Learn the Language: Cooking Vocabulary

By Sharon Salomon, MS, RD
Learn the Language - Cooking Vocabulary

"Sauté" and "simmer" describe different techniques, and "diced" and "minced" are not one and the same. Following healthful recipes is easier if you understand cooking vocabulary. From slicing to steaming, here's how to talk the talk in the kitchen.


Preparation refers to everything from gathering ingredients and cleaning vegetables, to pulling out the chopping board and knife. Common preparation methods include:

  • Slicing: to cut through or across into slices, generally of uniform size
  • Chopping: cutting food into smaller pieces of no particular size or shape
  • Dicing: cutting foods into uniform square pieces
  • Mincing: cutting food into very small pieces
  • Grating: rubbing food against a serrated surface to create fine shreds

Dry Heat

Dry heat cooking methods use hot air, the heat from a pan or grill, or hot fat to cook foods. Common methods include:

  • Baking: cooking food surrounded by hot air, usually in an oven
  • Roasting: cooking meat, poultry or vegetables surrounded by hot air; usually in the oven; food is not covered
  • Broiling: cooking with the heat source above the food
  • Sautéing: cooking food quickly in a small amount of fat
  • Barbecuing/grilling: similar to roasting, but done over a charcoal or hardwood fire
  • Deep-frying: cooking food by submerging it in hot oil

Moist Heat

Moist heat cooking methods use water or liquids such as broth to cook foods and include:

  • Poaching: cooking delicate foods in liquid that is hot but not boiling
  • Simmering: cooking food in a hot liquid that is bubbling but not boiling
  • Boiling: cooking food in a rapid boil
  • Steaming: cooking food in steam created by boiling liquid in a covered pot; food does not touch the liquid

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