FRENCH COOKING TERMS

French cooking terms are often seen in recipe books and restaurants. They are there to guide you with the recipes, but can sometimes be confusing if you don't know what they mean.

How often have we seen a recipe we like, but are not sure what the cooking terms mean? Here is a list of the most common French cooking terms to help you with your recipes and understanding restaurant menus.


Acidulate: To make foods or liquids slightly acidic by adding vinegar or lemon juice to it.

Affriander: A French term for an appetising presentation to a dish.

Affrioler: A French term for enticing one’s guests to the table with hors d’oeuvres and small samplings.

Arroser (baste): To spoon melted butter or fat or liquid over food as they cook.

À La: A French term meaning “in the style of”

À La Carte: A French menu term referring to the price of individual items. One of the French cooking terms most often seen on the menu in restaurants.

Amuse Bouche means ‘amuse the mouth’ – small samples of food offered before a meal to whet the appetite.

Aperitif: a light alcoholic beverage served before a meal.

Assation: A term for cooking foods in their own natural juices without adding extra liquids.

Au Bleu: A French term for the method of preparing fish the minute it has been killed – the fish is plunged into a boiling court bouillon, which turns the skin a metallic blue colour.

Au Jus: A French term for meats served in their natural juices.

Au Poivre means ‘with pepper’, either coating the meat with peppercorns or serving with a pepper sauce.

Baste: To spoon, brush or pour fat over a roast as it is cooking to add flavour and to glaze it.

Bain-marie: A water-bath for oven cooking delicate terrines and desserts. Usually the dish is placed in a roasting tin half filled with water.

Beurre Manié: A paste made by mixing equal quantities of butter and flour. It is stirred into stock or sauce at the end of the cooking to aid thickening.

Beurre noisette: A simple sauce made by cooking butter until it is brown and ‘nutty’

Blackened: A technique where meat or fish is coated with a seasoning and then seared in a cast-iron skillet in which oil has reached its smoking point.

Blanch (blancher): To plunge food into boiling water and boil it until it has softened or is partially cooked. It is used to remove a strong taste from some foods such as cabbage or onions.

Blanchir: To place in boiling water so as to whiten and loosen the skins, usually of meats.

Blanquette: A meat stew, usually of veal, with an egg and cream sauce and garnished with onions and mushrooms.

Blend (mélanger): To mix less vigorous than beating, using a fork or spoon.

Bleu: French term for a cut of meat cooked until is only warmed through or rare.

Blondir: A French term for lightly browning foods in a fat.

Boil (bouillir): Liquids heated until they are rolling and sending up bubbles. A slow boil is when there is only a bubble here and there – to simmer. When there is very little movement in the water – to poach.

Bon Femme: A French term used to describe food cooked in a simple or rustic manner.

Bouquet garni: This is one of the French cooking terms most often seen. It is a bunch of herbs used to flavour dishes usually consisting of parsley, thyme, bay and celery leaves.

Braise (braiser): To brown food in fat then cook in a casserole with a small amount of liquid.

Brulé: A French term to describe ‘burnt’ as in crème brulée.

Brunoise: A French term used to describe a specific cut or mixture of vegetables – usually small dice, braised in butter.

Champignon: A French term for any edible mushroom or the particular dish they accompany.

Charcuterie: Products such as salami, sausages, pates and similar forcemeats usually based on pork and pork offal.

Court bouillon: A mixture of water, herbs, vegetables and either wine or vinegar, used mainly for cooking fish.

Croquettes: Small fish cakes or meat and/or vegetable rissoles.

Deglaze (deglacer): After meat has been sautéed or cooked in a pan, liquid is poured in and the bits of meat and juices scraped into the liquid. This deglaze is important for a good sauce.

Degrease (degraisser): To remove fat from the surface of hot liquids.

Dice (couper en des): To cut food into cubes the shape of a dice.

Farci: Stuffed.

À la Ficelle: Suspended by a length of string.

Flambé: Flamed, usually using alcohol of some form.

Fold (incorporer): To blend a delicate mixture such as egg whites when beaten e.g. soufflé.

Fouetter (Beat): To mix food or liquid thoroughly using a spoon, fork or whisk etc.

Fumet: Concentrated fish stock.

En Gelée: Cold, jellied.

Gibelotte: Meat stewed in wine in a casserole.

Au Gratin: To brown the top of a dish either in the oven or under a grill. Usually of cheese or breadcrumbs mixture.

Julienne: To cut vegetables or citrus rind into short, thin strips. Vegetables used to garnish are often cut in this manner to decorate.

Marinate: To soak foods in a liquid so as they absorb the flavor for example beef marinated in red wine. Again this is one of the French cooking terms we most often use.

Mesclun: A salad mix of young lettuce leaves and herbs such as rocket, lamb’s lettuce, dandelion leaves, basil, chervil and endive. Traditionally found in the south of France.

Mirepoix: A flavouring employed mostly in braising meat, which is usually composed of finely diced or chopped carrots, leeks, onions, celery, lean bacon and bay leaf and thyme, all cooked gently in oil or butter.

Nap, napper: To cover food with a sauce

Paupiette: Thin rolled, stuffed escalope slice of meat.

Roux: A mixture of flour and butter, or fat, blended together over a low heat and which serves as the basic thickening agent for most sauces.

Sauté: To fry lightly and quickly in a small amount of butter of fat, tossing and turning, during the cooking process, instead of allowing to sizzle.

Velouté: A thick cream soup.


Once you have an idea of what the French cooking terms mean it will make it much easier when making your wonderful French recipes.

You will find French cooking terms used in many cook books and it is useful to have a knowledge of them.

I do hope these have helped a little.