10 Cooking Terms You Need To Know

We can't all be Julia Child, but we can at least understand her recipes with these definitions.

I recently read "What's a Cook to Do?" by James Peterson, and it was an awesome guide to cooking techniques.

I don't think you need to know all 484 terms, but you can at least try out some of these techniques in your own kitchen and then save the fancy cooking terms for impressing your friends.

Here are 10 bougie cooking terms you need to know:

1. Poach

This means to gently cook a food in a simmering liquid. This isn't to be confused with boiling, which is done at much higher temperatures and with vigorously bubbling water.

Poaching is great for delicately cooking proteins like chicken, fish or fruit. Poached eggs are the absolute best on avocado toast.

#SpoonTip: When poaching an egg, add a little bit of vinegar so all the egg bits stay stuck together.

2. Butterfly

Butterfly is a more elegant term for cutting a piece of meat almost all the way through lengthwise, and leaving the two halves connected in the middle.

This way of opening up a thick cut of meat ensures more of it is exposed to heat and it'll cook more evenly. Plus, the mental image of butterflied chicken is hilarious.

3. Blind Bake

No, it's not the latest cooking competition.

Blind baking is when you bake a pastry base or crust partially or all the way before adding filling. This helps keep the bottom of your crust from getting soggy, and it makes sure you have a crunchy crust when you add a filling you don't plan to cook.

To keep your pastry from puffing up in the middle, cover the top of it with aluminum foil and then add dry beans or rice to weight it down.

Pricking it all over with a fork can help let steam out and keep your crust even as well, but don't do it so much that your filling leaks out.

4. Chiffonade

French for "little ribbons," this technique sounds like it has more to do with dresses than cooking.

You take your herbs, your omelet or crepes if you want, stack them and roll them tightly and then slice across the roll to get narrow strips.

It's great for chopping things like lettuce for salad or making garnishes. Chiffonade basil for an Insta-worthy caprese salad.

5. Mise en place

Mise en place is another French term, meaning "to put in place."

Chefs use this to put all of their prepped ingredients in bowls beforehand, so when it's time to start cooking they just have to combine them.

If you feel like washing tons of extra dishes and think this Food Network level of organization is worth it, go for it.

6. Fold

OK, this one doesn't sound that fancy, but it's tricky in practice.

Folding is a way to gently combine a heavier ingredient into a lighter one, like egg whites.

Using a spatula, you lift the ingredients from the bottom and "fold" them over the top. This helps prevent over-mixing because there's nothing tasty about tough pastry and flat soufflés.

7. Broiling

Broiling is cooking directly under an exposed heat source at high temperatures. Or, it's discovering the broil setting on your oven and sticking whatever you want to cook right under the top component.

This is good for finishing dishes if you want to get a nice browned crust on meat, or bubbly cheese on a casserole.

You can also oven broil meats and vegetables, but make sure you're watching. Broiling requires very high temperatures so it's easy for your food to quickly burn.

8. Blanch And Shock

Kai Huang

Nope, this isn't what happens when you get your midterms back.

Blanching is when you put food, usually a vegetable, into salted, boiling water for a short amount of time. After you blanch your veggies, you shock them by throwing them in a bowl of ice and cold water.

This stops them from cooking too much and getting mushy, and makes sure your green beans or broccoli stay a nice, bright green. The combination lets you cook veggies quickly while still maintaining flavor and crunch.

9. Roux

A roux ("roo") is a thickener made by combining equal parts flour and fat, usually butter. You whisk them together in a pan and cook over medium heat until the combination starts smelling toasty.

Depending on how long you cook them, you can have a white roux, a blonde roux or a dark roux. The longer you cook a roux, the nuttier the flavor and darker the color.

You can add roux to thicken soups and stews, and it's the key to making killer mac and cheese.

10. Al dente

Judy Holtz

With the rather unappetizing translation of "to the teeth," this Italian phrase describes the ultimate Italian dish: pasta.

At its simplest, it means cooking pasta just until done so it still has a firm texture.

While most pasta boxes offer instructions for cooking al dente, I find the best method is to take a piece of pasta out periodically during cooking, run it under cold water and try it until you get the right texture.