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50 Obscure Cooking Terms You've Probably Never Heard Before

Claudia has been writing recipes online for many years. She enjoys coming up with unique and tasty dishes, especially sweet treats.

Stumped by some of the cooking terms you see in recipes or on your favorite cooking show? Learn new ones with this list of 50 obscure words.

Stumped by some of the cooking terms you see in recipes or on your favorite cooking show? Learn new ones with this list of 50 obscure words.

Weird, Unknown and Obscure Cooking Terms

Do you think you know every cooking term there is to know? Are you just learning how to boil water? Whatever your kitchen knowledge may be, there are some cooking terms that you've probably never heard before.

I like to cook, and I like to think I know a little bit about cooking, but when I was doing research for this article, I was surprised at how many new things I learned.

On this list, you'll find terms used for obscure cooking processes, as well as the equivalent of words you probably use every day. Peruse this list of 50 words and see which ones you know. Have fun learning something new!


A bain-marie is a water bath used to control the temperature when baking custards and cheesecakes.


Barding is covering meat and cooking it in fats, like bacon, to keep the meat moist and infuse it with flavor.

French fries are the perfect example of the baton cutting technique.

French fries are the perfect example of the baton cutting technique.


Batons are evenly cut pieces of vegetables that are shaped like batons, usually about 1/4" width. A good example of a baton is a french fry or a carrot stick.


Blanching is a method of preparing food for other uses by boiling it quickly. It can soften food, remove some of the saltiness, or aid in removing the skin.

Bouquet Garni

A bouquet garni is a mix of herbs that are tied together in a small packet or bunch, so they don't get mixed into a dish but still flavor it. Once the dish is done, the herbs are easily removed from the pot.


Bruising food is the technique of tearing apart or gently crushing food items, usually herbs or vegetables, to bring out their full flavor.


Butterflying meat and seafood is splitting it down the middle without cutting it all the way through. This cutting method is commonly used with shrimp and meats.


To chiffonade is the cutting method of tightly rolling up greens or herb leaves and cutting them into thin strips.


A cloche is a dome-shaped bread baker. It helps the bread retain moisture while getting a nice crust during baking.


The technique of baking food in a sealed pot, like a dutch oven, to keep in all of the juices.


Coddling food—generally eggs—means cooking it very gently in water that is just below the boiling point.

Raspberry coulis ready to eat!

Raspberry coulis ready to eat!


A coulis is a strained fruit sauce made with raw or cooked fruit.


Deglazing is the method of using liquid to remove the stuck-on bits of food from the bottom of a pan after cooking and turning them into a sauce.


Dressing is the technique of flavoring a salad with a sauce, or preparing fish or game for cooking.


Emulsifying is mixing two liquids that usually don't mix, like oil and vinegar, and making one liquid.

Some things are just better cooked en croute.

Some things are just better cooked en croute.

En Croute

En croute is cooking ingredients in a crust, like a hand pie or beef wellington.

En Papillote

En papillote is cooking ingredients in paper. This method of cooking results in tender, flavorful dishes and is often used with seafood.

A fluted cake pan

A fluted cake pan


Fluting is a baking term and is the name for the decorative designs in pie crust edges or around the outside of a cake.

Fluted pans have patterns around the outside that the baked cake mimics.


A dessert made with fruit mixed into cream, pudding or whipped cream.

This is a grunt, but a grunt can also be a delicious fruit cobbler!

This is a grunt, but a grunt can also be a delicious fruit cobbler!


There are 2 surprisingly different definitions of grunts in cooking:

  1. A type of fish
  2. A type of fruit cobbler or pie


A macedoine is a mixture of chopped vegetables or chopped fruits in syrup.


Macerating is used with fruits and vegetables and is the process of softening it with liquid. It is the equivalent of marinating meats and poultry.


A mandoline is a slicer that can cut fruits and vegetables swiftly, thinly and evenly. It is useful for slicing large amounts of food.


A mezzaluna is a knife with two handles and a semi-circle blade. Both hands are needed to rock the knife back and forth, and it's good for quickly chopping herbs.


A muddler is a tool used by bartenders to crush herbs and fruits in a glass before pouring liquids in.


Opaque is the stage during cooking seafood or chicken when the flesh just stops being translucent but is not a dense solid color. The food is quite tender and, as long as the internal temperature meets the appropriate guidelines, is safe to eat.


Parboiling is partially boiling foods to prepare them for cooking. It may remove bad tastes, salt, or other unwanted items in the food.

An illustration of a paring knife

An illustration of a paring knife


Paring is the technique to remove the very outside of a fruit or vegetable.


The term pearl is used in candy making. It represents the stage of cooking sugar when the syrup comes off of a metal spoon in drops.


The bitter soft stringy inside of citrus rind.


Plumping is the process of letting food soak up liquid and get larger in size.


Poaching food is cooking it completely submerged in liquid and not bringing it to a boil.


A ramekin is a small bowl shaped dish used to cook custards or cheese dishes.

A reamer is a handy kitchen tool.

A reamer is a handy kitchen tool.


A reamer is a tool to remove juice from citrus fruits.


Reconstituting food or frozen liquids is the process of adding water to bring condensed food, like soup, to its former consistency.


Refreshing is the technique of pouring cold water on hot cooked vegetables to stop the cooking process.


Rendering is the process of cooking meats to obtain the fatty juices.


A ricer is a device used to mash potatoes or other soft foods. It has a cup with holes and a plunger-type device that pushes the potatoes through the bottom.


A roux is a thickening agent for sauces, made from equal amounts of a fat and flour.


Commonly used when discussing citrus, sectioning is the process of removing the fruit from the membrane.


Shaving food means cutting it extremely thinly. A vegetable peeler can be used to shave vegetables. To shave meat, it's best to freeze it slightly, so it's hard and then slice it.

Shucking oysters

Shucking oysters


To shuck is to remove the inedible outer shell of a food item, like shellfish and corn.


A sieve is a sifter or strainer that is used to separate out the parts of a mixture that are not needed, like seeds or large chunks.


A stripper is a tool designed to remove the outer covering of various fruits and vegetables. There are strippers to remove long strips of citrus rinds and ones to remove corn from the cob.


Sweating is cooking cut vegetables before they are added to another dish. Sweating the vegetables brings out more flavor.


A tagine is a casserole dish with a cone-shaped lid. It is commonly used in Moroccan cooking.


Tempering is the technique of mixing cold and hot liquids gradually, so the cold ingredients don't get ruined.



A toque is the tall white chef's hat.


Tying up a chicken with string to ensure it does not fall apart during cooking.


Meringues and other foods weep when clear juices run out of them. Weeping can ruin the appearance and taste of certain foods.

Now That You Are an Expert ...

Well, now that you are an expert in all things cooking-related, get into the kitchen and make a fabulous meal.

You can poach a grunt, rice some potatoes, pare a pear, and have a fool for dessert. What could be better?


  • Darling, Jennifer Dorland, Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, 1st edition, "Cooking Basics", Des Moines, Iowa: Meredith Corporation, 2003
  • Ying, Mildred, The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook, 1st edition, "Cooking Basics", New York, NY: The Hearst Corporation, 1986
  • Becker, Ethan, Becker, Marion Rombauer, & Rombauer, Irma, The Joy of Cooking, New York, NY: Scribner, 1997

© 2014 Claudia Porter