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To Charcuterie and Beyond: A Small Lexicon of French Meat Terms

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industrial meat grinder

How many times have you been dining at a restaurant and had to Google or ask about foreign culinary lingo sprinkled around the menu? We've all been there and we think everyone should have some food-based foreign language under their belts. Especially since the United States has basically adopted the culinary expertise of hundreds of different cultures. 

Let's talk France. You'd be hard-pressed to look at most menus and not find at least a few references to French cuisine and/or culinary style. They're a masterful country in the kitchen and their meat game is strong.

Long before  industrial meat grinders, meat cutting machines, and other commercial grade restaurant equipment was the charcutier. A professional purveyor of proteins, the term charcutier translates to English as pork butcher (it's so much prettier in French), but applies to all manner of meat preparation, making charcuterie a profession dealing specifically with cooked meats. The "pork butcher" deals predominantly with pork but is a meat master through and through.

Approximately 67% of millennials claim to love ordering healthier options at restaurants and a charcuterie board is an increasingly popular shareable option. But, we're willing to bet that even if you know what a charcuterie board is, you might not know what's on it. Let's take the mystery out of your meat and learn a few terms fresh from the charcutier.

  • Confit: Literally meaning "to preserve", it's one of the oldest food preservation processes in existence. You've likely seen duck confit before. It's food that's seasoned in salt, slowly cooked in fat at low temperatures to promote lengthy preservation.

  • Pate: Fat and several types of meat cooked together and minced so finely the final product is a paste, usually spreadable on bread. The most well-known pate is foie gras, which is the liver of a fattened goose minced into pate.

  • Galantine: This is an interesting one. The industrial meat grinder's dream cuisine, this is a dish that consists of de-boned meat (poultry or fish) stuffed with more meat, which is cooked by poaching, then served cold.

The profession of cutting meat has been around for thousands of years in countries all over the world. As long as people eat (which will be always), there will be something new to learn about food, culture, and the stories of their origins. Next time you open a menu or get your food in-home, try something new. You can be the charcutier you want to see in the world.

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