For most recipes, you need to prepare your food before cooking it. Sometimes cookbooks can be very confusing with their terminology. For example, is there really any difference between mixing, beating, whipping and folding? If terms like this have you confused, it is time to bone (or de-bone) up on some common cooking terms.
Basting: Pouring, or drizzling liquid on meat while it cooks. This can be done with a spoon or by using a specialized baster. The liquid often consists of melted fat, water, wine, stock or pan drippings.
Beating: Rapidly mixing ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Binding: Adding an ingredient to a mixture that enables the mixture to stick together. Adding eggs to a dish often acts to bind the dish.
Blending: Mixing together two or more ingredients until smooth.
Boning or de-boning: Removing the bones from meat, poultry or fish.
Breading: Coating food evenly in breadcrumbs or flour. Oftentimes egg, spices, milk or oil are also used.
Brushing: Spreading a liquid or semi-soft solid on food with a pastry brush.
Chilling: Placing food in the refrigerator to reduce its temperature.
Chopping: Cutting ingredients into small chunks.
Clarifying: Adding a beaten egg white and/or egg shells to a liquid to remove impurities. The liquid should then be strained. Clarifying butter is done differently, and involves heating the butter and removing the fatty solids.
Coating: Evenly covering food with flour, crumbs, sauce, liquid or other ingredient.
Combining: Mixing two or more ingredients together.
Cooling: Letting hot food sit until the temperature is lowered to room temperature.
Crushing: Pulverizing an ingredient into small particles by grinding, smashing or pressing. The flat edge of a knife, your hands, or a grinder can be used to do this.
Cutting: Slicing or dividing with a knife or scissors.
Cutting in: Adding a solid or semi-solid fat to dry ingredients by using a pastry blender, two knives, fork or your fingers to break up the fat evenly. The fat will be in small particles at the end and the mixture will resemble a coarse meal.
Dicing: To cut food into small cubes. Dicing is normally cutting an ingredient into 1/3-inch cubes. Finely dicing is cutting food into 1/4-inch cubes, and food that is diced large is cut into 3/4-inch cubes.
Disjointing: Separating meat or poultry into pieces at the joints.
Dissolving: Liquefying or melting a solid or semi-solid.
Dotting: Placing small bits of food (usually butter) on the top of food.
Dredging: Shaking, pulling or rolling food in a flour mixture.
Dressing: Preparing and cleaning meat, fish or poultry to be cooked.
Dusting: Lightly sprinkling a dish with a dry ingredient such as powdered sugar or flour.
Emulsifying: Blending together a fat with an acid. The most common example is mixing together oil and vinegar.
Filleting: Cutting meat or fish lengthwise and avoiding bones.
Flaking: Chipping or breaking an ingredient into thin pieces.
Folding: Gently combining a heavy ingredient with a delicate ingredient without ruining the delicate ingredient. The most common example is mixing egg whites into a batter. Gently mix the two ingredients together by placing a spoon or spatula in the bottom of the bowl and gently lifting the bottom ingredients to the top until well blended.
Garnishing: Decorating dishes with attractive arrangements of herbs, flowers or food.
Grating: Rubbing food on a grater or using a mechanical grater to produce small even-sized pieces.
Grinding: Smashing food into very fine bits by placing in a chopper or grinder.
Hulling: Removing the outside layer of some fruits, vegetables, seeds or nuts. One exception to this is strawberries (hulling a strawberry means removing the stem).
Husking: Removing the outer leaves and silk of an ear of corn.
Incorporating: Mixing in thoroughly.
Julienne or matchstick cutting: Cutting vegetables into long thin sticks 1/8" x 1/8" x 1-1/2 to 2" long.
Macerating: Soaking foods in a liquid in order to soften them or to flavor the liquid.
Marinating: Soaking food in a flavored liquid for a period of time to add flavor, blend flavors or tenderize.
Masking: Completely covering food with a thick sauce.
Mincing: Cutting food very fine. Mincing is usually done with a very sharp knife or in a food processor.
Mixing: Combining ingredients by stirring or beating.
Paring: Cutting or slicing off a fruit or vegetable peel.
Peeling: Cutting or tearing off the outer covering of a fruit or vegetable.
Piping: Forcing a firm substance through a tube, bag, or decorative tip to produce a decorative line or shape.
Pitting: Removing the seed (pit) or seeds.
Plumping: Increasing the size of something by soaking it in a liquid.
Preheating: Bringing an appliance to the recommended cooking temperature before cooking.
Proofing: Activating yeast with warm water and sugar.
Pureeing: A pureed item is one that is a smooth thick liquid with no lumps. It is usually done by pressing the food through a sieve or by processing in a blender or food processor.
Rolling: Spreading out dough on a flat surface with a rolling pin or other round object.
Rubbing: Taking large pieces or whole leaves of herbs and crushing them between your hands to release their natural oils. Also sometimes used to refer to taking herbs, oil or butter and placing them on the surface of meat or poultry with the hands and gently pushing on the skin.
Scoring: Cutting lightly to mark with lines, but not really penetrating the food.
Seasoning: Adding herbs and/or spices to food.
Shelling: Removing the outer covering of foods such as seafood, peas or nuts.
Shredding: Tearing or cutting food into small jagged slices or strips.
Sifting: Putting dry ingredients through a sifter or sieve to remove all lumps. This usually results in fluffier dry ingredients. This can also be done in a bowl with a whisk with less perfect results.
Skewering: Placing chunks of food on a long thin piece of wood or metal for serving or cooking. Also known as kebabing.
Skimming: Removing items from the surface of a liquid. Usually fat is skimmed from the top of soups, stews, gravies and sauces.
Slivering: Cutting food into very thin toothpick-sized pieces. Most commonly used with nuts and garlic.
Soaking: Immersing food in a liquid for a period of time or until the food has reached a certain consistency.
Softening: Letting semi-solid products reach room temperature. This is most commonly done with butter, margarine, cream cheese or other cheeses. This is usually done by letting the product sit at room temperature, or by microwaving at low power in small doses until soft. For best results, it is important not to melt the item.
Stirring: Mixing ingredients with a spoon using circular movements.
Tearing: Ripping food (such as lettuce) into pieces by using your fingers.
Tossing: Gently mixing ingredients by lightly lifting and dropping them. There should be no stirring or beating motions, usually to protect larger fragile ingredients.
Trussing: Holding the shape of poultry or other meat in order to insure even cooking and browning by securing in a tight bundle with skewers, thread or toothpicks.
Whipping: Beating very rapidly to mix and increase the volume of the mixture.
Zesting: Removing the outermost peel on citrus fruit. This is usually done by grating the fruit, using a zester, or by carefully cutting strips off with a knife. It is important to avoid the bitter white pith when zesting.