Dept. of Word Lists

Food Words

Want to know every top chef's secret ingredient? The right food terms! We called Chef Eve Felder, associate dean of the Culinary Institute of America, to ask her about words to cook by:

Bind. "When you bring two disparate ingredients together. You might bind through the emulsification of fat and meat. For example, if I were making sausage, I may add an egg as an additional binding agent to hold the ground meat together."

Devil. "It means adding spicy ingredients to food, from the French word for devil, diable. In America, we think of deviled eggs and deviled ham. It may have a spice component but we've mostly gotten away from that."

Grease. "A verb, as in to grease a pan. You would use paper towel or a gloved hand to grease a sheet tray or a cake pan with butter or oil."

Clarify. "Means to clear impurities. If I were clarifying a stock to create a consommé, for instance, I would add egg whites as the clarifying agent. When you add those to a stock as it comes up to a boil, the proteins coagulate and bring impurities to the surface, which results in a clear stock. Butter can also be clarified by heating gently and coagulating the milk solids which are heavier than the fat and sink to the bottom of the pan. The fat rises and is called clarified butter."

Cream. "A verb. For example, in baking you cream together butter and sugar to turn them into a slight leavening agent for baking cakes or cookies."

Jerk. "A cooking and seasoning method from the Caribbean. The word is thought to come from Spanish word for dried meat, charqui. You jerk pork, chicken or fish by tossing the meat in a seasoning mixture that varies by region. It usually has allspice, thyme and very hot scotch bonnet peppers, and sometimes, nutmeg, brown sugar, garlic or black pepper, too. Then you cook it over a slow fire to perfection."

Cure. "In cooking it means to evaporate the moisture content of an ingredient to transform and preserve it. You might cure through brining or dry rubbing with salt or sugar. For example, grav lox is sugar and salt cured salmon that's not smoked.

Pipe. It typically means forcing an ingredient through a piping bag to decorate something, like a cake. You can also pipe a puree or mashed potatoes so it looks a certain way on a plate.

Proof. A technique in bread baking where yeasted dough is placed in a warm environment so it will rise through the activity of yeast eating sugar and releasing carbon dioxide.

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Comments from our users:

Saturday January 20th 2007, 11:15 AM
Comment by: wai mei L.
i am so glad that there is an essay in which i can learn some vocabularies directly...great!!
Saturday January 20th 2007, 3:16 PM
Comment by: Jason K.
what about emulsion....? thats and important food word for chefs of certain skillz..............thanks Jonix
Tuesday January 30th 2007, 1:38 PM
Comment by: Joseph P.
I would also add the verb "lard" as in "to lard a roast."

This also comes with a utensil----a larding needle. (Link to an article:
Sunday September 2nd 2007, 4:21 AM
Comment by: Sue C.
Cooking words are fun. I love browsing through my copy of the concise Larousse Gastronomique (Link to an article: It's full of amazing culinary terms, such as to bard.
Monday January 14th 2008, 5:11 AM
Comment by: Valerie P.
We probably use more French words in our cooking vocabulary than any other language, but I was wondering if, as we become more familiar with other cultures' cuisine, we are incorporating their terms. I know we do for the actual dishes such as tacos, tamales, curry (or is that the English term?) tofu, sate, sake, etc. Does anyone have actual cooking words to add to this list?

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