U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Food Preparation Glossary

This glossary contains definitions for common cooking and food preparation techniques that are used in Keep the Beat Recipes.


Photograph of chopped food. Photograph of cubed food. Photograph of diced food.


To cut food with a knife or food processor into fine, medium, or coarse, irregular pieces.


To cut food into uniform pieces, usually ½ inch on all sides.


To cut food into smaller uniform pieces, usually ⅛ to ¼ inch on all sides.

Photograph of minced food. Photograph of sliced food. Photograph of julienned food.


To chop food into tiny, irregular pieces.


To cut food into flat, usually thin slices from larger pieces.


To cut food into thin slices about ⅛ inch thick and about 2 inches long.


Sauté, Pan Fry, or Stir Fry

To cook food quickly (for just a few minutes), in a small amount of fat (oil, butter, etc.), in a sauté pan or wok over direct heat. Foods that are commonly sautéed include meats, poultry, and vegetables.


To heat a liquid until bubbles break the surface (212 °F at sea level, lower at altitude). Boiling is a common way to cook foods such as pasta, sauces, and vegetables.


To cook food gently in liquid at a temperature that is just below the boiling point so that tiny bubbles just begin to break the surface. Foods are typically brought to boil over high heat, and then the heat is reduced to simmer with a lid on the pan/pot to finish the cooking. Foods that are commonly simmered are sauces, rice and some other grains, and dried beans.


To cook for a short period of time over high heat at the beginning or end of cooking, often to enhance flavor and texture, and create a nice cooked look. Browning is usually done on the stovetop, but also may be achieved in a broiler. Foods that are typically browned include meats, casseroles, and anything that needs quick melting and crisping on top.


To cook food in an oven, thereby surrounding it with dry heat. To ensure an accurate cooking temperature, it can be helpful to use an oven thermometer. Many ovens bake either hotter or cooler than their gauges read. Foods that are commonly baked include seafood, meats, casseroles, vegetables, and baked goods (breads, cakes, pies, etc.).


To cook food directly under or above a very hot heat source (~500 °F). Food can be broiled in an oven, directly under the gas or electric heat source, or on a barbecue grill (known as "char-broiling") directly over charcoal or gas heat. Foods that are typically broiled include meats, poultry, and seafood.


To cook directly over a heat source on metal racks or rods or on a special grill pan. Meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and even some fruits grill beautifully.

Keep the Beat is a trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.