June 16, 2024

If you’re anything like us, then you probably have a whole bookcase filled with cookery books that have been flicked through once or twice. We tend to pick a recipe or two out of them before they get relegated to the bottom of the pile and gather dust. The thing is, most recipe books are wonderful for those who already know how to cook, but what if you want the basics? There seems to be a lot of parboiling this and marinating that, but what does that even mean? Let’s take a look at the cooking secrets that are omitted from many recipe books.

A stack of many cooking books

Image from Flickr

The Basics

There’s normally that section at the beginning of a cookery book called ‘the basics’. This part tends to assume you know the difference between blanching and dredging as if we went to chef school. Don’t get us wrong, we know how to make a mean chili con carne, but the jargon surrounding cooking astounds us sometimes. We’ve got some basic cooking terms here, to help make it a bit easier for everyone:

  • Al Dente – Pasta that is cooked al dente means that it is slightly hard, instead of being cooked until soft.
  • Blanch – Partially boiling food such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Normally used to loosen the skins of things such as almonds.
  • Butterfly – Used often when chicken is involved. It means splitting the meat or fish without separating, to create a butterfly shape.
  • Dredge – Coating a food with a dry ingredient, such as flour or sugar.
  • Fold – This is a gentler way of mixing ingredients. You can do this by creating the figure of 8 shapes with a wooden spoon, in the mixture.
  • Garnish – A posh way of saying ‘make the food look pretty’.
  • Marinate – Soaking food in a marinade, which is usually made with different herbs, spices, and oils.
  • Parboil – Partially boil food (normally vegetables) until slightly softer.

These are just some of the cooking terms that you will need to know when flicking through recipe books. Try to look for a glossary of cooking terms for the entire list of ingredients and methods.


If there’s something cookery book authors love doing, it’s making processes complicated. However ‘quick and easy’ your recipe book is, we’ve found there’s always an easier way to do it. Whether it is by buying products that offer a shortcut (pre-made pastry, for example), or using simpler methods, such as blending instead of mixing. If you want to be able to recreate incredible-looking recipes from your cookery book, then you need to know the shortcuts. Have a store cupboard stocked full of helpful ingredients; from mixed herbs to the hottest pepper sauce, as well as a kitchen full of mod-cons. You’ll be surprised how easy it becomes to cook the more difficult-looking recipes, even if you do feel like you’re cheating a little bit.

Don’t let those recipe books gather dust because it all seems a bit too much. Dig them out, grab a glossary of cooking terms, and turn on the blender; you’ll be cooking like a pro in no time.

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