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Essential English Vocabulary for Cooking

Essential English Vocabulary for Cooking

Not only is cooking an inexpensive way to eat delicious food, it can also be a fun and relaxing hobby.

Also, unlike other activities, cooking provides you with a detailed, step-by-step list of how to do everything. That means you don’t have to guess or wonder if you are doing something correctly; just follow the instructions in the recipe!

If you’d like to give cooking a try, there are many excellent English websites with all kinds of dishes for you to discover. But in order to fully understand them, you’ll first need to know some basic English cooking terms. 

A cutting board, knife and several small dishes of vegetables


This is short for "preparation," and it refers to getting your tools and ingredients ready in order to cook.

I need some time to prep before I begin cooking.

"Prepping" is also common.

Prepping properly can save you lots of time and extra work in the kitchen.

Cutting words

A pair of hands cutting an onion into small pieces

Cooking often involves lots of cutting. However, there are different ways to cut things.


Dicing something is cutting it into small squares — just like dice from a board game.

Please dice these tomatoes for me.


Mincing is cutting something into the smallest pieces you can.

This recipe calls for half a cup of minced celery.

*"Call for" is a common term in cooking that means "requires."


This is the most standard way to say "cut" in recipes.

Chop the carrots carefully on the cutting board.


Slicing something is cutting it into flat pieces of a similar size.

My dad always slices the turkey for the family on Thanksgiving.


This is a verb that means to turn an oven to a particular temperature in order to prepare to cook something.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Baking is using an oven to cook food. Baking is usually associated with breads and sweet food like cakes.

They've been in the kitchen all morning baking bread.


Roasting is also cooking in an oven or over a fire. Roasting is usually associated with meat and vegetables.

Place the pork on a baking dish and roast it for 1 hour.


Frying is cooking something in oil.

Fry the dough in 1-inch deep oil for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until it turns brown.

You can also "deep fry" something, which means completely covering it in oil.

There is also "stir-frying," which is cooking something in a frying pan with oil while stirring, or mixing it, with other ingredients.

"Stir-fry" is also a noun for a hot dish of mixed vegetables or meat that has been cooked this way.

I had a delicious vegetable stir-fry for lunch.


A pair of women stirring food in a large pan

This is a verb that means to move food around with a spoon or other kitchen tool. This is done to mix something or to help it cook evenly.

Add eggs, flour and a cup of milk, then stir the mixture for 3 minutes.


Boiling something is cooking it in water that is so hot that it produces bubbles and steam.

I had a side of boiled vegetables to eat with my steak.


This is different than "boil"! 

When you "broil" something, you cook it by exposing it directly to fire.

Place the fish in a baking dish and broil in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.


When food or water simmers, its heat is being kept at a level just below the point when it begins to boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover the pan and let the sauce simmer for 3 minutes.


A person grilling meat outdoors

As a noun, a grill is a set of metal bars placed over a fire for cooking. When you cook food this way, you are grilling (verb) it.

We put some hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill.
Grill the salmon until each side is golden brown.


Sprinkling is adding small pieces of something to a dish or mixture by lightly dropping them on top. Instead of adding the pieces in only one spot, you cover the entire area.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley before serving.


Did you know "season" can be a verb? It means adding salt, herbs or spices to improve flavor.

Season the steak with salt and pepper before cooking it for a richer flavor.

The noun version is "seasoning."

This dish isn't complete until you add a little seasoning.


Pinching is squeezing something small between your finger and thumb. When cooking, this refers to a very small amount of powder, like sugar or pepper.

Add a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper.


Learning to cook will open up a new world of tasty possibilities for you. Just make sure you learn the basic vocabulary you'll need in the kitchen. Once you have your recipe, tools and ingredients, dive in and see what you can make! 🍽️