Macerating, emulsifying, paring and braising: Everyday cooking terms revealed... but what exactly DO they mean?

  • Chopping is when food is cut into into large squares half an inch in size
  • The difference between measurements dash, smidgen and pinch explained 
  • To blanch is to cook vegetables long enough so they don't discolour  

What’s the difference between a slice and a julienne? What do you do when a recipe calls for meat to be diced, and is there really a difference between a smidgen and a dash?

And while these cooking terms may slip off the tongues of professionals, do novice chefs know what they mean? 

From cuts and techniques to dashes, pinches and smidgens, this simple yet detailed infographic clearly defines all those kitchen words.  

 We use cooking terms everyday, but do we really know what they mean?

 We use cooking terms everyday, but do we really know what they mean?

When it comes to cuts, chopping means to cut your food into large squares, generally half to three quarters of an inch in size.

Diced is a small chop ( 1/4to 1/8 inch) and minced is to cut as small as you can with a knife

For vegetables, to slice requires you to make vertical cut down the length of the food. 

You can cut as thick or as thin as you like, unless the recipe specifies differently.

To julienne carrots, cucumber or peppers means that your veggies have to be cut into long, thin, matchstick-like strips measuring 1/16 to 1/8 inches.

For measurements, a dash is 1/8th of a teaspoon, a pinch is 1/6th and a smidgen is a tiny 1/32 of a teaspoon,  

Defining cooking techniques, the infographic goes on to explain that blanching is a technique used to cook vegetables just enough without leaving them mushy or discoloured.

It’s a six step process which requires you to first prepare an ice bath (put water and ice into a large bowl or clean sink); then heat a large pot of water to a rolling boil (approximately a gallon per pound of food to be blanched).

Then add salt to the boiling water (the water should be very salty), before immersing the food until it is cooked.

Step five is to transfer the cooked food from the hot water to the ice bath so that it cools quickly.

Once the food is cool, remove it from the bath and pat dry. Quickly reheat in the microwave before serving.

Ever wondered what broiling meant? It’s when you expose your food to direct heat (very much like grilling). When you broil your food you set it directly under the heat at the top of the oven to cook it quickly.

This is different to baking, which means to surround your food with a consistent temperature on all sides.

Poaching involves cooking eggs, fish or chicken in liquid between 60°C to 82°C.

First bring your poaching liquid (this could be stock, millk or water) to boil on the stove. 

Next add whatever you’re poaching to the pot; the liquid should cover your food by one inch.

Then reduce the heat to just below simmering point; your liquid should not be bubbling but the surface will appear to ripple as your food cooks thoroughly.

What does it mean if a recipe calls for braising and how is that different to stewing?

While both use slow, moist heat to tenderise meat such as beef, the term braising is used to refere to large cuts of beef partially submerged in liquid.

Stewing on the other hand is when small, uniform pieces of beef (diced meat) are completely submerged in liquid.

When it comes to frying, saute is a cooking term that seems to confuse quite a large number of home cooks. 

A French term meaning to jump, sauteeing involves cooking uniformly cut ingredients at a high heat, often without letting them sit in the pan for too long.

First make sure your ingredients are cut in a uniform size to ensure they cook evenly. Then add two to three teaspoons of oil to your pan.

Preheat the pan to medium high heat and then add your ingredients.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook thoroughly, keeping your ingredients in constant motion.


Acidulate: Making a dish slightly sour or acidic by adding vinegar or lemon  juice. 

Blind Bake: Baking a pie or flan shell so that it is partially cooked before the filling is added or fully cooked if you are adding a cooked filling to the shell. 

Baste: Moisten food with fat or other liquids.  

Beat: Mix foods thoroughly to a smooth consistency. 

Bruise: Gently crush lemongrass using a knife, rolling pin or pestle to release flavours. 

Caramelise: Browning sugar. Vegetables such as onions are caramelised by slow cooking in butter until they become brown and shiny.

Deveine: Removing the black thread-like tract from the back of a prawn with a small knife.

Dilute: Thinning a liquid or reducing the intensity of flavour by adding liquid.

Dry-fry: Cooking food in pan without any oil

Dust: To decorate with a fine coating of icing sugar or cocoa powder by using a sieve.

Emulsify: Combining liquids which do not usually mix together, and then whisking slowly.

Fold: Mix light ingredients together without altering the consistency.

Knock back: After bread dough has been left to rise, press down to allow excess air to escape.

Macerate: Soak fruit in a flavoured liquid

Pare: Cutting the skin off a a fruit or vegetable with a small knife in a way that you lose as little of the flesh as possible

Reduction: To thicken and concentrate the flavour of a liquid by boiling until the liquid reduces in volume. 

Score: Narrow cuts in a diamond-shaped pattern on the surface of a food.

Sear: Brown meat over a high temperature very quickly in order to seal in the juices.

Shallow-fry: Cook food in enough butter or oil (about halfway up the pieces) so that once you turn it over, it cooks evenly on both sides.

Steep: Stand food in water that is just below boiling point to allow the flavours to emerge. 

Stir-fry: Food that is cooked over a high heat with a small amount of oil and is constantly tossed in the pan or wok..



The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now