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Cooking Terms - P

Paella - A Spanish dish consisting of rice, saffron, a variety of meat and shellfish, garlic, onions, peas, tomatoes, and other vegetables. It's named for the wide, shallow pan it's cooked in.
Recipe: Skillet Paella

Pan-Broil - To broil in a skillet on top of the stove with very little fat. During the cooking, drippings are poured off as they form.
Recipe: Pan Broiled Steak with Bourbon Sauce

Pancetta - An Italian bacon, pancetta is cured with salt and spices but is not smoked.
Recipe: Chicken Legs Stuffed with Pancetta and Cheese

Panforte - A dense, flat Italian cake filled with hazelnuts, almonds, honey, candied citron and citrus peel, cocoa and spices.
Recipe: Siena's Panforte

Papaya - Native to North America, the papaya is a large fruit which is golden yellow when ripe. Ripe papaya has an exotic sweet-tart flavor. The fruit is sometimes called pawpaw.
Recipe: Frozen Fruit Smoothie

Paprika - A seasoning powder made from red peppers. The flavor can range from mild to hot.
Recipe: Pork Tenderloin Paprika

Parboil - To boil a food briefly, until partially done. A food might be parboiled before adding it to faster-cooking ingredients to insure all ingredients are evenly cooked.

Parchment Paper - A heavy moisture and grease-resistant paper used to line baking pans and wrap foods to be baked.

Pare - To cut the skin from a food, usually with a short knife called a paring knife.

Pareve - A Jewish term which describes food made without dairy or animal ingredients. According to Jewish dietary laws, animal food can't be eaten at the same meal with dairy food, but pareve food may be eaten with either.

Parsley - An herb with a sweet and fresh flavor, parsley is usually available the fresh or dried.

Pasta - Pasta may refer to any of a wide variety of noodles from a variety of countries. Italian pasta is usually made with a dough of durum or semolina wheat flour, liquid, and sometimes egg. Pasta made with semolina flour is generally superior, since it doesn't absorb too much water and stays somewhat firm when cooked al dente.
Recipe: Homemade Pasta

Pasteurize - To kill bacteria by heating liquids to moderately high temperatures only briefly. French scientist Louis Pasteur discovered the solution while he was researching the cause of beer and wine spoilage.
See: About Louis Pasteur

Pastry Bag - A cone-shaped bag with openings at both ends. Food is placed into the large opening then squeezed out the small opening which may be fitted with a decorator tip. It has a variety of uses, including decorating cakes and cookies, forming pastries, or piping decorative edgings. Bags may be made of cloth, plastic, or other materials.

Pastry Blender - A kitchen utensil with several u-shaped wires attached to a handle. It's used to cut solid fat (like shortening or butter) into flour and other dry ingredients in order to evenly distribute the fat particles.

Pastry Brush - A brush used to apply glaze or egg wash to breads and other baked goods either before or after baking.

Pastry Wheel - A utensil with a cutting wheel attached to a handle. It's used to mark and cut rolled-out dough, and may have a plain or decorative edge.

Pâté - An appetizer, pâté usually consists of seasoned, finely ground or strained meat, poultry, or fish. pâté is usually cooked in a crust or mold (may be called terrine) and is often served with crackers or toast.
Recipe: Chicken Liver, Mushroom and Apple Pâté

Patty - A thin, round piece of food, such as a hamburger patty or a peppermint patty.
Recipe: Salmon Patties

Pectin - Pectin is a natural substance used to thicken jams, jellies, and preserves. Pectin is naturally present in fruits, but most don't have enough to jell. The alternative is to cook the mixture until it's reduced to the desired consistency. Pectin will only work when combined with a specific balance of sugar and acid.
Recipe: Apple Conserve with Powdered Pectin

Peppercorn - Peppercorns are small berries from a vine plant. The black peppercorn is picked when it is almost ripe, then dried. Whole ground or cracked, black peppercorns produce our everyday black pepper. The milder white pepper is made from the dried inner kernel of the ripe berry.

Petit Four - Small bite-size cakes, petits fours are usually square or diamond-shaped. They're typically coated with icing and decorated.

Phyllo - A Greek pastry, phyllo is made up of tissue-thin layers of dough. The dough is used for dishes such as baklava and spanikopita. It can usually be found frozen in supermarkets. Phyllo is sometimes spelled filo.
Recipe: Baklava

Picadillo - A Spanish dish made up of ground pork and beef, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and other foods, depending on the region. In Mexico, picadillo is used as a stuffing.

Pickle - To preserve food in a vinegar mixture or seasoned brine. Cucumbers, cauliflower, onions, baby corn, and and watermelon rind are some of the most popular foods to pickle.
Recipe: Bread and Butter Pickles

Pickling Spice - A combination of spices usually including mustard seed, bay leaves, cinnamon, pepper, allspice, ginger, turmeric, and cardamom. Pickling spices are used primarily for pickling foods, but may also be used to season certain dishes.
Recipe: Vidalia Onion Relish

Pilaf - Also known as pilau, pilaf is typically a seasoned rice (or other grain) dish in which the rice is sautéed before the liquid and other ingredients are added.
See: Pilaf Recipes and Information

Pimiento or Pimento - A large red, sweet pepper. Pimientos are usually found diced in cans and jars and are added to dishes to enhance the color and flavor.
Recipe: Colorful Rice Salad

Pinch - A small amount of a dry ingredient, generally around 1/16 of a teaspoon. It's about as much as can be held between the tip of the thumb and forefinger.

Pine Nuts - The blanched seeds from pine cones. Other names are: Indian nut, piñon, pignoli, and pignolia.
Recipe: Chicken with Pine Nuts

Pipe - To squeeze icing or other soft food through a pastry bag to make a design or decorative edible edging.

Piquant - A term which generally means a tangy flavor.

Piquante Sauce - A sauce made with shallots, white wine vinegar, gherkins, parsley, and a variety of herbs and seasonings.

Pit - To remove the seed or stone of a fruit or berry.

Pita - A round, Middle Eastern flat bread made from white or whole wheat flour. When a pita is split, the pocket may be filled to make a sandwich.
Recipe: Pita Bread Recipe

Poach - To cook food in liquid, at or just below the boiling point. For eggs, meat, or fish, the liquid is usually water or a seasoned stock; fruit is generally poached in a sugar syrup.

Polenta - A mush made from cornmeal, polenta may be eaten hot or cooled and fried. Polenta is a staple of northern Italy.
See: About Polenta and Recipes

Pone - A round, flat food, such as corn pone.
Recipe: Corn Pones

Poppy Seed or Poppyseed - Tiny bluish-gray seeds of the poppy plant. Poppy seeds are often sprinkled on food, used as a filling, or added to a variety of foods, such as cakes, breads, and salad dressings.
Recipe: Lemon Poppyseed Cookies

Porcini - A large wild mushroom with a smooth cap and thick stem. Porcini mushrooms have an earthy flavor.
Recipe: Pot Roast with Mushrooms and Red Wine

Portobello - A very large mushroom with a meaty flavor.
Recipe: Steak and Portobello Mushroom Sandwich

Pot Liquor, or Pot Likker - The liquid left after cooking greens, vegetables, or other food. It's traditionally served with cornbread in the South. Recipe: Kamara's Pinto Beans and Greens

Poultry Seasoning - A blend of herbs and spices, poultry seasoning usually contains sage, celery seed, thyme, savory, marjoram, onion, and pepper.

Praline - A confection made with pecans and brown sugar. Recipe: New Orleans Pralines

Preheat - To allow the oven or pan to get to a specified temperature before adding the food to be cooked.

Preserve - To prepare foods for long storage. Some ways to preserve food are drying, refrigeration, freezing, canning, curing, pickling, and smoking.
See: Food Preservation and Safety

Preserves - A thick cooked mixture of whole or cut up fruit, sugar, and usually pectin.

Pressure Cooker - A cooking pot made to cook food under pressure. The pressure cooker has a locking lid and a valve system to regulate the internal pressure. Cooking time may be reduced by as much as 50% without destroying the nutritional value of the food.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Prick - To make small holes in the surface of a food, usually using the tines of a fork. Pie crust is usually pricked.

Primavera - Italian for "spring style," this term refers to the use of fresh vegetables as a seasoning or garnish in a dish. Recipe: Grilled Shrimp Primavera

Proof - 1) To "prove" yeast is alive by dissolving it in warm water and setting it aside in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes. If it swells and becomes bubbly, it is alive. 2) Proof is an indication of the amount of alcoholic content in a liquor. In the U.S., proof is twice the percentage of alcohol. If a liquor is labeled 80 proof, it contains 40% alcohol

Prosciutto - The Italian word for ham, prosciutto describes a ham which has been seasoned, salt cured, and dried. Recipe: Tortellini with Cream

Puff Pastry - A rich, multilayered French pastry made with butter, flour, eggs, and water. Puff pastry is made by placing chilled butter pats between layers of dough, then rolling the dough, folding it in thirds and letting it rest. The process is repeated several times, producing a dough with hundreds of layers of dough and butter. When baked, the moisture in the butter creates steam, which causes the dough to separate into flaky layers.
Recipe: Pâte à Choux

Pulverize - To reduce to powder or dust by pounding, crushing or grinding.

Puree - To blend, process, sieve, or mash a food until it's very smooth and has the consistency of baby food.

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