Vocabulary in English

Kitchen Vocabulary: 48 Things in the Kitchen You Don’t Know in English

Kitchen Vocabulary: 48 Things in the Kitchen You Don't Know in English
Today, you’re going to learn 48 common kitchen objects in English. For more general household vocabulary, click here.

Here’s an interesting little thing about learning a language:

The small things can be the biggest problems.

Let me explain:

Your English is getting good now. (Congratulations, by the way.)

You can use your English at work with your foreign workmates.

You feel confident when you’re travelling — because you can express yourself in English.

You can read and watch stuff online with less and less stress every day.

You can even explain the storyline of Total Recall.

via GIPHY

Seriously — what was that film about?

But then you’re at a foreign friend’s house. You’re helping out with the dinner, and you need to ask your friend where this is:

Kitchen vocabulary: Potato masher

And you realise you don’t know what on earth this is in English.

Then you need to find this:

Kitchen vocabulary: Colander

And you don’t know that, either.

And then you realise you don’t know half the kitchen vocabulary in English.

How did it come to this?

It’s a common problem, so I went through my kitchen and took photos of 48 everyday kitchen objects that you probably don’t know. Probably.

So here they are.

Free test - Gymglish with Clark and Miller

Ladle

Kitchen vocabulary: Ladle

Click to listen.

This kitchen item always makes me want to eat soup.

Masher

Kitchen vocabulary: Potato masher

Click to listen.

This is sometimes called a potato masher, but I think most people would just call it a masher.

I mean, what if you want to mash something other than a potato?

Stranger things have happened.

Wooden spoon

Kitchen vocabulary: Wooden spoon

Click to listen.

It’s a spoon. Made of wood.

Spatula

Kitchen vocabulary: Spatula

Click to listen.

other names: egg slide

We all know what this is, right?

Good. Let’s move on.

Tongs

Kitchen vocabulary: Tongs

Click to listen.

Making hot dumplings?

Or barbecued zucchini?

Or do you need to rescue your phone from the toilet?

You might need these.

Peeler

Kitchen vocabulary: Potato peeler

Click to listen.

Often known as a potato peeler, this guy takes the skin off potatoes, carrots, beetroots, kiwi fruits … the list is endless.

Is it just me, or does peeling a potato kind of feel like you’re shaving it?

Potato barber?

Measuring spoons

Kitchen vocabulary: Measuring spoons

Click to listen.

Small spoons with precise measurements written on them so you can do super-detailed cooking!

Measuring cups

Kitchen vocabulary: Measuring cups

Click to listen.

Larger cups with precise measurements on them so you can do detailed cooking — with larger portions!

Tea strainer

Kitchen vocabulary: Tea strainer

Click to listen.

It may not surprise you to learn that I’m a massive fan of tea.

But not tea in tea bags (most of the time).

Loose leaf tea!

But in order to avoid getting a mouthful of wet, slimy tea leaves, I use this!

Colander

Kitchen vocabulary: Colander

Click to listen.

Have you ever tried to live without a colander?

I didn’t have one for a few months, and I was surprised how many dishes need a colander.

Especially if most of your food consists of pasta. (I was a student at the time.)

Chopping board

Kitchen vocabulary: Chopping board

Click to listen.

other names: cutting board

This is one of the most fun parts of doing things in the kitchen — chopping things with a massive knife!

It’s the part of cooking that makes you really feel like you’re doing stuff!

Knife vs sharp knife

Kitchen vocabulary: Butter knife / Sharp knife

Click to listen.

OK. This is one of those weird little things that can confuse even first-language English speakers.

Technically, the one on the left is a butter knife.

But no one says that. Especially the vegans.

So we just say a knife, or maybe a normal knife.

The other one is a tomato knife or just a sharp knife.

Knife sharpener

Kitchen vocabulary: Knife sharpener

Click to listen.

other names: sharpening steel, honing steel, butcher’s steel and others

I really like good knives.

We bought some awesome ones from an Asian shop last time we were in Australia (where we picked up some interesting Australian phrases).

They cut through a potato as if it were butter.

They’re sharper than a Samurai sword.

And I want them to stay sharp!

So I use this.

(Also, it feels really good to sharpen a knife. Try it!)

Edit: It turns out “knife sharpener” is not the technical term (though it’s commonly used). Sharpening steel and honing steel are some of the technically correct terms. Thanks to Zumbruk for pointing this out.

Tablespoon vs teaspoon

Kitchen vocabulary: Tablespoon Teaspoon

Click to listen.

OK. Of course you know what a spoon is.

But make sure you know the difference between a tablespoon (on the left) and a teaspoon (on the right).

You do now?

Great!

Can opener

Kitchen vocabulary: Can opener

Click to listen.

other names: tin opener

A can opener opens cans.

Some of these are quite logical, yeah?

Cork

Kitchen vocabulary: Cork

Click to listen.

Here’s something strange that I noticed when I went back to the UK recently. Most wine bottles don’t use corks anymore — just metal screw tops like you get with non-wine bottles.

I don’t know why. Corks are nice!

Corkscrew / bottle opener

Kitchen vocabulary: Corkscrew

Click to listen.

OK. There are two parts to this device.

The curly thing with a sharp end that we use to open wine bottles (if there’s a cork, of course)? That’s a corkscrew or bottle opener.

The other part that opens beer bottles? That’s just a bottle opener.

You can also say cap opener — if you like American English.

Garlic crusher

Kitchen vocabulary: Garlic crusher

Click to listen.

other names: garlic press

I know, I know. My garlic crusher looks weird and is a bit different from typical garlic crushers.

But it still does its job!

And what is its job?

Surprisingly … a garlic crusher crushes your garlic for you! Just like you crush your enemies!

Lemon squeezer

Kitchen vocabulary: Lemon juicer

Click to listen.

Other names: lemon juicer

You know what this is, right?

The picture’s doing my work for me here.

Goggles

Goggles

Click to listen.

“But goggles don’t belong in the kitchen!” I can hear you say.

Actually, I’m surprised by how few people have goggles in the kitchen.

Here’s why I have goggles in my kitchen.

Cutting onions.

It’s a nightmare to cut onions, right? They make you cry, and they make your eyes hurt.

Why go through the pain of it all whenever you want a nice pasta dish?

Just put on the goggles.

Oven glove

Kitchen vocabulary: Oven glove / oven mitt

Click to listen.

Other names: oven mitt, potholder

Actually, like my garlic crusher, my oven glove doesn’t look like everyone else’s.

But it serves the same purpose.

We use oven gloves to take hot stuff out of the oven without having to visit the hospital. Again.

Baking paper

Kitchen vocabulary: Baking paper

Click to listen.

other names: parchment paper

It’s that stuff you use to make sure your cakes don’t stick to the baking tray.

Useful, right?

Rolling pin

Kitchen vocabulary: Rolling pin

Click to listen.

Again — my rolling pin looks a little different from most.

But it does the same thing.

Particularly useful when you’re making pizza.

Cooling rack

Kitchen vocabulary: Cooling rack

Click to listen.

other names: cake rack, wire rack

This isn’t the first thing you buy when you’ve moved into a new house, but it’s pretty useful.

When you’ve made some awesome cookies, or a massive carrot cake, or those strange potato things that don’t quite look right, it’s good to put them on the cooling rack so they can cool down.

All-purpose cleaner

Kitchen vocabulary: All-purpose cleaner

Click to listen.

other names: multi-purpose cleaner

This is the stuff we use to clean almost everything — the oven, the bathroom walls, the surfaces (see below).

It’s a cleaner. For all purposes.

So it’s called all-purpose cleaner.

Washing-up liquid

Kitchen vocabulary: Washing-up liquid

Click to listen.

other names: dish detergent, dish soap, dishwashing liquid

Washing-up liquid is for plates, knives, bowls, etc.

Rubber gloves

Kitchen vocabulary: Rubber gloves

Click to listen.

So you’re doing the washing up, and you don’t want to get wet.

Wear rubber gloves!

Of course, they’re also useful when you’re cleaning, particularly with nasty, toxic chemical products.

Hand soap

Kitchen vocabulary: Hand soap

Click to listen.

other names: handwash, liquid soap

Soap. For hands.

Bin bags

Kitchen vocabulary: Bin bags

Click to listen.

other names: garbage bags, trash bags

Bin bags are bags for your bin.

You put rubbish (or trash or garbage) in them.

Brush

Kitchen vocabulary: Brush

Click to listen.

other names: washing-up brush, scrubber

We use it to do the washing up with.

Scraper

Kitchen vocabulary: Scraper

Click to listen.

OK. It might not be immediately obvious what this is.

You know when you cook something on the cooker, and you end up making a massive mess, with bits of tomato, soup and beans sticking to the cooker surface?

What do you do about it?

You could try and scrub it off with the brush (see above).

Or just get a scraper and scrape it off.

Much easier, yeah?

Cloth

Kitchen vocabulary: Cloth

Click to listen.

other names: dishcloth

What’s a cloth? Well — it’s just a piece of material. It can be weak and simple, or it can be strong and sturdy (like my one in the picture).

We usually use it to “wipe” something with — the table, the cooker, your kids’ faces after they’ve attempted to eat that soup.

Kitchen towel

Kitchen vocabulary: Kitchen towel

Click to listen.

other names: paper towel

Another incredibly useful kitchen thing.

Especially when you’ve got messy kids.

(For the record, I don’t have messy kids. I AM the messy kid.)

Tea towel

Kitchen vocabulary: Tea towel

Click to listen.

other names: dishtowel

We can see what this is, right?

It’s mostly used to dry the other things on this list.

Plastic wrap

Kitchen vocabulary: Plastic wrap / Cling film

Click to listen.

other names: cling film, cling wrap, shrink wrap, food wrap, Saran wrap

I checked this one out online and it actually has loads of different words.

It’s also known as: cling film, plastic wrap, food wrap, cling wrap and monstercat.

OK. Not monstercat. But the others are real.

Aluminium foil

Kitchen vocabulary: Tin foil / Aluminium foil

Click to listen.

other names: tin foil

I know this picture is not the best one on the list.

Have you ever tried to take a picture of aluminium foil?

It’s surprisingly difficult!

Cup vs glass vs mug

Kitchen vocabulary: Cup / glass / mug

Click to listen.

OK. This one is quite simple but also a bit complicated.

On the right in the picture, there’s a mug.

Mugs are basically those ceramic things with a handle that you put tea, coffee, hot wine or herbal tea in.

A cup is anything you can drink from that isn’t made of glass.

So that means a mug is a type of cup.

A glass is anything you can drink from that’s made of … you guessed it … glass. A flat-bottomed glass (like the one in the picture) is also known as a tumbler. (Thanks to Lori for that one.)

Here’s a Venn diagram to help:

Cup, glass, mug: Venn diagram
Some people would put “glass” inside the “cup” circle. I don’t.

Saucer

Kitchen vocabulary: Saucer

Click to listen.

It’s something we usually put our tea or coffee on.

We rarely use it to put sauce on.

But for some reason, it’s called a saucer.

Shouldn’t it be called a “tea-er” or a “coffee-er”?

Frying pan

Kitchen vocabulary: Frying pan

Click to listen.

other names: skillet (US)

We usually use it to fry things in. (Although some people really get creative.)

Saucepan

Kitchen vocabulary: Saucepan

Click to listen.

other names: pot

This is similar to a frying pan but deeper (and usually has a lid).

Jar

Kitchen vocabulary: Jar

Click to listen.

Jars are one of the most useful inventions ever.

Like all the good inventions, they’re incredibly simple. But we use them all the time!

Jug

Kitchen vocabulary: Jug

Click to listen.

other names: pitcher (US)

A jug is something we use to store and pour liquids.

Pepperpot

Kitchen vocabulary: Pepperpot

Click to listen.

other names: pepper shaker

This is where your pepper goes!

Salt shaker

Kitchen vocabulary: Salt shaker

Click to listen.

Yeah, I know — it looks like an owl.

Cute, isn’t it?

So this is where you put the salt.

Have you noticed that some restaurants don’t have a clear system for their salt shakers/pepperpots?

They sometimes put salt in the one with a single hole — or sometimes pepper in the one with a single hole.

You can never be sure which one you’re going to get.

Why do they do that?

Apron

Kitchen vocabulary: Apron

Click to listen.

Here I am.

But don’t keep looking at my awesome, slightly out-of-control hair.

Look at what I’m wearing!

That’s an apron. It stops your clothes getting stuff on them.

Placemats

Kitchen vocabulary: Placemats

Click to listen.

other names: table mats

You know these, right?

Little pieces of cloth, plastic or wood that you put your plate on when you’re eating.

What are they for?

Good question. I guess they sort of help stop the table getting dirty?

I never really thought about it. I just use them.

Pump

Kitchen vocabulary: pump

Click to listen.

In some countries, it’s probably not a good idea to drink the tap water.

So you’ll want to buy your water in bottles.

The best way to get the water from the heavy bottle to your glass?

You guessed it! Use a pump!

Plastic container

Kitchen vocabulary: Plastic container

Click to listen.

other names: Tupperware

OK. So you’ve had a meal, and you’ve got leftover food.

So what do you do? You put the food in these containers, put them in the freezer and then forget about them … for a year.

At least, that’s what I do.

Surface

Kitchen vocabulary: Surface

Click to listen.

other names: countertop, counter, benchtop, worktop

This looks like a picture of nothing, doesn’t it?

Well, actually it’s a picture of the surface.

That part of the kitchen that you do most of the preparation on.

Or the part of the kitchen that’s completely covered in onion skin, plastic bags and dirty knives by the time you’ve finished cooking.

Egg slicer

Egg slicer
Eierschneider by Rainer Zenz | CC BY 2.0
Click to listen.

Great for cutting avocados, mushrooms, strawberries and bananas. And eggs — if you like that sort of thing. Thanks to Krissie for this one and also for the next one.

Whisk

Whisk

Click to listen.

Balloon whisks have a more rounded end; French whisks are longer and narrower.

To me though, they’ll always just be … whisks.

Coffee pot

Coffee pot

Click to listen.

Coffee pots come in all different shapes and sizes. Thanks to Maria for suggesting this.


There we are — 48 (plus three!) things in the kitchen that you probably didn’t know the English word for.

Have I missed anything?

I bet I’ve missed something.

What did I miss?

Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to add it to the list.

Did you find this useful? Do you know any people (or rabbits) that might also benefit from this? Then BE AWESOME AND SHARE! Spread the knowledge!

19 thoughts on “Kitchen Vocabulary: 48 Things in the Kitchen You Don’t Know in English

  1. Hi Gabriel! What an awesome post! Loved it! Your sense of humor is catchy and your playful presentation of the 48 items memorable!!! An excellent job! An egg slicer is a good one not in the list! 🙂 A balloon whisk for beating eggs? 🙂 What’s up with me and the eggs?! Not sure, but they are rolling around in my head right now :). He he he. Awesome job indeed! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi! If you were in a Greek kitchen you’d see one more thing, a “briki” (pronounced ‘breekee). It looks like a really small saucepan which can hold up to two cups of water. We use it to make Greek coffee. I love your articles, keep up the good work!

        1. Actually this specific one’s Greek, but I think these guys exist across most of the Mediterranean.

          I think you can find them in Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt all the way around through Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. Possibly even in the Balkans, too? Can anyone confirm this?

          1. Hi Yvette,

            Thanks for pointing it out. I actually wasn’t sure that Israel used these coffee pots and omitted it from the list (which also misses out Greece, Albania and Spain — which I wasn’t sure about either). Just to make this clear – this is NOT an ideological omission.

            Editing my comment to add Israel now.

            Cheers!

  3. What you called a spatula, we call an Egg slide – used for sliding eggs out of the frying pan or electric fry pan onto your plate.
    glasses for drinking out of, some call tumblers. What we call a dish cloth is the cloth the dishes are washed using, and it’s used to wipe down work surfaces and the table after a meal.
    Here is Aus we have four main kinds of spoon; tablespoon is the largest (used in cooking), dessert spoon used for eating the sweets course, a round soup spoon for eating soup, and a teaspoon for taking sugar from the sugar bowl and stirring tea or coffee.
    What you call a knife sharpener we call a sharpening or honing steel. Some people use a knife sharpener that consists of a slot into which you press and run the knife through, grinding both sides of the knife on the coarse metal at the sides. We have a sharpening stone we use, followed by using the sharpening/honing steel.

    1. Thanks Lori — these are great!

      At some point in the future, we’re going to beef up the post with all the different usages. These are super-valuable!

      And yeah — I remember those “grinding sides” knife-sharpeners. We had one when I was a kid. Really difficult to describe, but you did it perfectly! You should start a blog!

  4. Hi Gabriel,
    I really love your post. It´s wonderful.
    Gabriel, I have a doubt: a “balloon whisk” is similar to the traditional whisker we use for whisking eggs? I saw the expression on an internet cooking site.
    Thank you so much, Gabriel.

    1. Hi Gabriela,

      That’s a good question. I’ve always just called them “whisks.”

      But a quick look at Wikipedia reveals this:

      “Balloon whisks are bulbous; french whisks are longer and narrower.”
      So balloon whisks have a more rounded end.

      To me though, they’ll always just be … “whisks.”

  5. The “knife sharpener” is properly called a “steel” or a “butcher’s steel”. A “can opener” is a “tin opener” in the UK. Only the Italians are still using corks. That’s a “washing-up brush”, not just a “brush” (a brush is for sweeping with, e.g., “dustpan & brush”). The “cloth” is a “dish-cloth”, and throw it away; they are festering pits of corruption.

    1. Nice one — thanks Zumbruk.

      We’ve been trying to be as comprehensive as possible while still using common terms (as opposed to technical terms that no one uses). So, I’m interested in the use of “steel.” I’ve never heard it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not used in some parts of the English-speaking world. Can I ask exactly where you’re from? Are you, by any chance, a chef?

      We’re totally going to add your suggestions in.

      And don’t worry — we clean our cloths regularly, but thanks for the concern! 🙂

  6. I learned a lot of these words in French living abroad with a French flatmate! My French boyfriend sometimes gets upset that he doesn’t know this kind of practical stuff when we’re at my parents’ house in the UK and we’re putting the dishes away. But honestly, if you’re not planning to live in an English-speaking country, it doesn’t matter too much. You can always point, say “pass me the thingy” or describe the item!

    1. Haha! Yeah, “thingy” is really useful, too.

      Whenever I had this problem in Turkey (basically, all the time), I’d either guess what the word was (Turkish is like German in the sense you can use descriptive terms for objects and that’s probably what the object is actually called), or go for “the thing that you peel fruit with…” approach. It can be really frustrating, though. I feel your boyfriend’s pain!

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