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.
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.
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 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.
A creamy pudding made with cream and eggs, then set using gelatin.
Small dollops of dough that are fried — very much like fritters.
Butter and flour mixed together in equal parts and used to thicken stews, soups, and casseroles.
A smooth, creamy soup made from a base of shellfish stock.
To place fruit or vegetables in boiling water so the skin can be removed more easily.
A stew made from meat that has not been browned or fried. Usually refers to stews made of lamb, chicken or veal.
Small puff pastry cases with a savoury filling, usually served as an Hors d'Oeuvre.
A broth or stock, usually a meat, some vegetables and a bouquet garni boiled in water.
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.
To burn a food to caramelize the sugar on a foods surface.
Vegetables cut into very small diced pieces, based on a julienne cut, but just turned 90° and diced.
An appetizer consisting of a small bread or biscuit base covered with a flavoured topping such as Pâté.
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.
A French term describing a dish that is first cooked and then chilled for service.
Rolling up herbs, or leafy greens like spinach and cutting them into very fine shreds.
To remove the backbone from a rack of ribs.
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.
A dessert consisting of fruit stewed in a sugar syrup, originates from the 17th century.
A French term for rough chopping ingredients — usually referring to tomatoes.
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.
A thick sauce usually made from one main ingredient, such as raspberry coulis.
Flavoured liquid used for cooking fish.
Very thin pancakes.
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.
Bread piece dipped in butter and baked until it is crisp.
Crust. Sometimes refers to a pastry crust, sometimes to toasted or fried bread.
Small cubes of fried, or recooked bread used as a garnish in salads and soups.
A small cylindrical mold used for the creation of baked desserts.
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.
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.
To skim off the skin that accumulates at the top of a stock or sauce.
Finely chopped raw mushrooms, used as a stuffing. Sometimes combined with chopped ham or scallops.
Wrapped in pastry and then baked in an oven.
The term used to refer to something served before the main course but is used now to refer to the actual main course.
A dessert or sweet – but does not include pastries.
A thin, boneless slice of meat.
To set an alcohol — usually brandy — on fire.
Something that is iced, or set on or in a bed of ice.
A stew made from poultry, meat or rabbit that has a white sauce.
Reduced brown stock used to add color and flavour to sauces.
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.
The first course or appetiser.
Vegetables cut into batons — similar to julienne but thicker.
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.
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.”
Ingredients used for thickening sauces, soups or other liquids.
A salad of small pieces of mixed vegetables or fruit.
French word for a covered earthenware container for soup. The soup is both cooked and served in it. Not to be confused with the product Marmite!
A mixture of braising vegetables, usually celery, carrots and onions.
Mise en place is translates as "putting in place", as in getting all your preparation in place – tasks like washing mussels, peeling and preparing vegetables or weighing out some of the ingredients in advance.
A cake tin that is wider at the base than at the top and only about 2cm or 1inch in depth.
To coat, mask or cover with something.
The word literally means " hazelnuts ", but can also refer to something being nut brown in colour. For example, beurre noisette is butter browned over heat until it becomes a nut brown color. It can also refer to boneless rack of lamb that is rolled, tied and cut into rounds.
A term that refers to the style of cooking that features lighter dishes with lighter sauces and very fresh ingredients.
A very thick mixture usually made from a combination of flour, butter, and milk that is used as a base for dishes such as soufflés and fish cakes.
A wrapping of parchment paper around fish or meat used for cooking. The paper is used to retain moisture.
Refers to potatoes molded into balls with a melon scoop, and fried or roasted.
A basic mixture or paste – often refers to uncooked dough, or pastry.
A paste made of liver, pork or game.
Vegetables cut into thin slices.
A sweet or pastry, it also refers to a cake shop.
To insert fat, such as bacon into meat or poultry.
A French term describing dishes in which the food is stuffed, folded, or placed in layers. Common preparations of this type are omelets, gratins, or stuffed chicken breast.
A young chicken.
Quenelle is a minced fish or meat mixture that is formed into small shapes and then poached. It also refers to the shape that the minced mixture is made into.
Flour mixed with water or egg white and used to seal pans when cooking food slowly. Often used when cooking a ragoût.
To quickly fry meats or vegetables in hot fat to warm them through.
A rocher, or one-handed quenelle, is a way to give a beautiful oval shape to a homogenous mass of food — like ice cream, sorbet or even beef tartare. The shape is formed by scooping with one spoon and smoothing it with the other (usually the spoons are warm if its a cold mass).
Melted butter to which flour has been added - used as a thickener for sauces or soups.
A garlic and oil emulsion used as flavouring.
A deep frying pan with a lid – used for recipes that require fast frying then slow cooking.
A Pâté or similar mixture of minced ingredients is baked or steamed in a loaf shaped container.
A dish cooked in a mold that is higher than it is wide and has sloping sides.
A type of sauce made from butter, flour, cream and stock.
A large pastry case made of puff pastry that is usually used as a container for creamed dishes, such as creamed chicken.