Kitchen Slang: The Beginners Guide

In case your blissful time in the safety of your home kitchen has motivated you to head out into the sweaty, vulgar, fast-paced environment of a professional kitchen, we have you covered when it comes to communicating. Or, scope out the following phrases and feel like a chef while you talk and cook in your slippers at home.
By Annelise McAuliffe

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In case your blissful time in the safety of your home kitchen has given you the confidence to head out into the sweaty, vulgar, fast-paced environment of a professional kitchen, we have you covered when it comes to communicating. We would hate for you to be two steps behind, especially when it comes to a chef bellowing directions at you. Scope out the following slang terms and phrases before your first day or feel like a chef while still in your slippers as you harass those who dare enter your sacred cooking space at home with these “professional” utterances.

86’d
If an item on the menu or an ingredient in the kitchen is 86’d it means you are all out. The history of this phrase is varied and unclear, but we love how it can be used in many facets of life. From letting your friends know you are in bed for the evening on a Friday night to a list of items on your fridge you are out of or a pet goldfish that is no more, the term 86’d works flawlessly.

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In the Weeds
If someone tells you you are in the weeds or you mutter it under your breath, perhaps with stronger words, you are in trouble. In short, you are behind, overwhelmed with orders or a prep list, and you better dig yourself out before you get deeper in the weeds. At home it would be appropriate to use this term if all of your dinner guests arrived before the table was set, the white wine was chilled, and dinner was in the oven.

Fire
When an ticket for a table’s order comes in, chef will call it out and those items that should be prepared now he or she will “fire”. In other words, get those dishes in motion, on the grill, prepare and to the table. In your own kitchen, you can tell your trusty sidekick sous chef to “fire” the bread in the toaster when you are a minute out from your eggs being done.

On the Fly
If you hear this it is time to put some pep in your step and get whatever was asked of you done quickly. For example, “Lamb, medium, on the fly!” means that lamb needs to be cooked to a medium doneness and to chef sooner than soon, faster than usual, and without excuses. Perhaps not advisable, this phrase can be called out at home during Sunday football when you are hungry now and need food made for you STAT, try adding a “please” or “thank you”. We envisioned something along the lines of, “Sandwich, turkey, on the fly!”

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GBD
An acronym for Gold Brown Delicious, this is a phrase that is used when there is little time or desire to give a more in-depth description. Although sometimes frustratingly vague, it gets the general idea across. “Chef, how would you like the chicken cooked?” “GBD.” Next time you are making donuts at home or lying on the beach, strive for the perfect GBD.

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Low-Boy
The name for the below-counter fridges, often at the cook’s waist under their station. Please get rid of a cupboard and put one of these in your home kitchen just so you can say “low-boy” and “coming in below” when someone is standing in front of it.

Mise
Pronouced meez, this term refers to the French phrase, mise en place. Directly translated it means “everything in its place”. If you are “mise-d out for the day” it means you are prepared, all your prep for each dish is ready to go. The next time you are cooking at home, mise everything out first (chop your onions, grate your carrots, peel your garlic) before you start cooking.

Chix
This is the shorthand for chicken in a kitchen. You will never hear it spoken, but go ahead and write it on your prep list and home shopping lists.

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Rubber
Also know as a finger condom, a rubber is a hand dandy invention to let you safely keep on cooking even after you have cut yourself without the impending doom of a soggy band-aid. Grab a few for your home so that next time you get crazy on the mandolin slicer you can bandage yourself, throw on a rubber, and get right back to slicing.

Salamander
Unless there is an amphibian on the menu, “salamander” is another name for broiler. In a professional kitchen it is a piece of equipment that is different from the oven and usual overhead or above a work station. Please join in the movement and write to your oven company to ask them to change the label on the “broil” button to “salamander”.

All Day
This is a verbal count of what you have left. Halfway through dinner service you may be asked to give an “all day” of how many orders of steak you have left. At home, it may be helpful to get an “all day” and take account of what is in the fridge before you head to the store.

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Kill It
When a guest asks for meats cooked well done, this snide phrase is often uttered. “I need a burger with fries, kill it”, in other words, cook it well-er than well done. Now you no longer have to use this phrase at home only for when your friend challenges you to “kill” the rest of the bottle of wine.

Shoemaker
If you are a line cook and someone calls you a shoemaker it is time to step up your game or start looking into new career options. In the kitchen you don’t want a shoemaker, you want a cook. If you find yourself cutting corners, having a sloppy station, or being unable to follow general directions you might have a new, undesirable title coming your way. At home, when your housemate fails to clean up after themselves when they cook in the kitchen, feel free to dish this one at them.

Yes, Chef.
Regardless of the question or statement and how you actually feel this is the correct response to your kitchen superior. Outside of the kitchen it is a sassy response used among cooks in response to bossy directions or bold statements made by a friends.

Let’s Plate The Next One Together
One of the nicest ways to say you are making a mistake. This phrase is said to you by your superior as positive corrective technique. Rather then screaming, “You are doing it all wrong!” your chef is willing to plate the next order with you and teach you how it should be done properly. Maybe try it at home the next time you find a dirty in the drying rack. Something like, “Let’s wash the next plate together.”

Hot Behind
While you may think that you look sexy from the back in your oh-so-flattering kitchen whites uniform, when you hear this your coworker is in fact just letting you know to stay still where you are or you will be burned. In a busy kitchen environment communication like this is important to keep things running smoothly. In cramped home kitchens be sure to use this or “Comin’around, hot” when you are moving about with a hot pan of delicious food.


Annelise McAuliffe

Annelise McAuliffe

Mandatory family outings to the Detroit farmers' market and nightly home-cooked meals cultivated Annelise's respect and curiosity for food. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, she spends her free time in New York City recipe testing, eating breakfast all day, and dreaming up international culinary adventures.

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2 Comments
  1. 86’ed is derived from the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article “86” in an Unauthorized Absence. Same as in the kitchen lol.

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