We’re in the 11th series of Masterchef, and all those hours of watching Greg Wallace and John Torrode terrify amateur cooks over the years has at least been good for something – our cooking terminology knowledge is like that of a professional chef (even if our cooking isn’t).

1. Ballotine

A ballotine of chicken

Has anyone actually ever used the word “ballotine” before some aspiring chef off the telly put a stuffing inside chicken or pork and then rolled it up in cling film into a sausage-like shape and boiled it? The method doesn’t make it sound that nice but Masterchef contestants are forever making fancy ballotines.

2. Fondant

Fondant potatos
( Jeff Y Luo/Flickr)

Really just a potato, but cut into a smarter looking shape. They’re cooked in stock and butter to make them a bit more tasty though.

3. Quenelle

Mousse Filled Florentines with Quenelles of Chocolate

Because you can’t just scoop out ice cream into any old shape. A ball is definitely not chic. Masterchef showed us that using two spoons trick to create an elegant oval.

4. Foam

 seafood with foam
(one train/Flickr)

As a food anyway. Now when friends come over for dinner you kind of want to serve your fish pie with a anchovy foam. No?

5. De-constructed

Because you can’t just serve up any old cheesecake to John and Greg, it needs to be de-constructed. Essentially just randomly scatter all the separate ingredients on the plate so it looks like you forgot to finish the dish.

6. Bain-Marie

Greg and John taught us that this is just a pan of hot water – often used to cook little ramekins filled with crème brûlée or some other tasty pudding. The steam fills the oven and keeps the dish moist so it doesn’t crack.

7. Celeriac

(Romana klee/Flickr)
(Romana klee/Flickr)

A root vegetable a bit like turnip. Except it wouldn’t sound so posh if Masterchef contestants did neeps and tatties now would it?

8. Sous-vide

Sous Vide

We kind of think cooking anything sous-vide in a pressure cooker is a cop out. You vacuum pack your meat in a bag, time it and take it out so it’s perfectly cooked. Frustrating really when no real human being has a pressure cooker in their kitchen at home.

9. Gremolata


It sounds like a delicious Italian dessert but really it’s just finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest, typically served over meat.

10. Pomme purée

Just mashed potato in French, but for some reason Masterchef contestants never use the English equivalent for fear of sounding too common.

11. Polenta


Polenta should not be as fancy as it is. It’s only cornmeal boiled into a porridge type consistency and, unless you’re a fine dining chef, tastes bland at best. Contestants on the show seem to use it where a good mashed potato (sorry, pomme purée) would have worked perfectly well.

12. Consommé

Lobster consomme
(InterContinental Hong Kong/Flickr)

Another French word we learned on Masterchef. It’s a clear soup made from richly flavoured bouillon (that’s stock, in French of course). The solids gather on the surface and are removed to reveal a clear broth underneath. We’ve seen enough definitely-not-clear soups on the show to know that it’s a bit out of our cooking realms to try at home.

13. Millefeuille

The Great British Bake Off probably also has something to do with the fact that if we were faced with millefeuille on a menu, we wouldn’t be totally bewildered. It’s a French dessert made up of several layers of pastry, usually interspersed with cream and sometimes fruit.

14. Star anise

Star anise

Before Masterchef there was a danger of people picking up the interesting looking star shapes without realising they have an aniseed flavour. So unless you like your food to taste like Sambuca, stay away.

15. Cannon of lamb

The eye of the loin with all the fat removed – so it’s the leanest and most tender cut of lamb.

17. Julienne

(Stacy Spensley/Flickr)
(Stacy Spensley/Flickr)

A posher way to cut your veggies – into strips. Oo er.

18. Raviolo

One giant ravioli, so don’t go thinking you’d get a bowl of pasta if you order this at a restaurant. Masterchef contestants often like to include a runny egg in the centre filling.

19. Velouté

The show’s contestants love a good old velouté (posh for white sauce).

20. Sweetbreads

Don’t they sound like something lovely you’d have with a dessert? Thankfully Masterchef taught us that sweetbreads are two types of animal glands, the thymus gland from the throat and the pancreas gland, usually from calves or lambs, and are sometimes mistaken for animal testicles.

Sounds like they belong on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! really.