- A frothy custard of egg yolk, sugar, and wine
that is made by whisking the ingredients over
simmering water. Served warm as a dessert or sauce.
Saccharin - A product made from coal tar,
used as a substitute for sugar. Saccharin has
no food value.
Sachet Bag - Cloth bag filled with select
herbs used to season soups or stocks.
Saffron - An expensive spice made from
the stigmas of the crocus flour. Saffron gives
food a yellow color and exotic flavor. The spice
can usually be found powdered or as whole threads
Sage - An herb (Salvia officinalis) native
to the Mediterranean region; has soft, slender,
slightly furry, gray-green leaves and a pungent,
slightly bitter, musty mint flavor; used for medicinal
and culinary purposes; available fresh or dried,
used chopped, whole or rubbed.
Sago Pearls - Made from the starch of the
sago palm, they can be used as a thickener in
Sake - The traditional Japanese wine made
from white rice and malt. Sake has a relatively
low alcohol content of 12 percent to 16 percent
and can be used in sauces and marinades.
Salamander - 1. A tool consisting of a
heavy iron disk attached to a long metal shaft
with a wooden handle. The disk is heated over
a burner and held closely over food to quickly
brown the top; also used to quickly caramelize
the surface layer of sugar on dishes such as crème
brûlée so the custard below remains
cold. 2. A small overhead broiler unit in a professional
oven that quickly browns the tops of foods.
Salami - A family of uncooked sausages
which are safe to eat without heating because
they have been cured.
Salmon - A succulent fish that lives most
of its life in the sea but returns to freshwater
to spawn. Salmon is usually available whole, cut
into steaks or fillets, or canned. Fresh salmon
can be poached, grilled or baked.
Salsa - 1. Spanish for sauce. 2. Traditionally,
a Mexican cold sauce made from tomatoes flavored
with cilantro, chiles and onions. Green salsa,
usually made with tomatillos and green chile,
is called "salsa verde." 3. Generally,
a cold chunky mixture of fresh herbs, spices,
fruits and/or vegetables used as a sauce or dip.
Salt - 1. A substance resulting from the
chemical interaction of an acid and a base, usually
sodium and chloride. 2. A white granular substance
(sodium chloride) used to season foods.
Salt Pork - Salt-cured pork which is essentially
a layer of fat. Salt pork is from the pig's belly
or sides. It's used to flavor beans, greens, and
Sambuca - An anise-flavored Italian liqueur.
Sardines - The common name for any of several
small, soft-boned, saltwater fish including sprat,
young pilchard and herring. The term "sardine"
may be derived from Sardinia, one of the first
areas to pack pilchards in oil.
Sashimi - A Japanese specialty, sashimi
is raw fish sliced paper-thin, garnished with
shredded vegetables and served with soy sauce,
grated fresh ginger and wasabi (green horseradish).
Because it's served raw, only the freshest and
highest-quality fish is used.
Satay - A dish in which small pieces of
meat (chicken, beef or lamb) are barbecued on
a skewer and served with a spicy peanut sauce.
Saturated Fat - This type of fat comes
from animal sources and is generally solid at
room temperature. The intake of saturated fats
should be limited since they are associated with
high cholesterol levels and the cause of some
forms of cancer.
Sauerbraten - A German dish using beef
marinated for several days in vinegar, red wine,
garlic and various herbs and spices. When the
beef has been thoroughly marinated, it is dried
and cooked in bacon fat and served with sour cream
and a sauce made from the marinade.
Sauté - To cook quickly in a pan
on top of the stove until the food is browned.
Sautéeing is often done in a small, shallow
pan called a sauté pan. You can sauté
in oil, wine, broth or even water.
Savory - Related to the mint family, savory
has a flavor and aroma similar to a cross between
mint and thyme. There are two varieties, summer
and winter. Winter savory has the stronger flavor.
Scald - To heat milk or cream to a temperature
just below the boiling point.
Scallions - The immature green stalks of
a bulb onion.
Scallop - 1) A dish cooked in a thick
sauce, such as "scalloped potatoes."
2) To form a decorative edging along the raised
rim of pie dough or other food. 3) A mollusk with
fan-shaped shells. Bay scallops and the larger
sea scallops are the types commonly found in supermarkets.
Scaloppini - An Italian cooking term referring
to a thinly sliced, boneless, round cut of meat
that is slightly floured (or breaded) and quickly
Scant - As in "scant teaspoon,"
not quite full.
Score - To cut narrow slits partway through
the outer surface of a food to tenderize it or
to form a decorative pattern.
Scrapple - A dish made from scraps of cooked
pork mixed with cornmeal, broth, and seasonings.
The cornmeal mixture is cooked, packed into loaf
pans, chilled until firm, then cut and fried.
Sea Salt - Considered by some to be the
best salt for both kitchen and table use, sea
salt is produced by evaporating sea water.
Sear - To brown a food quickly on all sides
using high heat to seal in the juices.
Season - 1. Traditionally, to enhance a food's
flavor by adding salt. 2. More commonly, to enhance
a food's flavor by adding salt and/or pepper as
well as herbs and other spices.
Seasoned Flour - Flour with added seasoning,
which may include salt, pepper, herbs, paprika,
spices, or a combination.
Seasoned Salt - a seasoning blend; its
primary ingredient is salt with flavorings such
as celery, garlic or onion added.
Flour - An all-purpose flour to which baking
powder and salt have been added.
Semolina - Durum wheat which is usually
more coarse than regular wheat flours. Semolina
is used to make pasta, gnocchi, puddings, and
a variety of confections.
Serrano - A fiery hot, but flavorful, green
chili, available fresh or canned. Serrano chiles
are about 1½ inches long and are slightly
Sesame Oil - An oil made from sesame seed.
Light sesame oil has a nutty flavor and may be
used in a variety of ways. The stronger flavored
dark sesame oil is most often used as a flavoring
in oriental dishes.
Sesame Seeds - Crispy little seeds with
a nutty flavor. Sesame seeds may be used in savory
dishes or desserts, and are often sprinkled on
Seviche - A Latin American dish of very
fresh, raw fish marinated in citrus juice (usually
lime), onions, tomatoes and chiles; also spelled
ceviche and cebiche.
Shallot - A bulb related to the onion and
garlic. Shallots have a mild onion-like flavor.
Shallow Fry - To fry with enough oil to
come halfway up the sides of the food.
Shell - To remove the shell from nuts,
legumes and shellfish.
Shellfish - Any of many species of aquatic
invertebrates with shells or carapaces found in
saltwater and freshwater regions worldwide, most
are edible; shellfish are categorized as crustaceans
Sherbet - is made from unsweeted fruit
juice and water. It is similar to sorbet except
that it can contain milk, cream, egg whites or
gelatin. Sherbet is lighter than ice cream but
richer than an ice or sorbet.
Sherry - a fortified, cask-aged wine, ranges
in taste from dry to medium dry to sweet. It is
enjoyed as an aperitif and is used as a flavoring
in both savory and sweet recipes.
Sherry Vinegar - Vinegar which has the
rich, subtly nutlike Flavor of the popular fortified
Shiitake Mushroom - Also called Chinese,
black or oriental mushroom (in its dried form).
Shiitake is a strongly flavored mushroom used
in both its fresh and dried form.
Shirr - A method of cooking eggs. Whole
eggs, covered with cream or milk and sometimes
crumbs are typically baked in ramekins or custard
Shish Kebab - A Mediterranean dish of marinated
meats (usually lamb or beef) and vegetables threaded
on a skewer and grilled or broiled; also known
Shortening - A white, flavorless, solid
fat formulated for baking or deep frying; any
fat used in baking to tenderize the product by
shortening gluten strands.
Shred - To cut, slice or tear into thin
strips. Also, to pull apart very tender cooked
Shredded - Food that has been processed
into long, slender pieces, similar to julienne.
Shrimp, Dried - Used in a broad range of
Asian dishes, this ingredient adds flavor to fried
rice, soups, stir-fries and other dishes. These
small dehydrated shrimp lose any strong fishy
odor or flavor during cooking.
Shrub - An old-fashioned sweetened fruit
drink, sometimes spiked with liquor.
Shuck - To remove the outer shells from
food. Examples are clams, oysters, and corn.
Sichuan Pepper - Native to the Sichuan
province of China, this mildly hot spice comes
from the prickly ash tree. The berries resemble
peppercorns and have a distinctive flavor.
Sieve - To strain liquid from food through
the fine mesh or perforated holes of a strainer
Sift - To shake a dry, powdered substance
through a sieve or sifter to remove any lumps
Simmer - To cook gently just below the
boiling point. If the food starts boiling, the
heat is too high and should be reduced.
Singe - To expose food, usually meat, to
Skewer - A thin, pointed metal or wooden
rod onto which chunks of food are threaded, then
broiled or grilled.
Skim - To remove the surface layer (of
impurities, scum, or fat) from liquids such as
stocks and jams while cooking. This is usually
done with a flat slotted spoon.
Skin - To remove the skin of a food, such
as poultry or fish, before or after cooking.
Skirt Steak - A lean and tough but flavorful
cut of beef from the primal short plate (below
the ribs); often used for fajitas, but is also
delicious grilled or stuffed.
Sliver - To cut a food into thin strips
Smoke - To expose foods to wood smoke to
enhance their flavor and help preserve and/or
evenly cook them.
Smorgasbord - A Swedish buffet of many
dishes served as hors d oeuvres or a full meal.
Similar buffets are served throughout Scandinavia,
as well as the Soviet Union. Common elements of
a smorgasbord are pickled herring, marinated vegetables,
smoked and cured salmon and sturgeon, and a selection
Snip - To cut quickly with scissors into
Soft Peaks - A term used to describe beaten
egg whites or cream. When the beaters are removed,
soft peaks curl over and droop rather than stand
Soft-Ball Stage - A test for sugar syrup
describing the soft ball formed when a drop of
boiling syrup is immersed in cold water.
Soft-Crack Stage - A test for sugar syrup
describing the hard but pliable threads formed
when a drop of boiling syrup is immersed in cold
Sopaipillas - Puffy, crisp, deep-fried
bread. Accompanies many Southwestern meals.
Sorbetto - (sor-BAY-toh) Sorbetto is a
fruit-based gelato that contains no dairy products.
You may know it better as sorbet.
Sorghum - A cereal grass with cornlike leaves
and clusters of cereal grain at the top on tall
stalks. The stalks can be used to make a light
type molasses called sorghum syrup or simply sorghum.
Sorrel - Sorrel is an herb that may be
used in cream soups, omelets, breads, and other
foods. Sorrel has a somewhat sour flavor because
of the presence of oxalic acid.
Souffle - A mixture that is folded together
with beaten egg whites and baked in a mold.
Soup - Liquid, usually water or milk, in which
solid foods have been cooked. Soups can be served
hot or cold and may be thick, chunky, smooth or
Sour Cream - Pasteurized, homogenized light
cream that has been treated with a lactic acid
culture, giving it a tangy flavor. Regular commercial
sour cream contains a minimum of 18 percent milk
fat; light sour cream is made from half-and-half
and contains 40 percent less milk fat than regular.
Nonfat sour cream, a product thickened with stabilizers,
is also available.
Souse - To cover food, particularly fish,
in wine vinegar and spices and cook slowly. The
food is cooled in the same liquid. This gives
food a pickled flavor.
Soy Sauce - A sauce made from fermented,
boiled soybeans and roasted wheat or barley; its
color ranges from light to dark brown and its
flavor is generally rich and salty (a low-sodium
version is available); used extensively in Asian
cuisines (especially Chinese and Japanese) as
a flavoring, condiment and sometimes a cooking
Soybean - The most nutritious and easily digested
of all beans, the soybean is better known for
its products than for the bean itself.
Spaghetti - Italian for a length of cord
or string and used to describe long, thin, solid
rods of pasta with a circular cross section.
Spaghetti Squash - When cooked, the flesh
of this watermelon-shaped squash separates into
strands similar to spaghetti; thus, its name.
Spaghetti squash has a creamy-yellow color and
a slightly nutty flavor.
Spatula - A versatile utensil available
in a variety of shapes and sizes and generally
made from metal, wood or rubber.
Spätzle, Spaetzle - A dish of tiny
noodles or dumplings made with flour, eggs, water
or milk, salt and sometimes nutmeg. The spaetzle
dough can be firm enough to be forced through
a sieve or colander with large holes. The dough
is then boiled and tossed in butter before being
Spice Grinder - A device used to mill spices
into granular or powdered form.
Spices - The seeds and skin of plants ( berries,
bark, fruits, unopened flowers) used to flavor
foods. Unlike herbs, spices are almost always
Spider - A gadget used for adding and retrieving
deep-frying foods to or from the hot oil.
Spinach - A vegetable with dark green,
spear-shaped leaves that can be curled or smooth
and are attached to thin stems; the leaves have
a slightly bitter flavor and are eaten raw or
Spit - Sharp metal rod used to hold food
for roasting over an open heat source.
Sponge - A thick yeast batter that is allowed
to ferment and develop into a light, spongy consistency.
It is then combined with other ingredients to
form a yeast dough. The sponge will give the bread
a slightly tangy flavor.
Sprig - Leaves of an herb still attached
to the stem often used as a garnish.
Springform Pan - A round cake pan a little
deeper than a standard cake pan.
Springform pans have a clamp on the side which
releases the sides from the bottom, leaving the
cake intact. It's commonly used for cheesecake.
Squab - A domesticated pigeon no more than
4 weeks old. Weighing less than a pound when slaughtered,
squab has tender meat with little fat and a mild
flavor; suitable for broiling, roasting or sautéing.
Squash - The edible fleshy fruit of various
members of the gourd (Cucurbitaceae) family; generally
divided into two categories based on peak season
and skin type: summer and winter.
Stainless Steel - An alloy of steel. Stainless
steel will not react with foods, nor does it rust
or corrode. When used in pans, stainless steel
often is combined with copper or aluminum since
it does not conduct heat well.
Star Anise - A star-shaped dry seed pod
with a flavor similar to fennel.
Steam - A method of cooking foods over,
not in, hot liquid, usually water. The heat cooks
the food while the vapors keep it moist.
Steep - To allow a food to stand in water
that is just below the boiling point in order
to extract flavor or color.
Stew - To cook food in liquid for a long
time until tender, usually in a covered pot.
Stewing Chicken - A size classification
for chicken. A stewing chicken is over 10 months
old and weighs from 4 to 6 pounds.
Stilton Cheese - A hard blue cheese made from
whole cow's milkStilton has a rich texture that
is slightly crumbly, and a pale-yellow interior
with blue-green. Stilton's flavor has a mellow
cheddarlike quality with the tangy pungency of
Stiff Peaks - A term describing the consistency
of beaten egg whites or cream. When the beaters
are removed from the mixture, the points will
stand up straight.
Stir - To move foods around with a spoon
in a circular motion. Stirring is done to move
foods when cooking. It is also used to cool foods
after cooking. Most importantly, if a recipes
calls for stirring to combine foods, such as a
batter, before cooking, it usually means to gently
mix just until well combined, as opposed to beating,
which takes more strokes.
Stir-fry - To cook quickly over high heat
with a small amount of oil by constantly stirring.
This technique often employs a wok.
Stock - A rich extract of soluble parts
of meat, fish, poultry, etc. A basis for soups
Stockpot - A deep pot with straight sides
and handles used to cook stocks.
Stollen - A German yeast bread traditionally
made at Christmas time.
Stone Ground -
Grain milled between grindstones to retain more
nutrients than other grinding methods.
Strain - To pass a liquid or moist mixture
through a colander, sieve or cheese cloth to remove
Strainer - A kitchen utensil with a perforated
or mesh bottom used to strain liquids or semi-liquids,
or to sift dry ingredients such as flour or confectioners'
sugar. Strainers, also called sieves, come in
a variety of sizes and shapes with various mesh
Straw Mushrooms - Small, tan mushrooms
with a mild flavor.
Strawberry - A lush, red berry from a ground-creeping
plant that grows wild in large areas of Asia,
Europe and North and South America.
Stuff - To fill a cavity in food with another
Stuffing - A seasoned mixture of food used
to fill the cavity of poultry, fish, vegetables
or around which a strip of meat, fish or vegetable
may be rolled.
Sugar - A sweet, water-soluble, crystalline
carbohydrate; used as a sweetener and preservative
Sugar Free, Sugar-free - A food containing
less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving.
Sugar Snap Pea - A sweet pea that is a
hybrid of the English pea and snow pea; the bright
green, crisp pod and the paler green, tender seeds
are both edible.
Sulfites - Sulfur-containing agents (the
salts of sulfurous acid) used as preservatives
for some processed and packaged foods to inhibit
spoilage or oxidation.
Sultanas - Golden raisins made from sultana
Summer Sausage - A style of sausage that
is cured and air dried. Summer sausage may or
may not be smoked.
Summer Squash - There are many varieties
of this gourd including zucchini, yellow straightneck,
yellow crookneck and pattypan. All summer squash
are similar in taste and texture.
Superfine Sugar - Known as castor (or caster)
sugar in Britain, superfine sugar is more finely
granulated and dissolves almost instantly, making
it perfect for making meringues and sweetening
cold liquids. Granulated sugar can be substituted
cup for cup for superfine.
Sushi - A Japanese dish of thin layers
of raw fish wrapped around cakes of cold cooked
rice. Sushi can also consist of ingredients wrapped
in rice and held by a seaweed wrapper known as
Sweat - To cook foods over gentle heat,
usually covered or partly covered, until moisture
Sweet Chocolate - Very similar in composition
to semisweet chocolate, sweet chocolate simply
has more sugar added and less chocolate liquor.
It's sold on grocery shelves in the baking section.
For people with a real sweet tooth, sweet chocolate
can be substituted for semisweet in recipes without
a significant change in texture.
Sweet Peppers - A term which usually describes
a variety of mild peppers of the Capsicum family.
Bell peppers, pimientos, and banana peppers are
Sweet Potato - A variety of sweet potato
with a thick, dark orange skin and an orange flesh
that remains moist when cooked; sometimes erroneously
called a yam.
Sweetbreads - Considered a delicacy, sweetbreads
are the two thymus glands (in the throat and near
the heart) of veal, young beef, lamb and pork.
Sweetened Condensed Milk - Whole milk mixed
with 40 percent to 45 percent sugar. The mixture
is heated until 60 percent of the water evaporates
leaving a thick, sweet syrup. Also known as condensed
Swiss Cheese - A hard, pale-yellow cheese
originally from the Emmental valley of Switzerland,
distinguished by large holes in its texture. Made
from cow's milk, its flavor is described as nutty,
mild and sweet.
Swiss Steak - A dish made with a thick
cut of steak--usually chuck or round--which is
tenderized by pounding, coated with flour and
seasoning, and browned. The steak is then topped
with tomatoes, onions, and other vegetables, then
simmered or baked for about 2 hours.
Swordfish - A large sport fish found off
the coast in temperate waters throughout the world.
Swordfish can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and have
moderately fatty flesh that is dense and meat-like.
Syrup - Sugar dissolved in liquid, usually
water; it is often flavored with spices or citrus
Szechuan Peppercorns - Not, in fact, related
to black and white peppercorns, these are tiny
dried berries that contain a seed. They have a
pungent aroma and mildly spicy flavor and can
be purchased whole or in powdered form.
Szechwan Chile Sauce - A sauce or paste
made from chiles, oil, salt and garlic and used
as a flavoring in Chinese Szechwan cooking; also
known as chile paste or chile paste with garlic.