Cooking terms

This is an ongoing list of  cooking terms, added as I find ones that I think may be useful to all of us. If you have suggestions you’d like researched and added, please leave a comment!


Bain-marie: A water bath used when cooking delicate foods to keep even, gentle heat around the food, e.g. baked custard or terrine.

Broil: to cook under direct heat in oven or broiler

Campari: an alcoholic liqueur made from an infusion of herbs and fruits in water; usually considered an an apéritif; it has a bitter flavor.

Corn flour:  In the U.S. this is very finely ground cornmeal.  In British recipes it is used for cornstarch. In the U.S. corn flour and cornstarch are not interchangeable.  See also masa harina. (See chili con carne completed!)

Cornstarch: A fine powder from the endosperm of corn that can be used as a thickener, especially for clear sauces or puddings without fat (as in roux).  It forms lumps very easily when added to liquid so you should make a slurry by gradually adding liquid to first form a paste and then continuing to thin until it can be poured into hot liquid where it will thicken.

Grain: small, simple dry fruits, monocarpellate, and indehiscent; cereals and legumes.

Griddle: a heavy flat metal plate, heated and used for cooking; commonly cast iron.

Griddle pan: a griddle of size to fit over one burner on the stove top.

Grill pan: Usually meaning a flat heavy metal pan with ridges in the bottom, which leave a striped patter on cooked food. The ridges allow fat to drain away from cooking meat.

Liqueur: an alcoholic beverage made distilled spirit flavored with herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, flowers et cetera, sweetened, with possible addition of cream.  List of liqueurs (Wikipedia)


  • a distilled alcoholic beverage made by alcoholic fermentation (e.g. Scotch, bourbon, vodka, gin), “hard liquor”; a strong alcoholic beverage.
  • also the liguid (e.g. broth) in which vegetables or meats have been cooked (pot liquor).
  • the juice contained with oysters and clams.
  • the liquid obtained in an industrial process, e.g. cocoa liquor

Masa harina:  Finely ground lye-treated corn; used for tortillas, et cetera.  It can be used as a thickener.

Mediterranean oregano:   Herb used in Italian, Greek, Turkish, and other Mediterranean cooking.  All plants of the Origanum vulgare spp, flavors differ between species, so you may want to investigate different ones if you’re going to grow your own. These are sweeter than Mexican oregano.

Mexican oregano: This is an entirely different plant from the Mediterranean oregano–Lippia graveolens-of the verbena family. It has a more savory, less sweet character and is used in Mexican cookery.  I’ve not usually seen it in the grocery store, but you might check Hispanic markets, or Penzey’s spices.

Roux:  A paste of a flour and fat (about 1 tablespoon flour to 1 tablespoon fat) used to thicken mixtures such as soups, stews, or sauces.  The mixture is cooked over low heat until it begins to thicken and the raw flour taste is gone.

A “white” roux may be made with butter and cooked only until the flour begins to color.  A blond roux (may also be made with butter) is cooked until the flour begins to turn golden.  Brown roux may be made with other fats (e.g. lard or pork fat) and cooked slowly until it is brown to dark brown.  The brown roux will have a toasty aroma and flavor as the flour is browned. Brown roux may vary from golden to very dark brown.


Seed: an embryonic plant, food source (endosperm, perisperm) and covered with seed coat. Seeds of cereal plants referred to as grains.

2 thoughts on “Cooking terms

  1. Pingback: Chili con carne redux update « A Single Serving

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