Common Cooking Vocabulary in English

Do you enjoy spending time in the kitchen? Do you like baking or cooking to relax? If this sounds like you, then you just may need some cooking vocabulary in English.

Sometimes I notice that I have gaps (whole, things I don’t know) in my German, one of which is cooking vocabulary. There are some things that they don’t teach you in class that you only learn by living in that language. This week, we hope to fill some of your language gaps with this cooking vocabulary in English.


When you heat water so much that it starts to bubble and steam, the water is said to be boiling. When you’re cooking, you’ll need boiling water for a lot of things: to make pasta, to make rice, or even to make soup!

For example:

  • Bring the water to a boil before adding the rice.
  • Add the noodles to one liter boiling water.
  • Let the boiled water cool.

Chop (finely, roughly)

Sure, you can cut vegetables, but you may also see the word chop in a recipe. If you see the term chop roughly, it means to cut in large pieces. If you see chop finely, it means to cut in small pieces.

For example:

  • Chop the garlic finely, then add it to the pan.
  • Roughly chop the lettuce and put into a salad bowl.
  • Chocolate should be finely chopped before sprinkling on the cappuccino.


Simmering is similar to boiling, but at a lower heat. When you simmer a liquid, turn the heat down from a boil, so that the liquid cooks at a medium temperature and there are very tiny bubbles on the surface (top) of the water.

For example:

  • Turn heat down to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Cook the macaroni in simmering, salted water.
  • Bring the orange juice to light simmer before adding the rhubarb.


To roast something is to cook it in the oven. I love some good roasted vegetables in the winter! We usually add oil, salt, and pepper to our favorite winter vegetable mix, throw them all on a flat cookie sheet, and throw them in the oven. For roasting, the oven can be very hot, or at a low temperature. Something is roasted if it’s been in the oven.

For example:

  • Roast at 180°C for an hour or until golden brown.
  • Roasted beef always tastes best when cooked at a low temperature for a long time.
  • I love slow-roasted potatoes!


When you’re cooking and making a sauce, you’ll probably have to reduce the sauce at some point. To reduce something is to cook something down (so the liquid evaporates (goes in the air) out) so that it starts to thicken.

For example:

  • Reduce for 10 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
  • By reducing the liquid, the flavors of the sauce are intensified.
  • If your sauce is too reduced, add water one tablespoon at a time.


If you cook, you’re definitely going to use the word stir at some point. To stir something is to move it around and mix all the ingredients together using a spoon. This is a vital part of cooking vocabulary!

For example:

  • Make sure to stir occasionally to prevent the eggs from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Stir until ingredients are just mixed. Do not overstir.
  • Martinis are shaken, not stirred.


When you’re all finished preparing the meal, it’s time to serve it! To serve food is to put it on a plate or in a bowl so that it can be enjoyed by everyone. Bon appétit!

For example:

  • Dinner is served!
  • May I serve you (put the food on your plate)?
  • The buffet is self-serve.

What sort of cooking vocabulary in English do you serve up (use) on a regular basis? Let us know!

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Check out these other popular blogs: TV English Vocabulary, Banking English Vocabulary, English Comma: Basic Rules, or these Commonly Confused Words used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and loves to try cooking new things. Send all your best recipes her way! 

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