Vocabulary A-Z


A La Carte:  A list of menu selections with each item priced separately.

A La Minut:  foods that are cooked to order.

A La Mode:  Literally, “in the fashion.”  In United States, pie à la mode is topped with ice cream; in France, boeuf à la mode is pot-roasted beef with vegetables.

Al Dente:  Means “to the tooth.”  Firm but not mushy (vegetables or pasta).

AboyerBrigade System position:  Responsible for calling out orders and coordinating the production on the line so food is cooked, assembled, and served according to individual orders.

Antipasto:  The course served before the pasta; often includes anchovies, olives, sardines, and carefully prepared vegetables.

Arrowroot:  Starch obtained from the rootstock of the arrowroot plant; used in the preparation of delicate soups, puddings, and custards.





Bain Marie:  A container of water to keep foods hot, steam table or double boiler and a deep, a narrow container for storing hot sauces, soups and gravies.

Baking:  To cook foods by surrounding with hot, dry air, usually in an oven.

Batonnet:  Stick cuts about ¼ ″ × ¼ ″ × 2 ½ ″-3″.

Beat:  To make a mixture smooth by rapidly mixing with a spoon, fork, wire whisk or electric mixer.

Beurre:  French term for butter.

Bind:  To add liquid, egg, or melted fat to a dry mixture to cause to stick together; to form a cohesive mass.

Blanc:  White—a cooking stock of flour and water, in which certain foods, such as mushrooms and artichokes, are cooked to retain their color.

Blanch:  To plunge into boiling water to par-boil, and then placing product into cold water to “shock” or stop the cooking process.

Blend:  To combine several ingredients with a spoon, electric mixer, blender or food processor, making a smooth mixture.

Blind-Baked:  When a pie is pre-baked without filling. Typically, a sheet of parchment or foil is placed on top of raw dough formed in a pan, and then filled with rice or dried beans for weight.  Also called baking “au blanc.”

Boil:  To heat liquids until bubbles form that cannot be stirred down.  In the case of water, the temperature will reach 212º F at sea level.

Bone:  To remove raw or cooked meat from bones.

Bouillon:  Broth or unclarified stock made from beef, veal, or chicken; concentrated brown stock.

BoucheBrigade System position:  Responsible for butchering all meats and filleting all fish.

Bouquetière:  French garnish term:  a bouquet of vegetables.

Braise:  Combination of cooking methods in which foods are browned in hot fat, and then covered with a small amount of liquid.  Braising uses a combination of simmering and steaming to transfer heat from liquid (conduction) and the air (convection) to the food.

Breading:  A coating of fine bread crumbs or crackers used on meat, fish and vegetables.

Brigade System:  The brigade system divides the kitchen into functional stations, and has a command structure like the military.  Every station is led a “chef de partie,” and that person is in charge of their unit of sous chefs, cooks and assistants or “commis.”  Orders and information move down the chain of command and are spread around to the staff as each “officer” sees fit. Workers are responsible not just to their superior officers, but also to the chef.  The classic brigade is also called “brigade de cuisine.”

Brine:  Solution of salt and water used to draw natural sugars and moisture from food to preserve it.

Broil:  To cook foods 4″ to 6″ from a heat source.

Brown:  To cook foods in a small amount of fat over medium heat until the food becomes brown, sealing in juices and developing rich pan drippings.

Brunoise:  small square dice, 1/8 ″.

Buffet: Table displaying a variety of food.





Caramelize:  To heat sugar in a skillet or saucepan over low heat until melted and golden brown in color.  Also refers to cooking onions in butter until soft, caramel-colored and rich in flavor.

Canapé:  Bread cut into fancy shapes, sautéed in butter or toasted, and spread with savory toppings. Also, small open-faced sandwiches.

Carême, Marie-Antoine (1783-1833):  “Cook of Kings and King of Cooks” and “Founder of Classical Cuisine.”  1st culinary “Star”; known for displays, ice carvings and training chefs in large numbers.  His “Grand Cuisine” was a careful code introduced to restaurants.  Led the way into the “Golden Age of Cuisine” (1800s-1920s).

Caviar:  Roe (eggs) of salmon, sturgeon, or other fish.

Chantilly:  Whipped cream usually flavored with vanilla a sweetened with sugar.

Chaud-Froid:  Literally, hot-cold; an opaque sauce stabilized with aspic, used to coat cooked meat, game, poultry, and fish, particularly for buffet service.

Chef:  In charge of the complete food operation—chief of the kitchen.  Various titles and positions may include executive chef, working chef, head chef, and kitchen director.

Chef de Partie or Department Chef:  Person in charge of a department or section such as fry station, broil station, or roasting station.  One or more assistants report to the chef de partie.

Chiffonade:  Cut into fine shreds—usually of vegetables or herbs.

China Cap:  A cone-shaped strainer.

Chinois:  A conical strainer made of fine mesh, used for straining and pureeing foods.

Chop:  To cut into small pieces.

Clamart:  French garnish term:  with peas.

Clarified Butter:  To remove milk solids from butter by melting it, then skimming off the solids which rise to the top.

Clarify:  To remove floating impurities or undesired elements from a liquid such as a stock or a sauce.

Coat:  To dip or roll foods in flour, sugar or sauce until covered.

CommisBrigade System position:  Apprentice cook.

Correct / Adjust:  To adjust the seasoning or consistency and color of a finished dish.

Cream:  To beat butter, margarine, or shortening alone or with sugar using a spoon or mixer until light and fluffy.

Crécy:  French garnish term:  with carrots.

Crisp:  To make foods brittle and firm, as in chilling vegetables or heating cereals or crackers in the oven to remove excess moisture.

Crudités:  fresh vegetables, typically served on a platter; blanched green vegetables, served with savory or sweet dip.

Cube:  To cut foods into ½″ to 1″ pieces that are square in shape.

Cuisine:  Signature foods of a specific country, region, or ethnic group.

Custard:  Liquid set by coagulated or cooked egg.

Cut-In:  To incorporate fat (usually butter or shortening) into a dry product such as flour.





Debone:  To remove meat from bones, or to remove bones from an entire carcass.

Débrouillard:  Here’s what George Orlwell has to say in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933):  “Débrouillard is what every plongeur wants to be called.  A débrouillard is a man who, even when he is told to do the impossible, will se débrouiller: “get it done somehow.”

Deglaze:  To add wine, stock, broth or water to a pan in which food, usually meat, has been cooked to remove the browned drippings (fond) to make a rich gravy.

Dice:  To cut foods into small cubes.

Doria:  French garnish term:  cucumbers cooked in butter.

Dot:  To break up small pieces of butter and distribute over the top of a dish or casserole.

Dredge:  To lightly coat foods with flour or bread crumbs.

Du Jour:  Literally, “of the day.”  Describes food that is ready to serve on that particular day.

Dubarry:  French garnish term:  with cauliflower.

Dust:  To sprinkle a bench, counter, dough or finished pastry (lightly, unless indicated otherwise) with flour or powdered sugar, using a dredger or small strainer.

Duxelles:  Mushroom hash made of minced mushrooms sautéed with shallots and seasonings.





Egg Wash:  A mixture of beaten whole egg and other ingredients (often milk or water) used for brushing over the surface of pastries and breads before baking.

Emulsify:  To combine through a whisking action two liquids that traditionally separate, such as oil and vinegar, into a mixture that will not separate upon standing.

Entrée:  In France, third course; in United States, the main course.

EntremetierBrigade System position:  Vegetable cook who also prepares soups, starches, and eggs.  Large kitchens may divide these duties among the vegetable cook, the fry cook, and the soup cook.

Escoffier, Georges Auguste (1846-1935):  French chef who is considered the master of modern cuisine.  Also known as the “Father of the Modern Meal”—became the greatest living chef, simplified classical cuisine, and introduced Brigade System to kitchens.  His book, Le Guide Culinaire (1902), is one of the most influential books in modern cookery.


Fermière:  French garnish term:  carrots, turnips, onions and celery cut into uniform pieces.

Filet:  Boneless piece of red meat or beef; not to be confused with fillet, which refers to fish or poultry.

Filet Mignon:  A slice from the tenderloin of beef—fine textured and tender.

Fillet:  A boneless piece of fish or poultry; not to be confused with filet, which refers to red meat or beef.

Florentine:  French garnish term:  with spinach.

Fold:  To blend ingredients or dough with beaten egg whites or whipped cream. This must be done carefully to prevent a loss of air and volume. Incorporation of ingredients is typically 1/3 at a time.

Foie Gras:  Fat goose liver.

Fond:  1) French for “stock”; 2) French for “bottom”—the concentrated juices, drippings, and bits of food left in pans after foods are roasted or sautéed.

Forestière:  French garnish term:  with mushrooms.

Fry:  To cook by plunging into hot fat until done.

Full Rolling Boil:  To boil liquid in which the bubbles created by the heat cannot be stirred down.





Ganache:  A mixture of semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream which are heated together, then cooled.  Ganache is used for fillings, icings, and sauces for pastries.

Garde Mangér:  Cook in charge of the fancy cold foods, sauces, and condiments.  Also a kitchen department, and sometimes called the “pantry” or “pantry chef.”

Gateaux:  Generally means “cake” but can also be applied to cookies or puddings.

Glaze:  To make a smooth, shiny surface that can be decorated variously: stock or gravy reduced to the thickness of jelly that is used to cover meats or a thin sugar syrup on certain rolls, pastries, and confections.

GrillardinBrigade System position:  Responsible for all grilled and broiled items on the menu.

Grind:  To transform a solid piece of food into smaller pieces using a meat grinder, food processor or mortar and pestle.





Haricots Verts:  Green snap beans.

Hors d′ Oeuvres:  Appetizing 1st course dishes—finger foods.  Literally means “outside the work” or “outside the main meal.”





Infuse: To steep or soak herbs, spices, or vegetables in boiling water to extract their essence.

Iodized Salt: Table salt with added iodine, and essential trace element.





Jardinière:  French garnish term:  garden vegetables.

Judic:  French garnish term:  braised lettuce.

Julienne:  Knife cut:  small, thin strips or batons, about 1/8 ″ × 1/8 ″ × 2 ½ ″-3″.





Knead:  To work foods, usually dough, by using a pressing and folding action to make it smooth and elastic.





Leavener:  An agent which causes a product to rise, or produces fermentation.

Liason:  A thickening or binding agent consisting of egg yolks and sometimes milk or wine.

Lyonnaise:  French garnish term:  with onions.





Marinate:  To tenderize and / or flavor foods, usually meat raw vegetables, by placing in a liquid mixture of oil, vinegar, wine, lime or lemon juice, herbs and spices.

Marsala:  Wine made in Marsala, Sicily; may be fortified, dry, or sweet.

Melting: To liquefy by heating.

Mince:  To cut foods into very small pieces, no larger than 1/8″.

Mirepoix:  Mixture of aromatic vegetables: onion, carrot and celery.  The ratio of ingredients is 2 parts onion, to 1 part carrot and 1 part celery.

Mise en Place or “Meez”:  The foundation of professional cooking.  Literally means “put in place.”  Mise en place is the basic preparation to begin cooking, but is also a state of mind.

Montér Au Beurre:  To finish a sauce or soup with raw butter.





Niçoise:  French garnish term:  tomatoes concassée cooked with garlic.





Oeufs: French:  eggs.

Offal:  Internal organs or trimmings removed from the skeletal meat:  brains, heart, sweetbreads, liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, tongue, blood, intestines, etc.





Pan Broil:  First placing a product in a pan, then cooking under direct flame or over a charcoal fire.

Parboil:  To boil foods, usually vegetables, until partially cooked.  Most often used when vegetables are finished using another cooking method or chilled for marinated salads or appetizer dips.

Parch / Stale:  To cook in dry heat until slightly brown.

Pare / Peel:  To remove the skin from fruits and vegetables using a small knife or vegetable peeler.

Parmentier:  French garnish term:  with potatoes.

Pasteurize:  Partial sterilization of perishable food products such as meat, fish, or milk with gamma radiation.

PâtissierBrigade System position:  The pastry chef.

Petit Four:  Small, fancy cookies and filled cakes (sweet counterpart to hors d oeuvres).

Piccata :  Literally, larded; in general use meaning “piquant” (pungent), particularly with dishes flavored with lemon juice.

Pipe:  To force a soft mixture, such as whipped cream, frosting, or mashed potatoes through a piping bag.

Poach:  To cook meat, fish, eggs, or fruits in simmering liquid.

Poissonier:  Cook who prepares fish dishes.

Polenta:  Yellow cornmeal mush.

Portion Control:  Making judicious decisions about the amount of food plated for a meal.

PoissonierBrigade System position:  Responsible for all fish and seafood preparations.

Preheat:  To give a product a proper “head start” with initial heat application.

Primeurs:  French garnish term:  first spring vegetables (carrots, turnips, peas, pearl onions, green beans, cauliflower, asparagus, artichokes).

Princesse:  French garnish term:  with asparagus.

Printanière:  French garnish term:  spring vegetables.

Proof:  To allow a yeast product to rest in a warm place so that it may leaven or rise.

Proveçale:  French garnish term:  tomatoes, garlic, and parsley—sometimes mushrooms and olives or olive oil; the cookery of sunny Provence.

Punch Down:  To use a fist to deflate risen yeast dough after the first rise.

Puree:  Food that is mashed, chopped or strained to a pulp.





Ragout:  A stew of browned meat, fish, or poultry with vegetables.

Ramekins:  A small, flameproof dish.

Reduce:  To evaporate part of the liquid by simmering or boiling to concentrate flavors and develop body.

Ribbon:  When batter poured from a spoon or spatula falls in a smooth stream, then rests on the surface pf the batter in a mixing bowl for a few seconds before sinking in.

Roasting:  To cook uncovered by exposing to dry heat.

Roe:  Fish eggs (see Caviar).

RôtisseurBrigade System position:  In charge of all roasted meats, game, and poultry.  Prepares roasted and braised meats and their gravies and broils meats and other items to order. A large kitchen may have a separate broiler cook to handle the broiled items.  The broiler cook may also prepare deep-fried meats and fish.

Roux:  Equal parts of melted fat and flour (by weight) used as a thickening agent.





Saffron:  An herb of an autumn-blooming crocus whose orange-red stigmas are harvested by hand and dried; used for delicately coloring dishes, as well as seasoning.

SaucierBrigade System position:  Prepares all mother sauces and produces all sautéed items on the menu.  Although it is the highest position of the station cooks, the saucier is still considered subordinate to the chef and the sous chef.

Sauté:  To cook food using dry heat, using a small amount of fat.  Cooking is usually done quickly, over high heat.  The word sauté Comes from the French term “sauter” which means “to  jump.”

Scald:  To heat liquid to the boiling point without letting the product actually boiling.

Score:  To make thin slashes on the surface of meats to tenderize or decorate.

Scramble:  To prepare eggs or mixture containing eggs by stirring while cooking until mixture sets.

Searing:  Having the surface burned quickly with intense heat.

Separate:  To divide eggs into whites and yolks.

Shock:  To plunge blanched products into an ice-water bath.  This stops the cooking process, and preserves the item’s color, texture, and nutrients.

Skewer:  To thread food on a long pin for boiling or roasting.

Skim:  To remove fat or foam from the top of a liquid mixture.

Slurry:  Equal parts of cornstarch and water used to thicken a liquid.

Sift:  To put a dry substance like flour or sugar through sieve or other straining device in order to separate the fine from coarse particles or impurities.

Simmer:  To cook liquids alone or a combination of ingredients with liquid just under the boiling point (somewhere between 180º F. to 200º F).

Sous Chef:  Second in charge—the “under” chef.  Reports directly to executive chef.  Supervise and sometimes assist other chefs in kitchen.  May also fill executive chef roles when needed.

Steam:  To cook foods, covered, on a rack or in a steamer basket over a small amount of boiling water.  Most often used for vegetables.

Steep:  To cover with boiling liquid, and let stand to extract flavors or aromas.

Sterilize:  To make a product (or surface) free of harmful bacteria or microorganisms.

Stir:  To blend a combination of ingredients by hand using a spoon in a circular motion.

Stir-Fry:  To quickly sauté meats and vegetables while stirring constantly in a wok or a skillet.

Stock:  A long-simmered liquid made from vegetables, herbs and spices, and meat, poultry, or fish bones; there is also vegetable stock.

Strain:  To separate solids from liquids by pouring through a colander or sieve.

Sweetbread:  The thymus gland of the calf and lamb.  Veal sweetbreads are used as a garnish or with other foods.  The taste and texture are delicate.

“System D”:  Any kind of Macgyver-like improvisation to get out of the weeds.  Corner- cutting, shortcuts, substitutions (see Débrouillard.)  In his book, The Kitchen, Nicholas Freeling writes the following:  “He was a master of the short cut, the easy way out, the System D.D. stands for de as in débrouiller or démerder—to extricate …and to a hair (he) knew how to stay out of trouble.  He was a very skillful cook, and a very bad one.”





Thread:  To place pieces of meat and vegetables onto skewers—examples: kabobs or satays.

Toast:  To brown the surface of a food by direct heat.

Toss:  To quickly and gently mix ingredients with a spoon and fork.  Often used in salads or pasta dishes.

TournantBrigade System position:  Performs various positions on the line as needed; “tours” the other stations; cook who replaces other station leaders.  Also called relief cook or swing cook.

Trinity:  Similar to mirepoix in Cajun / Creole cuisine.  Trio of onion, celery, bell pepper.

Truss:  To tie the legs and wings of poultry close to the body before roasting.  If poultry is stuffed, the openings are closed with skewers that are tied or close with string.





Vichy:  French garnish term:  with carrots.





Whip:  To beat rapidly by hand or with an electric mixer to add air and increase volume.

Whisk:  A multi-looped wire mixing utensil with a handle used to whip sauces, eggs, cream, salad dressings, etc. to a smooth, airy consistency.





Zest:  The colored rinds (or peels) of citrus fruits containing essential oils.

Zabaglione:  A frothy, Italian dessert custard flavored with Marsala.

Published on August 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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