Spanish Cooking Methods

A Glossary of Cooking Terms for Meat, Fish and Poultry

Cooking Chorizo
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In Spain, meat, fish and poultry or game is prepared using a variety of methods. Here are the most typical terms you will see on menus and in cookbooks.

  • Cocido - stew or stewed. Cocido comes from the verb cocer, meaning "to cook." In a cocido, a variety of meats, vegetables and/or beans are simmered in a pot. Oftentimes, the word cocido is followed by the recipe's place of origin, such as cocido madrileño, a chickpea-based stew filled with meat and vegetables, which comes from Madrid. Other terms used in place of cocido are guisado and estofado
  • a la parilla or a la brasa - charcoal grilled. In Spanish, la parilla is a barbecue grate and la brasa is a live or hot coal. You may see a menu item or recipe title such as cordero a la parilla, which means barbecued or charcoal-grilled rabbit or pollo a la brasa, grilled chicken. 
  • a la plancha - grilled on a metal plate. This traditional Spanish metal flattop grill is round, allowing the heat to distribute differently from square or rectangular griddles. Cooking food a la plancha creates a juicy, moist interior while browning the exterior to a crispy finish. Typically, you will see a recipe title such as filetes a la plancha, meaning grilled beef fillets. 
  • al pil-pil - a sauce, originating in the Basque country, made from oil, garlic and guindillas - very small, hot peppers. This is most often served with bacalao (salted dried codfish) and gambas (shrimp). When prepared in this way, the dish is usually served in individual clay dishes.