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 carteRefers to items on a menu that can be ordered as separate items, rather than as part of a set meal (table d’hôte) 
AïoliMayonnaise seasoned with garlic
Al dentePasta that is cooked until it is slightly chewy when bitten
Au gratinA dish sprinkled with breadcrumbs or grated cheese and browned
Bain-marieA roasting pan or baking dish partially filled with water to allow food to cook more slowly. Used for custards and terrines
BéchamelAlso known as white sauce is a roux whisked with milk or other dairy and is used as the base for other sauces
BeignetsSmall dollops of dough that are fried to form fritters
Beurre ManiéEqual parts of butter and flour mixed together and used to thicken liquids
Beurre NoisetteBrowned butter
BlanchTo cook slowly in rapidly boiling water
BisqueA shellfish soup usually made with lobster 
BlanquetteA dish consisting of white meat in a white sauce (usually stews made of lamb, chicken or veal)
BouchéesA small puff pastry case filled with a sweet of savoury filling
BouillonA thin soup or stock made by stewing meat, fish, or vegetables in water.
Bouquet GarniA 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
BrunoiseA mixture of finely diced vegetables fried in butter and used to flavour soups and sauces
CanapéA small bread or biscuit base covered with a savoury topping
ChapeluxBrowned bread crumbs
ChineTo remove the backbone from a rack of ribs
ClarifyTo separate and remove solids from a liquid (usually butter), to make it clear
ConcasserTo chop roughly
ConsomméA clear broth or soup of concentrated stock that has been made clear
Coulisa thin fruit or vegetable puree, used as a sauce (such as raspberry)
Court BouillonA stock made from wine and vegetables, typically used for cooking fish
CrêpesVery thin pancakes
CroquettesA mixture of potato with ground cooked meat, fish or poultry formed into balls, patties or other shapes and fried in breadcrumbs
CroustadeA piece of bread or pastry hollowed out and filled, dipped in butter and baked until it is crisp
CroûteCrust. Sometimes refers to a pastry crust, sometimes to toasted or fried bread
CroûtonsSmall cubes of bread used as a garnish is salads and soups
DarioleSmall flowerpot-shaped mould in which an individual sweet or savoury dish is cooked and served
DéglacerTo 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
DégorgeTo 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-glaceIs 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
DépouillerTo skim off the scum that accumulates at the top of a stock or sauce
DuxellesFinely chopped raw mushrooms, used as a stuffing. Sometimes combined with chopped ham or scallops
EntrecôteSirloin steak
EntréeA dish served between the first and main courses at a formal dinner
EntremetsDessert or sweet, but not including pastries
EscalopA thin slice of meat that is often pounded between layers of cling film to make it thinner
EspagnoleIs 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
FilletVerb: remove the bones from meat or fish

Noun: The meat or fish after it has been boned

FlakeTo break lightly into small pieces
FlambéTo set alcohol on fire (briefly)
FoldTo 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
FrappéSomething that is iced or set on or in a bed of ice
FricasséA stew made from poultry, meat or rabbit that has a white sauce
Glace de ViandeReduced brown stock used to add colour and flavour to sauces
GratinFrom the French word for “crust.” A dish with a lightly browned crust of breadcrumbs or melted cheese
Gratiner or Au GratinTo sprinkle the surface of a cooked food with bread crumbs and butter and/or cheese and brown under the grill
HollandaiseIs 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’OeuvresFirst course or appetizer
JulienneTo cut vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into thin strips
Jus or Jus de ViandeA thin gravy made from meat juices
Jus LiéA thickened gravy
LiaisonIngredients used for thickening sauces, soups or other liquids – usually egg yolks
MacédoineSmall diced mixed vegetables, usually containing at least one root vegetable. Sometimes also means a mixture of fruit, like fruit salad
MarinateTo 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
MarmiteFrench word for a covered earthenware container for soup. The soup is both cooked and served in it
MeuniereDredged 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

NoisetteThe 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 cuisineA term that refers to the style of cooking that features lighter dishes with lighter sauces and very fresh ingredients
OmakaseMost coveted Japanese sushi – it literally means “I trust the chef”
PanadeA very thick mixture usually made from flour, butter and milk that is used as a base for dishes such as soufflés and fish cakes
PanerTo coat with egg and crumbs before frying
PapilloteA wrapping of parchment paper around fish or meat used for cooking. The paper retains moisture in the food
PareTo remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable
ParisienneRefers to potatoes moulded into balls with a melon scoop and fried or roasted
PâteA paste made of liver, pork or game 
PeelTo remove the peels from vegetables or fruits
PickleTo preserve meats, vegetables, and fruits in brine
PitTo remove pips from fruit
PiquerTo insert fat, bacon, ham etc into meat or poultry
PoachTo cook very gently in hot liquid kept just below boiling point
PoussinA young chicken
PureeTo 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
RagoûtA highly seasoned stew of small pieces of meat stewed with vegetables.
RéchaufféeReheated food
RepereFlour mixed with water or egg white and used to seal pans when cooking food slowly. Often used when cooking a ragoût.
RenderTo make solid fat into liquid by melting it slowly
RouxA mixture of melted butter and flour used to thicken sauces and soups
RouilleA Provençal sauce made from pounded red chillies, garlic, breadcrumbs, and other ingredients blended with stock, typically added to bouillabaisse as a flavouring
SautéTo cook and/or brown food in a small amount of hot fat
ScaldTo cook by bringing to a temperature just below the boiling point
ScorpacciataCommitment to eating what is local and in season right now 
SocarratRice 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’hôteLiterally means “table of the host” where the menu is a set choice of meals charged at a fixed total price
TerrineA pâté or mixture of minced ingredients, baked or steamed in a loaf shaped container
Tomato SauceIs made by cooking tomatoes down into a thick sauce. The classic French tomato sauce is flavoured with pork and aromatic vegetables
TrussTo secure poultry with string or skewers to hold its shape while cooking
VeloutéA 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-ventA large pastry case made of puff pastry that is usually used as a container for creamed dishes, such as creamed chicken