Ever tried to read through a menu, only to discover you have no idea what half the words mean? You’re not alone. A recent study has revealed there are more than a few colloquial culinary conundrums stumping restaurant-goers these days.
According to Resy, the restaurant booking platform, 41% of UK diners have admitted to resorting to online dictionaries just to understand what’s actually on a menu.
27% of Brits have also admitted to “styling it out” and choosing dishes without the foggiest idea of what they’re going to receive.
A reserved 20% said they would rather remain silent than ask their waiter for a definition or explanation, too, fearing they might look silly to fellow diners.
The most common mysteries on their menus were:
- Smacked (72%)
- Sous-vide (67%)
- Confit (56%)
- Enhanced (59%)
- Scalded (54%)
- Blackened (47%)
- Flambéed (38%)
- Fermented (33%)
- Burned (29%)
- Blanched (27%)
Of course, we can’t let that stand. So look no further, anxious foodies, the answers to all your food jargon woes are as follows…
- Smacked: In the culinary world, “smacked” typically refers to a technique used with herbs, such as mint or basil. Smacking the herbs involves gently crushing them between your hands or using a mallet. This releases the essential oils and enhances the flavor of the herbs, making them more aromatic and flavorful when added to dishes. Some people do it with cucumbers. Those people…they’re fine…
- Sous-vide: Sous-vide is a cooking method where food is vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag and cooked in a water bath at a precise, controlled temperature for an extended period. This technique ensures that the food is cooked evenly and retains its natural flavors, juices, and tenderness. It’s commonly used for proteins like steak and chicken.
- Confit: Confit is a preservation method that involves cooking food, often meat (such as duck or chicken), in its own fat at a low temperature for an extended period. The result is incredibly tender and flavorful meat that can be stored in its cooking fat for an extended period. It’s a fairly classic French culinary technique.
- Enhanced: In the context of culinary terminology, “enhanced” often refers to food products that have been treated or infused with various flavorings, brines, or marinades to improve their taste, texture, or juiciness. This can be applied to just about anything, but tends to be teamed with meats, poultry, or seafood.
- Scalded: Scalding is a technique where hot liquid, typically boiling water or milk, is poured over a food item briefly. This is often done to soften the outer layer, remove skin, or prepare ingredients for further cooking or processing. Subjectively, it’s one of the more useless ways to play with food.
- Blackened: Blackening is a cooking technique associated with Cajun and Creole cuisine, where a spice blend—often containing paprika, cayenne pepper, and other seasonings—is applied to fish or meat. The food is then cooked in a very hot cast-iron skillet, creating a dark, flavorful crust on the outside while keeping the inside tender.
- Flambéed: Flambéing is a dramatic culinary technique where alcohol, such as brandy or rum, is added to a hot pan containing food, which is then ignited. The flames not only create a visually appealing presentation but also burn off the alcohol, leaving behind a unique, rich flavor in the dish.
- Fermented: Fermentation is a natural process where microorganisms, like yeast or bacteria, break down sugars and starches in food—typically in the absence of oxygen. This process transforms the flavors and textures of ingredients, often resulting in tangy, complex tastes. Examples include yogurts, sauerkrauts, and kimchis.
- Burned: In cooking, “burned” doesn’t always refer to the overcooking or charring of food (which, let’s be honest, makes for a pretty terrible meal). Controlled charring, as in “burn”-like grilling, can enhance the flavor and texture of certain ingredients.
- Blanched: Blanching involves briefly boiling an ingredient, then immediately transferring them to ice water to halt the cooking process. This technique is commonly used to preserve the vibrant color, texture, and nutritional value of vegetables.