Cooking Vocabulary in English: Cooking Methods, Part 1

I get a lot of questions from students about cooking vocabulary. Students seem especially curious about words for cooking methods. Today we’ll look at several words that describe the way something is cooked.


If  food is baked, it is cooked in an enclosed space, using hot air. Usually, food is baked inside an oven. Modern ovens are usually heated by electricity, although food can be baked at high temperatures with natural gas or wood too.

Foods that are commonly baked include bread, cake, and pizza. Meats such as turkey and ham are also sometimes baked, especially in Western cooking. But when meat is baked, we often say the meat is roasted.

Baked goods, at a bakery

Baked goods, at a bakery


“Roasted” can have the exact same meaning as “baked.” You would say that a loaf of bread or piece of pie are baked in an oven. But if you cooked some beef ribs or a whole chicken in the oven, you could use the term “roasted” instead of “baked.” (Meat can also be called “baked;” either of these two words applies to the cooking of meat in an oven.)

There is one small difference in meaning between “roasted” and “baked,” however. “Roasted” can also refer to things that are cooked over an open flame, rather than cooked in an enclosed oven. If you cook a hot dog or marshmallow over a campfire, you would describe either one of those as roasted. You can even roast pizza, bread, pie, etc… over an open fire. This is an unusual way to cook these things– bread and pastries are usually baked. But roasting bread and pastry can be done.

A roasted turkey

A roasted turkey

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Food can be fried in two ways. The most common sense of “fried” describes food that has been cooked on a hot surface. For example, eggs can be fried on the bottom of a broad, flat pan (also called a “frying pan). And at a fast food restaurant like McDonald’s, burger patties are fried on the top of a hot metal table (called a “grill”). The other type of frying is “deep frying.” Deep-fried food is dipped in a pot of very hot cooking oil. This too is common at fast food restaurants. French fries and other breaded foods are deep-fried at McDonald’s, Burger King, etc….

A pancake in a frying pan

A pancake in a frying pan

Photo by Linsenhejhej


Cheeseburgers frying on a grill

Cheeseburgers frying on a grill

Photo by XP-ert



Donuts in a deep fryer

Photo by Waldo Jaquith


Sauteing uses a hot surface, much like pan and grill frying. There are a few differences, though. Sauteed foods must be cooked in oil, while pan fried and grill fried foods can be cooked without oil. Also, sauteing is done for a longer time at a lower temperature. The goal of sauteing a food is to let a good tasting oil, such as butter or olive oil, slowly soak into a  food as it’s heated up. Usually, sauteing is done to sliced vegetables, such as carrots or zucchini. Shellfish and shrimp are sometimes sauteed as well.

Sauteed leeks

Sauteed leeks


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2 Responses to Cooking Vocabulary in English: Cooking Methods, Part 1

  1. Ben May 23, 2019 at 2:33 am #

    Having read the article, a question arose. Could you tell the difference of roasted and grilled as well? Thank you

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 24, 2019 at 9:09 am #

      Hi Ben,

      “Roasted” means cooked in the oven, while “grilled” means to cook over a grill or barbecue, generally outside.

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