sauce over the meat or you can use a “buster” which is a bit like a syringe or bulb.


A term often used in cooking or baking. You may be instructed to beat and egg – simply crack an egg into a bowl and beat (stir rapidly) with a fork or whisk to combine the yolk and white. In cake recipes, you may be instructed to beat the margarine and sugar together – use an electric whisk or beater for ease.


A recipe may call for blanching vegetable. This simply means to plunge them into boiling water for about a minute.


Self explanatory but use a good sharp knife and try to chop vegetables etc. so that bits are uniform in size and thickness. Onions often have to be chopped finely so chop them as small as you can.


Cake recipes often instruct you to cream the butter or margarine with the sugar. Beat them together either with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until they are well combined and the mixture has turned a paler color.


If you are instructed to dice meat or vegetables, it means that you should chop into uniform squares.


This word can either be used as a noun or a verb. A meat fillet is a good quality piece of meat which has been “filleted”, had the bones removed. If a recipe asks you to fillet a piece of meat or fish, it means you need to remove the bones. This is tricky so buy fillet meat or ask your butcher or fishmonger to do it for you.


Cake recipes often tell you to fold in the flour after creaming the margarine and sugar and adding eggs. Add the flour a bit at a time using a metal spoon and a figure of eight movement to “fold” the flour into the mixture while retaining the air added by creaming or beating.


This term is used with vegetables. Julienne carrots are carrots which have been chopped into matchsticks or strips.


To coat a piece of meat or fish in a sauce usually overnight or for a few hours in the fridge. The meat will take on the flavors from the sauce.


Remove the skin from fruit or vegetables.


Remove the skin from fruit, vegetables or prawns.


To cook in liquid. Poached eggs are cooked in boiling water and poached fish is often cooked in hot milk.


To puree a vegetable or fruit is to blend it until it is as smooth as baby food. Use an electric blender.


You can sauté vegetables and this means to fry in hot oil over a high heat for a short amount of time.


To flavor with salt and pepper.


This term is often used with sauces or recipes like curry or chili. It means to bring a sauce to boiling and then turn down to a level where the sauce is bubbling but not boiling.

Stiff Peak

If you are instructed to beat cream or egg whites until stiff peaks are formed, then you need to whisk or beat until the mixture forms peaks which do not collapse and you could even turn the bowl upside down without the mixture immediately falling out.


To stir-fry is to cook meat and/or vegetables in a wok at a high temperature. Stir-fry packs can be found in supermarkets and all you have to do is fry them briefly in hot oil in a wok, add sauce or spices and serve with noodles or rice.


Use an electric whisk or a hand whisk to beat something like cream.

Hopefully these explanations will help you to feel more confident when using recipes.

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Photo Credit

Source: Ab


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