Every profession, hobby and interest has its own terms and cooking is no exception. Some cooks rarely consult a recipe, while others live and die by them. There are cooking terms, however, that are commonly seen in recipes, but may not be explained. Here then, are a few cooking terms worth explanation.
Blanch: To partially cook vegetables in boiling water. This may serve to soften the skins of vegetables for easier removal, or to prepare vegetables for canning or preserving.
Bouquet garni: A French cooking method of tying whole herbs into a piece of cheesecloth, securing it with cotton string, and using it to flavor soups, sauces and other dishes.
Braise: To cook slowly in a covered pan, with a small amount of liquid -- can be used for meat or vegetables.
Cream: A method used in baking, in which sugar and butter are combined in small amounts, mixing thoroughly between additions. This method incorporates air into the sugar/butter mixture and makes for a tender baked product.
Deglaze: To pour water or wine into a hot pan where meat has been cooked. The process loosens the browned crumbs in the pan, and may provide a base for gravy or sauce.
Parboil: To partially cook vegetables in boiling water, to be finished by another cooking method.
Poach: To simmer a food in liquid at just below the boiling point -- usually eggs.
Roux: A mix of flour and oil, cooked together until the flour is browned. Used as a base for Cajun/Creole dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya and etouffé.
Sauté: To quickly cook vegetables or meat on the stovetop at a high heat. This method uses only a small amount of fat.
Soft/stiff peaks: When beating egg whites, a soft peak is reached when the beaters are pulled out of the whites and the peaks that form droop. Stiff peaks do not droop, but hold their shape.
Sweat: To slowly cook vegetables in a covered pan until they are soft, but still hold their shape. This is often done with onions or garlic.