Glossary (talk like a chef)

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You have probably noticed that many recipes given by chefs are full of incomprehensible jargon. This is because chefs have their own "language".
Here is a small glossary of words and expressions that you are likely to find in recipes.

Words

Expressions


Add liquid

Adding a liquid.

Example: "Add white wine."
Meaning: Add white wine.

Add liquid

Add liquid to cover

Filling a receptacle with liquid, until the contents are just covered.

Example: "Add red wine to cover."
Meaning: Add enough red wine to just cover pan contents.

Add liquid to cover

Al dente

"Al dente" ("at the tooth" in italian) is a term that mean: the optimum cooking pasta.

Example: "Cook spaghettis al dente."
Meaning: Cook spaghettis in a big pan of boiling salted water until they are cooked, but stay firm. Note: only tasting can allow you to check that.

Al dente

Arrange on plate

Serving up a dish on a plate which will go directly onto the table in front of your guests. To arrange on the plate.

Example: "Arrange salad on a plate."

Arrange on plate

Bain-marie

Method of gently heating something over hot water without direct contact with heat.

Example: "Melt chocolate in a bain-marie."
Meaning: Break chocolate into small pieces, put in a bowl and proceed as indicated here.

Bain-marie

Base

Concentrated stock of various meats, vegetables and spices usually used as a base for sauces. There are several kinds of "fond" (white=poultry, brown=beef and veal fond).

Example: "Add 20 cl white stock base (fond)."
Meaning: Add 20 cl white (poultry) stock base (fond).

Base

Blanch

Blanching. Plunging an ingredient (usually vegetables) into boiling salted water for a very short time (a few seconds), and then into very cold water.

Example: "Blanch the green beans."
Meaning: Bring a large pan of water to the boil, tip in green beans for one minute, remove with a strainer and put into very cold water (if possible with ice cubes). Leave to cool then drain.

This is ofen done to preserve the couleur of the ingredient in the final dish.

Blanch

Blanch (almonds etc.)

For almonds (or other nuts), blanching is the process of plunging in boiling water in order to remove the skins easily.

Example: "Unblanched almonds"
Meaning: Almonds still in their skins


Note:Can be used as a verb: "blanch the almonds", for example, means "remove the skin from the almonds". A similar method can be used to peel tomatoes easily.

Blanch (almonds etc.)

Boil in water

Cooking in a large pan of salted water. English way of cooking.

Example: "Boil broad beans in salted water."
Meaning: Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add about a tablespoon of coarse salt per litre of water, add broad beasns and cook until they are tender.

Boil in water

Broken pieces or crumbs

Remaining parts of a product, after cutting, which are edible but not very attractive.

Example: "Save broken mushroom pieces to make stuffing."
Meaning: Keep to one side all unused broken pieces of mushroom, they will be used to make stuffing.

Broken pieces or crumbs

Brunoise (tiny diced vegetables as garnish)

Cutting a product into very small dice.

Example: "Add a brunoise (tiny dice) of potatoes."
Meaning: Add potatoes, peeled, washed, and cut in small even dice.

Brunoise (tiny diced vegetables as garnish)

Checking seasoning

Tasting to see if the preparation has enough salt and pepper.

Example: "Put over low heat and check seasoning"
Meaning: Taste the preparation, and add salt and pepper if there is not enough already (sometimes also called "adjusting" seasoning).

Checking seasoning

Clarify

Removing the solids from a mixture to obtain a clear liquid. To clarify.

Example: "Clarify stock by filtering."
Meaning: Filter solids from stock to keep only the liquid.

Clarify

Clean (trim)

Cleaning, removing scraps (inedible parts).

Example: "Peel (or scrape) carrots."
Meaning: Peel and wash carrots, cut off ends. Ends and peelings are scraps ("parures" in French).

Clean (trim)

Cover/wrap with plastic film

Covering with a plastic film to protect from air.

Example: "Cover bowl with plastic film overnight."
Meaning: Cover bowl with plastic film to protect from air, and leave overnight.

Note: See also the page dedicated to films and papers used in cooking.

Cover/wrap with plastic film

Cut or snip

Cut in fairly thin slices or strips.

Example: "Chop (or cut) coriander."
Meaning: Cut coriander leaves into fine strips.

Cut or snip

Deglaze

Deglazing. Pouring a little liquid into a pan where cooking has left a deposit on the bottom, then scraping to free all the juices and mix them with the liquid.

Example: "Deglaze frying pan, where fruits are caramelized, with a little rum."
Meaning: Remove contents of frying pan , put back on heat, add rum. Scrape bottom of pan with a wooden spatula to dissolve juices in rum.

Deglaze

Dry roasting

Dry roasting (torréfication in French), usually seeds (sesame, linseed,...) or nuts (almonds, walnuts, ...), means to heat without water or fat, in the oven or a heavy pan, to drive off all water they contain.

It make seeds crunchier, very pleasant in the mouth, with an improved flavour.

Example: "Dry roast almonds in the oven"
Meaning: Put almonds on a baking tray in an oven at 150°C for about 15 minutes to dry them out and make them crunchier.

Note: Dry roasting is not cooking in the classic sense, it's shorter in time, and lower in temperature. This is the method is used to dry coffee beans for example.

Dry roasting

Feuilletage

Piece of puff pastry.

Example: "Wrap the fish fillet in puff pastry."

Feuilletage

Finish sauce (with butter)

Adding cold butter to a hot liquid a little at a time, while beating with a whip to make a smooth sauce.

Example: "Reduce white wine and onions, then beat in butter to finish."

Finish sauce (with butter)

Flour

Dusting, dredging or sprinkling, usually with flour.

Example: "Flour dough before baking."
Meaning: Sprinkle dough with flour before baking.

Flour

Fumet

Similar to a "fond" (concentrated stock), but made from fish.

Example: "Add a little fish fumet."

Fumet

Ganache

A mixture of melted chocolate with cream or milk, which allows it to keep a soft consitency which doesn't set on cooling.
Ganache

Garlic "en chemise"

Said of garlic cloves which are used without being peeled ("in its shirt" in French). In the photo, the left hand clove is peeled as normal, the right hand one is "en chemise".

Example: "Adding two cloves of garlic "en chemise""
Meaning: Add two cloves of garlic without peeling, they will be removed later.

Garlic

Glaze (with apricot jelly)

Glazing a tart or cake with a little apricot jelly (using a brush) to make it glossy and appetising.

Example: "Glaze the tart before putting it in a cool place."
Meaning: Using a brush, glaze a cooked tart with strained apricot jam before putting it in the fridge.

Glaze (with apricot jelly)

Ingredient, product

Everything used as a raw material in the kitchen: vegetables, meat, fish, spices, fruit, etc.

Example: "Good cooking starts with good ingredients."

Ingredient, product

Julienne

Cutting an ingredient into small sticks.

In French it's also the name of a sea fish (ling).

Example: "Make a julienne of vegetables."
Meaning: Cut vegetables into thin strips.

Julienne

Lèchefrite (oven tray)

Large rectangular metal oven tray sold with cooker

A "lèchefrite" is a large (full-size) oven tray for collecting cooking juices under poultry roasted using a rotisserie (the most usual way to roast poultry in France), but it can also be use as a huge rectangular baking tray.

Lèchefrite (oven tray)

Line (with pastry)

Lining a tart mould or tin with a circle of pastry.

Example: "Line mould or tin with sweetcrust pastry."
Meaning: Line mould or tin with circle of sweetcrust pastry, press it well into bottom and sides, then trim off excess around edge.

Line (with pastry)

Ménagère

Housewife. The term, unfortunately condescending and rather pejorative, used by chefs to refer to someone who cooks at home and is therefore not a professional chef.

In France, a "Ménagère" it's also a nice set of spoons, forks and knifes presented in a pretty box. A classical wedding gift usually.

Example: "To cook like a housewife."
Meaning: This is not a compliment in a professonal chef's kitchen, and that's sad...

Ménagère

Mirepoix (diced vgetables)

Cutting a product into dice.

Example: "Add diced turnips (mirepoix)."
Meaning: Add turnips, peeled, washed and cut in large dice.

Mirepoix (diced vgetables)

Mixture or batter

Preparation with several ingredients.

Example: "Make a soufflé mixture."
Meaning: Mix together ingredients needed for a souffle. This mixture is called "appareil" in French.

Mixture or batter

Oven floor or sole

Word meaning the floor or bottom of your oven.

Example: "Place rounds of dough directly on the sole (floor) of oven."
Meaning: Which cost (prices)

Items are seldom placed directly on it to cook because it's very hot. One notable exception: pizzas.

Oven floor or sole

Passing through a sieve

To push a fairly thick preparation through a"sieve", usually with a maryse, thus removing any remaining lumps. The aim is to produce something totally smooth in texture.

Example: "Passing potato purée through a sieve"
Meaning: Put the purée into a sieve, then press with a maryse or spatula using a to-and-fro movement until it has all been pushed through.

Note: "Passing through a sieve" is not the same as sieving.

Passing through a sieve

Peel fruit completely

Removing all skin, seeds, pith, etc. of a fruit, to keep only flesh.

Example: "Peel oranges completely."

Peel fruit completely

Poolish

Poolish is a fermented batter, generally a mixture of water, flour and yeast which acts as the leaven for certain kinds of bread dough.

There are distinct bread types, depending on the rising agent: yeast-raised bread, poolish bread, and leavened bread.

Although it doesn't have the full flavour of a leavened bread, poolish gives a bread with more flavour than one just using yeast.

.[Translator's note: the term poolish is more common in French baking than in English. For more information see the Pre-ferment, article on Wikipedia.].

Example: "Prepare a poolish by mixing the water, flour, yeast and a teaspoon of sugar."
Meaning: Mix the ingredients thoroughly but gently, preferably using a whisk, until the mixture is quite smooth.

The prepared mixture is covered and left in a warm place to ferment. This produces a rather sticky batter full of bubbles, the poolish, which can then be mixed with flour and water to make bread.

Poolish

Puncher

Puncher is soaked a biscuit with a liquid, usually a syrup or alcohol, to make it less dry.

Example: "Puncher the half génoise with griottines syrup"
Meaning: Dip a brush in the syrup and soak in the cake, do so on all its surface.

Note: The brush is not absolutely necessary, you can also pour the syrup with a spoon for example, directly on the cake.

Puncher

Reduce

Reducing. Leaving a liquid on the heat until it reduces in volume by evaporation, to the desired quantity.

Example: "Reduce the red wine by half."
Meaning: Put red wine on medium heat until the volume reduces by half.

Reduce

Rise (or prove)

Removing for use the best part of a fish, poultry, etc.

Example: "Ask your fishmonger to fillet the salmon. "
Meaning: Ask your fishmonger to prepare salmon by skinning and filleting, and keep only these fillets.

Rise (or prove)

Rolled out pastry

Pastry, rolled out with a rolling pin, usually in a circle.

Example: "Put rolled out pastry in fridge to rest."
Meaning: Take the rolled out pastry, and put it in the fridge to rest.

Rolled out pastry

Round slice of onion

Slice of something with round shape.

Example: "Fry sliced onions."
Meaning: Cut onion in thin slices and then fry.

Round slice of onion

Scraps (inedible parts)

Scraps, inedible parts. Applies to vegetables, fruit (skins, core, ...), meat (bones, veins, skin, ...) and fish (heads, skin, bones...).

Example: "Set aside grapefruit scraps."
Meaning: Don't throw away skin, and white part of the grapefruit.

Scraps (inedible parts)

Seam

The seam. On a formed loaf prior to baking, the underside where the edges of the dough have been rolled towards the centre.

Every loaf is formed with a "top", well rounded, and a "seam" on the underside where all the folds from the kneading process join.

Seam

Set aside

Set aside or put away.

Example: "Keep hot."
Meaning: Set aside in a hot place.

Set aside

Sieving

To sieve means to pass a powder through a strainer with a fairly close mesh, to ensure that there is only a fine powder and no bits or lumps.

Example: "Sieving icing sugar."
Meaning: Tip the icing sugar into a sieve, then shake it until all the sugar falls through directly onto where it is to be used.

Note: "sieving" is not the same as passing through a sieve.

Sieving

Slash

Slashing is a baker gesture, which means that cuts are made on top of loaves, with a very sharp blade, at baking time.

See this page dedicated to slashing.

Slash

Sweat in butter

Cooking vegetables briefly in a little butter until they become slightly transparent.

Example: "Sweat the chopped onions in butter."

Sweat in butter

To simmer

"Simmering" is used for a liquid that just start to boil, not rolling boil (left photo).

The opposite of "simmering" is "rolling boil" (right photo).

Example: "Put scampi in salted simmering water."
Meaning: Put scampi in a pan full of salted water, just beginning to boil.

To simmer

Without colouring

Removing something cooking from heat, just before it begins to brown.

Example: "Cook chopped onions without letting them colour."
Meaning: of

Frequently refers to cooking onions and shallot in a little butter or oil. The aim is to cook them gently without letting them fry and brown.

Without colouring

Your 10 comments or questions on this page:

What is the french word for carrots cut into circles?
By copper penny carrots november 3rd 2010 at 09:50 (n° 1)
It's "rondelles de carottes"
By jh november 3rd 2010 at 10:11 (n° 2)
What is the term chefs use for a tray that is specifically used for gathering ingredients?
By Anonymous november 30th 2012 at 00:03 (n° 3)
I think it's a "grille" (a grid), but I'm not sure to have completely understand the question, sorry broken English...
By jh november 30th 2012 at 15:40 (n° 4)
what about misanplas ?
By jon january 22th 2013 at 10:23 (n° 5)
It is actually spelt mise-en-place, it is defined as before you start cooking, you have time to prepare e.g. Put apron on, wash hands, get equipment, weigh ingredients out and chop up vegetables or meat etc. These are just a few examples :)
By Anonymous june 19th 2013 at 21:43 (n° 6)
What are words which sound like 'punwa' and 'matignor' in french
By arissafahim july 8th 2013 at 07:29 (n° 7)
They don't exist in French.
The second could be "Matignon", it's a mix of vegetables cutted in small dices, and cooked in olive oil.
By jh july 8th 2013 at 08:57 (n° 8)
I use "en chemise" also for boiled potatoes, as served with raclette, for example.
By Carlo july 23th 2016 at 13:43 (n° 9)
Maybe 'Punwa' is Brunoise? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunoise
By Andy F august 2nd 2016 at 17:09 (n° 10)
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