So you're sitting on your couch and you're watching your favorite cooking competition on T.V. All of the sudden, one of the chefs utters a word that leaves you more dazed and confused than the orb of confusion would.
Considering that the foundation of cooking is French and considering the fact that many Americans don't speak French, this situation happens a lot. There are so many terms that are French or based on French in the culinary field. Learning them can be essential to your success as a chef, home cook or just a food T.V. viewer.
Use this post as a reference guide to refer to as your culinary dictionary.
Terms to Know
Au Jus: To serve with natural juices (ex. roast beef au jus).
Bake: A cooking technique that uses dry heat, usually referring to items.
Béchamel: A white sauce made of milk thickened with a light roux and flavored with onion. This is one of the grand sauces.
Blanch: To partially cook food by immersing in boiling water.
Boil: A cooking technique that uses moist heat. Food products are cooked in boiling liquid until done.
Bouquet Garni: Aromatics tied together in a small bundle, consisting of: Parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves, sometimes other fresh herbs.
Braise: A cooking technique that uses dry and moist heat. Braising in primarily used for tougher cuts of meat that require cooking until connective tissue breaks down and becomes tender.
Broil: A cooking technique that uses dry heat and high temperatures. Broiling is used for tender single size cuts of meat, fish or poultry.
Brunoise: Vegetables cut into very small dice (⅛" x ⅛" x ⅛") used to garnish soups or sauces.
Clarify: To clear. Soup is clarified by the addition of egg whites, ground meat and vegetables. Butter is clarified by melting and removing the milk solids, what is left is the butter fat.
Clouter: To stud something with vegetables or cloves.
Concasser: Tomatoes which have been skinned, seeded and roughly chopped.
Court Bouillon: Short Broth. A flavored liquid used for poaching, may contain wines, vegetables and spices or herbs.
Cuisson: The liquid in which something has been cooked, such as poaching liquid from fish. This may be reduced and used as a base for the poaches items sauce.
Deep-fry: To cook thin, tender food products completely submerged in fat.
Deglaze: To moisten with wine or stock to dissolve food particles and / or caramelized drippings left in a pan after roasting or sautéing.
Degrease: To remove grease. (Removing the fat from the top of a sauce)
Dredge: To coat in flour or crumbs.
Escallop: A small thin slice of meat, fish or poultry.
Essence: A concentration of a particular flavor.
Fillet: A skinless, boneless piece of fish.
Fine Herbs: A mixture of chopped herbs; usually parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives.
Forcemeat: A mixture of ground meat that is highly seasoned. Used for preparation of pates, sausages and other preparations.
Fumet: A concentrated fish stock.
Garnish: An edible decoration or accompaniment to a dish.
Glace: A stock concentrated to a syrupy consistency, used for adding flavor to sauces or other dishes.
Glaze: To brush an item with butter or a reduced sauce to give a shine.
Gratine: To brown quickly (using broiler or salamander).
Grill: A cooking technique in which foods are cooked by a radiant heat source placed below the food.
Jardiniere: A mixture of vegetables.
Julienne: Vegetables cut in strips.
Jus: Natural juices.
Jus lie: Natural juices thickened lightly with arrowroot or cornstarch.
Lie: To lightly thicken.
Marinate: To steep meat, fish or poultry in a flavored liquid to add flavor, tenderize or preserve.
Mince: To cut in very small pieces.
Mirepoix: A mixture of carrots (25%), celery (25%), and onions (50%) used for flavoring culinary preparations.
Mise en place: "Put in place". The preparation and assembly of ingredients, pans, utensils, and plates or serving pieces needed for a particular dish.
Monter: To aerate by whisking.
Monte au Beurre: To finish a sauce by adding whole butter.
Napper/Nappe: To cover, as to cover with sauce.
Pan Fry: To cook small, thin pieces of meat, fish poultry or vegetables in shallow fat.
Paysanne: Peasant style, vegetables cut into small squares.
Pince: To caramelize an item by sautéing; usually refers to tomato product.
Poach: A cooking technique that uses moist heat; tender items are cooked very gently in a simmering liquid. The liquid from the poached item may sometimes be used to make an accompanying sauce.
Printanier: A garnish of spring vegetables.
Puree: Food that is processed in a blender of food processor or put through a foodmill to make a smooth paste.
Quenelle: A small oval shaped dumpling made of forcemeat, used for garnish.
Ragout: A stew.
Reduce: To boil down or concentrate.
Rest: To allow food to rest after roasting and before carving. This allows the juices to seep back into the meat fibers.
Refresh: To place cooked food in cold water after blanching.
Rissole: To brown in a pan in fat.
Roast: A cooking technique that uses dry heat. Tender multi-portion cuts of meat are most often roasted.
Roux: A thickening agent made from flour and butter.
Sachet d' epice: A small bag containing spices, used to flavor various culinary preparations, such as broth.
Sauce: Al liquid accompaniment of food.
Saute: To cook quickly in a small amount of fat.
Sauteuse: A shallow slope-sided pan.
Sautoir: A shallow straight-sided pan.
Sear: To caramelize (brown) the outside of a food product.
Simmer: A moist heat cooking technique. Cooking foods in gently simmering liquid.
Skim: To remove particles of impurity from the surface of the liquid.
Strain: To pass a liquid through a sieve or screen to remove particles.
Sweat: To cook without color. Sautéing vegetables in a covered pan using moderate heat so they do not brown.
Veloute Sauce: A sauce of white stock thickened with white roux; one of the grand sauces.