French cooking terms

French cooking terms

Here is the definitive list of common French culinary terms — a useful partner to cookbooks, or watching your favourite cookery show. If we have missed any let us know.

A la Meuniere

This translates as "in the style of the millers wife", and refers to fish that is floured, sautéed in butter, and then served up with the butter, lemon juice and some parsley.

Allumette

The allumette measures approximately ⅛ in/2 mm by ⅛ in/2 mm by 2½ in/6 cm inches. It's also the starting point for the brunoise.

Bain-marie

A roasting pan or baking dish partially filled with water to allow food to cook more slowly and be protected from direct high heat. Used for custards and terrines.

Batonnet

Batonnet translates to "little stick". The batonnet measures approximately ¼in/5 mm by ¼in/½ mm x 2½-3 inches or about 8cm. It is also the starting point for the small dice.

Bavarois

A creamy pudding made with cream and eggs, then set using gelatin.

Béchamel

A classic french white sauce, made with milk, flour and butter and then flavoured with bay leaves, and nutmeg. You can read more about the french mother sauces here.

Beignets

Small dollops of dough that are fried — very much like fritters.

Beurre Manié

Butter and flour mixed together in equal parts and used to thicken stews, soups, and casseroles.

Beurre Noisette

Browned butter.

Bisque

A smooth, creamy soup made from a base of shellfish stock.

Blanch

To place fruit or vegetables in boiling water so the skin can be removed more easily.

Blanquette

A stew made from meat that has not been browned or fried. Usually refers to stews made of lamb, chicken or veal.

Bouchées

Small puff pastry cases with a savoury filling, usually served as an Hors d'Oeuvre.

Bouillon

A broth or stock, usually a meat, some vegetables and a bouquet garni boiled in water.

Bouquet Garni

A mixture of fresh herbs tied together with string and used to flavour stews, soups etc. It refers to a mix of parsley, bay leaf, thyme (and sometimes celery stalk). The bouquet is removed before serving.

Brule

To burn a food to caramelize the sugar on a foods surface.

Brunoise

Vegetables cut into very small diced pieces, based on a julienne cut, but just turned 90° and diced.

Canapé

An appetizer consisting of a small bread or biscuit base covered with a flavoured topping such as Pâté.

Carafe

The carafe is a container without handles used for serving wine and other drinks. Unlike a decanter, a carafes does not have a stopper at the top either.

Cartouche

Cartouche is a French term which basically means "scroll" or "packet." It's a paper lid that is used to slow down the reduction of moisture in cooking. A lid only lets a little moisture escape, whereas using no lid lets lots of moisture escape.

Charcuterie

Charcuterie refers to cooked meats or patés.

Chapelux

Browned breadcrumbs.

Chaud-froid

A French term describing a dish that is first cooked and then chilled for service.

Chauffoir

A chauffoir is warming pan or stove.

Chiffonade

Rolling up herbs, or leafy greens like spinach and cutting them into very fine shreds.

Chine

To remove the backbone from a rack of ribs.

Choucroute garnie

Choucroute garnie is French for dressed sauerkraut, and is finely cut cabbage that has fermented and is served with sausages or fresh meats.

Choux

Choux Pastry, or Pâte à Choux, is a light pastry dough made from butter, water, flour, and eggs. Instead of a raising agent its high moisture content creates steam during cooking to puff the pastry. Amongst others, choux pastry is used make profiteroles, croquembouches, and éclairs.

Compote

A dessert consisting of fruit stewed in a sugar syrup, originates from the 17th century.

Confit

The process of cooking a meat in its own fats, and sometimes then storing that meat covered in those fats. 

Concassé

A French term for rough chopping ingredients — usually referring to tomatoes.

Consommé

A richly flavoured, clear soup. To achieve this, egg whites are added and the soup is simmered to allow the inpurities to be skimmed off.

Coulis

A thick sauce usually made from one main ingredient, such as raspberry coulis.

Court Bouillon

Flavoured liquid used for cooking fish.

Crème brulée

A rich egg custard, which is them topped with sugar, and then under heat (like a blowtorch or grill) to caramelise the sugars into a crisp layer.

Crêpes

Very thin pancakes.

Croquettes

A mixture of potato with ground cooked meat, fish or poultry formed into balls, patties or other shapes and coated with a breading before frying.

Croustade

Bread piece dipped in butter and baked until it is crisp.

Croûte

Crust. Sometimes refers to a pastry crust, sometimes to toasted or fried bread.

Croûtons

Small cubes of fried, or recooked bread used as a garnish in salads and soups.

Dariole

A small cylindrical mold used for the creation of baked desserts.

Déglacer

To deglaze, or loosen the browned juices and fats from the bottom of a frying pan or saucepan by adding liquid, then bringing to a boil and stirring. The liquid is usually water, wine or stock.

Dégorger

To extract juices from meat, fish or vegetables, usually by salting them, then soaking or washing. It is usually done to remove a strong taste.

Demi-glace

The process of reducing a stock down to a very concentrated form.

Dépouiller

To skim off the skin that accumulates at the top of a stock or sauce.

Duxelles

Finely chopped raw mushrooms, used as a stuffing. Sometimes combined with chopped ham or scallops.

En croute

Wrapped in pastry and then baked in an oven.

Entrecôte

Sirloin steak.

Entrée

The term used to refer to something served before the main course but is used now to refer to the actual main course.

Entremet

A dessert or sweet – but does not include pastries.

Escalope

A thin, boneless slice of meat.

Farce

Stuffing.

Flamber or Flambé

To set an alcohol — usually brandy — on fire.

Fond

The french word for a stock.

Frappé

Something that is iced, or set on or in a bed of ice.

Fricassé

A stew made from poultry, meat or rabbit that has a white sauce.

Glace de Viande

Reduced brown stock used to add color and flavour to sauces.

Gratiner or Au Gratin

To sprinkle the surface of a cooked food with breadcrumbs and butter, and sometimes cheese and left brown under heat. The finished food is referred to as au gratin as in au gratin potatoes.

Hors d'Oeuvre

The first course or appetiser.

Jardiniere

Vegetables cut into batons — similar to julienne but thicker.

Julienne

A standard Julienne cut is 4mm x 4mm x 5cm, or ⅛ x ⅛ x 2 inches. ⅛th of an inch is approx. 3mm, but these sizes do vary.

Jus or Jus de Viande

A French word loosely translated into “juice”, but has a more specific meaning than the translation. In French cookery it is primarily a sauce made by diluting the pan juices of a roast with liquid then boiling it in the roasting pan until all of the sediment has absorbed into the stock. Also used to describe thickened or clear brown stock, especially veal. The juices squeezed from raw vegetables or fruits are also referred to as “jus.”

Jus Lié

Thickened gravy.

Liaison

Ingredients used for thickening sauces, soups or other liquids.

 

Continue reading for French culinary terms M-Z…

Debbie tunnell - Dec 29, 2012, 20:13

#1

You mention Pâte but choux is also an important term.

Mark Anthony A - May 07, 2013, 14:31

#2

Thanks for sharing this list! I’ll be co-leading a group of high school students on a language and cooking-based program this summer, and this will be a great introduction for them. In terms of additional terms, how about “batonnet”?

alvin bucsit - May 24, 2013, 10:28

#3

It would be better if you’re going to put the exact pronunciation of these words..

Whitney - Jul 09, 2013, 01:07

#4

Great list but I was hoping for more guidance on standard menu terms as well as process terminology. While I understand what coq au vin and cordon bleu mean, it may not be very helpful to the person to whom I forwarded this reference (a colleague visitin rural France who is concerned about interpreting the food choices). Just a point to note, in case you ever decide to update the list.

Chef Joe - Jun 29, 2014, 23:45

#5

Rocher is quite important (as quenelles are for kids)

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