Cooking Vocabulary

culinary traditions

culinary tools

culinary techniques

cooking methods



Ancestors are the people in your family who came before you: your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so-on.

Culture is the learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, and material goods.*

Tradition is the beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.*

Cuisine is the characteristic style of foods, flavors, and cooking practices associated with a specific area (country or region). 

Heritage is the culture and traditions that are handed down to people by their ancestors.**




Baking sheet is a rimmed rectangular metal pan used for baking.


Bamboo steamer fits on top of a wok, and when water in the bottom of the wok boils, the steam rises and cooks the food in the steamer.


Box grater is a metal tool covered with small holes and used for cutting or shedding firm ingredients like cheese and potatoes into small pieces, or shreds.


Can opener – this utensil is used to open cans of beans, tomatoes, etc.


Cleaver is a cutting tool used by butchers and Chinese cooks. A cleaver can chop, slice, mince, and do anything a knife can do. The flat side can be used to crush garlic and pound meat to tenderize, and the end of the handle can serve as a mortar and pestle to pound and mash foods.


Colander or strainer – this utensil is used for draining or straining pasta water and canned beans. 


Cooling rack is made of heavy-duty wire, these square, rectangular, or round racks have small feet that raise them above the countertop. Hot items are placed on top, so that the air circulates on all sides to help the items cool quickly.


Food processor is a machine with a bowl and different blades that can be used for pureeing, emulsifying, chopping, slicing, and shredding, and kneading. 


Frying pan – this utensil is used for sautéing, pan-frying, and making scrambled or fried eggs.  


Garlic press – this utensil is used for mincing fresh garlic cloves. 


Knife is a cook’s main tool.  It has a handle and a sharp blade, and is used for slicing, dicing and chopping a variety of foods. 


Masher – this utensil is used for mashing foods like mashed potatoes and guacamole.


Measuring cups are used for measuring solid and liquid ingredients. Measuring cups for solid/dry ingredients like flour, cornmeal and sugar should be leveled off for precise measurements. Measuring cups for liquid ingredients like water and oil are shaped like small pitchers and the measurement should be read at “eye level”. 


Measuring Spoons are small spoons for measuring liquids and solids. Measurements are Tablespoon, teaspoon, half teaspoon, quarter teaspoon.


Peeler is a small hand tool used for stripping peels off vegetables and fruits.


Pot – this utensil is used for boiling pasta, vegetables, and soup.

Sieve is a container made of wire mesh, used to drain food or sift flour and dry ingredients. 


Whisk is made of loops of sturdy wire that are attached to a handle. 

Wok is a round-bottomed cooking vessel usually made of steel. Woks have been used in Asian cuisine for stir-frying, steaming, braising, stewing, and deep frying. The round shape allows even heat distribution. 





Al dente is to cook pasta or vegetables until they are tender but still firm, not soft. Al dente means “to the tooth” in Italian.


Blend is to mix two or more ingredients together until combined.


Chiffonade is to stack, roll, and slice leaves (basil, collard) thin strips or shreds of herbs or vegetables. In French, chiffonade means “made of rags”.


Chop or chopped or chopping is to cut food into irregular shapes and sizes. Coarsely chopped pieces are large, finely chopped pieces are small.


Cutting board or mat is 


Dice or diced or dicing is to cut food into cubes of equal size. 


Fold or folded or folding is to gently combine ingredients without over-mixing. 


Grate or grated or grating is to slide an ingredient, such as citrus zest, across a surface of small, sharp-edged holes on a box grater-shredder to create tiny pieces.


Julienne is to cut food into long, very thin strips.


Knead or kneading is to mix or work dough by hand to soften and to stretch yeasted doughs to expand the gluten network. 


Melt is to 


Mince is to cut food into very small pieces. 


Mix is to 


Slice is to cut crosswise or lengthwise into desired thickness. Slice – to cut food lengthwise or crosswise with a knife, forming thick or thin pieces.


Stir or stir in is to 


Whisk or whisking is to stir a liquid vigorously with a whisk, adding air and increasing the volume. Whisking is done with a whisk, a kitchen tool made of looped wire attached to a handle. 





Bake or baking is to cook food in a hot oven. The food is cooked by the hot, dry air of the oven and heat transfer by contact with the pan. 


Boil or boiling is to heat a liquid until big bubbles constantly rise to its surface and break, at 212 F. A gentle boil is when small bubbles rise and break slowly. A rolling boil is when large bubbles rise and break quickly.


Deep fry or deep frying is to cook food by immersing it in hot oil. Deep fried foods are not healthy because of their high fat content. 


Roast or roasting is to cook food in a hot oven or on a spit over a fire. The hot, dry air of the oven cooks the food by heating it from the outside-in. The food’s texture changes from raw to cooked; meat gets firmer, vegetables get softer. 


Sauté or sauteing is to cook food in a small amount of fat in a pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. 


Simmer or simmering is when bubbles get bigger as they rise to the surface of liquid that is being heated. Simmering usually occurs between 170 F – 185 F.


Steam or steaming is to cook food in a closed pot so the steam is trapped and cooks the food. Food is placed in a steaming basket that sits above the boiling water. Steaming is gentle and it retains the most nutrients of all the cooking methods. 


Stir-fry or stir-frying is to cook food in a small amount of fat over very high heat while stirring constantly. Stir frying is usually done in a wok.