Cookery terms and what they actually mean


If you, like me, are glued to MasterChef (we can’t wait for the next season) this is for you.  Competitors may be amateur and home chefs, but they certainly use the most amazing cookery terms. If you watch the show and don’t really “get the meaning” of the terms, I have put together a glossary of most of the French (and other) terms frequently used in not only the show, but the recipe books you may be using.


À la carte Refers to items on a menu that can be ordered as separate items, rather than as part of a set meal (table d’hôte) 
Aïoli Mayonnaise seasoned with garlic
Al dente Pasta that is cooked until it is slightly chewy when bitten
Au gratin A dish sprinkled with breadcrumbs or grated cheese and browned
Bain-marie A roasting pan or baking dish partially filled with water to allow food to cook more slowly. Used for custards and terrines
Béchamel Also known as white sauce is a roux whisked with milk or other dairy and is used as the base for other sauces
Beignets Small dollops of dough that are fried to form fritters
Beurre Manié Equal parts of butter and flour mixed together and used to thicken liquids
Beurre Noisette Browned butter
Blanch To cook slowly in rapidly boiling water
Bisque A shellfish soup usually made with lobster 
Blanquette A dish consisting of white meat in a white sauce (usually stews made of lamb, chicken or veal)
Bouchées A small puff pastry case filled with a sweet of savoury filling
Bouillon A thin soup or stock made by stewing meat, fish, or vegetables in water.
Bouquet Garni A mixture of fresh herbs tied together with string and used to flavour stews and soups etc. A mix of parsley, bay leaf and thyme is usual. The bouquet is removed before serving
Brunoise A mixture of finely diced vegetables fried in butter and used to flavour soups and sauces
Canapé A small bread or biscuit base covered with a savoury topping
Chapelux Browned bread crumbs
Chine To remove the backbone from a rack of ribs
Clarify To separate and remove solids from a liquid (usually butter), to make it clear
Concasser To chop roughly
Consommé A clear broth or soup of concentrated stock that has been made clear
Coulis a thin fruit or vegetable puree, used as a sauce (such as raspberry)
Court Bouillon A stock made from wine and vegetables, typically used for cooking fish
Crêpes Very thin pancakes
Croquettes A mixture of potato with ground cooked meat, fish or poultry formed into balls, patties or other shapes and fried in breadcrumbs
Croustade A piece of bread or pastry hollowed out and filled, dipped in butter and baked until it is crisp
Croûte Crust. Sometimes refers to a pastry crust, sometimes to toasted or fried bread
Croûtons Small cubes of bread used as a garnish is salads and soups
Dariole Small flowerpot-shaped mould in which an individual sweet or savoury dish is cooked and served
Déglacer To deglaze or loosen browned juices and fat from the bottom of a pan by adding water, wine or broth and bringing to a boil and stirring
Dégorge To extract juices from meat, fish or vegetables, usually by salting them, then soaking or washing. It is usually done to remove a strong taste
Demi-glace Is typically made from brown stock, mirepoix, and tomatoes, and thickened with roux. It is not used directly on food, but serves as the starting point for many other sauces
Dépouiller To skim off the scum that accumulates at the top of a stock or sauce
Duxelles Finely chopped raw mushrooms, used as a stuffing. Sometimes combined with chopped ham or scallops
Entrecôte Sirloin steak
Entrée A dish served between the first and main courses at a formal dinner
Entremets Dessert or sweet, but not including pastries
Escalop A thin slice of meat that is often pounded between layers of cling film to make it thinner
Espagnole Is one of the “mother sauces” and is typically made from brown stock, mirepoix, and tomatoes, and thickened with roux. It has a strong taste and is rarely used directly on food, but serves as a demi-glace or the starting point for many derivatives, such as Sauce Bourguignonne, Sauce Chevreuil
Farce Stuffing
Fillet Verb: remove the bones from meat or fish

Noun: The meat or fish after it has been boned

Flake To break lightly into small pieces
Flambé To set alcohol on fire (briefly)
Fold To incorporate a delicate substance, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites into another substance without releasing air bubbles. The process is repeated, while slowing rotating the bowl, until the ingredients are thoroughly blended
Frappé Something that is iced or set on or in a bed of ice
Fricassé A stew made from poultry, meat or rabbit that has a white sauce
Glace de Viande Reduced brown stock used to add colour and flavour to sauces
Gratin From the French word for “crust.” A dish with a lightly browned crust of breadcrumbs or melted cheese
Gratiner or Au Gratin To sprinkle the surface of a cooked food with bread crumbs and butter and/or cheese and brown under the grill
Hollandaise Is one of the “mother sauces” and is thickened by an emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter. It is a very rich, but delicate sauce and is usually used as a dipping sauce for asparagus or a finishing sauce for eggs Benedict
Hors d’Oeuvres First course or appetizer
Julienne To cut vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into thin strips
Jus or Jus de Viande A thin gravy made from meat juices
Jus Lié A thickened gravy
Liaison Ingredients used for thickening sauces, soups or other liquids – usually egg yolks
Macédoine Small diced mixed vegetables, usually containing at least one root vegetable. Sometimes also means a mixture of fruit, like fruit salad
Marinate To flavour and moisturise meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables by soaking them in or brushing them with a liquid mixture of seasonings. Dry marinade mixtures can also be used as rubs on meat, poultry or seafood
Marmite French word for a covered earthenware container for soup. The soup is both cooked and served in it
Meuniere Dredged with flour and sautéed in lightly browned butter, lemon juice and parsley
Mirepoix (meer-pwah) A mixture of sautéed chopped vegetables used in various sauces
Mirin (mee-rin) Japanese sweet rice wine made from glutinous, short-grained rice used for cooking
“Mother Sauces” Five sauces in French cuisine were designated “mother sauces” by Auguste Escoffier in the 19th century.

Béchamel is a roux whisked with milk to make a white sauce

Velouté is a light roux whisked with chicken, fish or any other clear stock

Espagnole is a basic brown sauce made from brown stock, mirepoix, and tomatoes and thickened with roux

Sauce Tomato made with tomatoes with pork and aromatic vegetables

Hollandaise is thickened by an emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter. It is a very rich, but delicate sauce and is usually used as a dipping sauce for asparagus or a finishing sauce for eggs Benedict

Noisette The word means “nut” – for example nut brown butter. It can also refer to a small, boneless, round piece of lamb from the rack that is rolled, tied into rounds
Nouvelle cuisine A term that refers to the style of cooking that features lighter dishes with lighter sauces and very fresh ingredients
Omakase Most coveted Japanese sushi – it literally means “I trust the chef”
Panade A very thick mixture usually made from flour, butter and milk that is used as a base for dishes such as soufflés and fish cakes
Paner To coat with egg and crumbs before frying
Papillote A wrapping of parchment paper around fish or meat used for cooking. The paper retains moisture in the food
Pare To remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable
Parisienne Refers to potatoes moulded into balls with a melon scoop and fried or roasted
Pâte A paste made of liver, pork or game 
Peel To remove the peels from vegetables or fruits
Pickle To preserve meats, vegetables, and fruits in brine
Pit To remove pips from fruit
Piquer To insert fat, bacon, ham etc into meat or poultry
Poach To cook very gently in hot liquid kept just below boiling point
Poussin A young chicken
Puree To mash foods until perfectly smooth by hand, by rubbing through a sieve or food mill, or by whirling in a blender or food processor
Quenelle (kuh-nell) A 3-sided scoop of food soft enough to mould into an oval shape using two spoons – often icecream
Ragoût A highly seasoned stew of small pieces of meat stewed with vegetables.
Réchauffée Reheated food
Repere Flour mixed with water or egg white and used to seal pans when cooking food slowly. Often used when cooking a ragoût.
Render To make solid fat into liquid by melting it slowly
Roux A mixture of melted butter and flour used to thicken sauces and soups
Rouille A Provençal sauce made from pounded red chillies, garlic, breadcrumbs, and other ingredients blended with stock, typically added to bouillabaisse as a flavouring
Sauté To cook and/or brown food in a small amount of hot fat
Scald To cook by bringing to a temperature just below the boiling point
Scorpacciata Commitment to eating what is local and in season right now 
Socarrat Rice that gets crunchy and forms a crust at the bottom of the pan – such as paella
Sous vide (soo–veed) A French term meaning “under vacuum” is a technique where food is vacuum-sealed, immersed in a water bath and cooked at a very precise, consistent temperature
Table d’hôte Literally means “table of the host” where the menu is a set choice of meals charged at a fixed total price
Terrine A pâté or mixture of minced ingredients, baked or steamed in a loaf shaped container
Tomato Sauce Is made by cooking tomatoes down into a thick sauce. The classic French tomato sauce is flavoured with pork and aromatic vegetables
Truss To secure poultry with string or skewers to hold its shape while cooking
Velouté A sauce made from butter, flour, cream and stock. Velouté is derived from the French word for velvet. It is one of the five “mother sauces” along with béchamel, espagnole, tomato and hollandaise
Vol-au-vent A large pastry case made of puff pastry that is usually used as a container for creamed dishes, such as creamed chicken