15 Cooking Terms All Home Chefs Should Know

Knowing these will help you ditch the processed foods.

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Despite all the food delivery services urging you to place an order for pizza or Chinese tonight, your most heart-healthy and wallet-friendly choice is usually to cook from home. In addition to costing major bucks, restaurant food (and prepared foods from the store) are often loaded with sodium, sugar, fat, and extra calories.

One minor roadblock: Recipes can contain loads of unfamiliar and intimidating terms. Let’s be honest: You don’t need to know what basting is to nuke a frozen pizza. But if you’re trying to harness your kitchen skills, mastering this cooking lingo will make those recipes easier to follow—and make your meal way more satisfying.

You’ll definitely need to know these knife terms:

  • Slicing: cutting through a food, such as a tomato, into uniform pieces

  • Dicing: cutting up a food, such as an onion, into uniform cubes. (Here’s how to dice an onion in six steps.)

  • Chopping: cutting up a food into random pieces of all shapes and sizes

  • Mincing: cutting up a food, like garlic, into very small pieces

And when it comes to the oven, you should know the difference between these two methods:

  • Roasting: cooking food, uncovered, in an oven or grill; the food is entirely surrounded by hot air

  • Broiling: similar to roasting, but the heat source comes from above the food only; it cooks foods quickly and often leaves a charred look and flavor

If you’re working with meat, tempeh, or tofu, you’ll definitely find these terms helpful:

  • Marinating: soaking food, usually one with more subtle flavor like chicken or tofu, in a potent sauce or seasoning for an hour or longer before cooking, to add flavor. (Try this recipe for chicken marinated in charmoula sauce.)

  • Basting: pouring juices over a meat, such as the Thanksgiving turkey, while it’s cooking to prevent it from drying out

And for your stove-top cooking, these methods are must-know information:

  • Sauteing: cooking food quickly in a pan, using just a thin layer of fat (usually oil)

  • Deep-frying: cooking food by submerging it entirely in oil

  • Simmering: cooking food in a liquid that is bubbling gently to the surface

  • Boiling: cooking food, such as pasta, in a liquid that is churning and rolling vigorously in the pot

  • Stewing: cooking food in liquid over low heat in a covered pot. (Try it out with this eggplant chickpea stew recipe.)

  • Steaming: cooking food, like broccoli or Chinese dumplings, using the steam from a boiling liquid, usually using a steaming basket to keep the food from actually touching the liquid

  • Blanching: immersing food, like asparagus, quickly in boiling liquid, which is usually followed by “shocking,” or immersing in ice water to stop residual cooking and help the vegetable retain its crunch and bright color. (Check out this tutorial for how to blanch asparagus here.)