The kitchen, also known as the back of house (BOH), is the beating heart of any restaurant. But, as anyone knows who’s worked in or near one, it’s somewhere to tread lightly.
It’s a hot place with a lot of people moving fast on tight deadlines with sharp objects. It’s not a good place to communicate poorly.
Nothing will make your life easier as a bartender, server, or manager than a good relationship with the kitchen, and a good way to show your respect for their work is by making yourself easy to understand.
That’s where our kitchen slang guide can help.
All the Kitchen Slang Fit to Print
# out: The minutes out to a dish being plated and ready to run to a table: “3 out on the filet!”
#-pan: The size of pans used in commercial cooking: 6-pan, 9-pan, etc.
86’d: An menu item or ingredient that is no longer available.
A la carte: Food served as an individual item, instead of with sides as part of a meal.
All day: The total amount of items needed, the bottom line: “I need 3 filets all day for table 52!”
Back of House: The back of house (BOH) is the kitchen, the dish pit, and any storage, refrigerators, or walk-ins connected to the kitchen. As opposed to the front of house (FOH), where the dining room and bar are located.
Behind: Yelled out when trying to move around a crowded kitchen without bumping into someone; especially useful when carrying heavy, hot, or sharp objects: “Behind! Hot behind!”
Black and blue: Steak cooked quickly on a very hot flame, charred on the outside, but with a cool middle, typically even rarer than a traditional rare preparation. Also called Pittsburgh style.
Bone-in: Any meat that hasn’t been deboned: think bone-in ribeyes, porkchops, lambchops, etc.
Burn the ice: Pouring hot water into the ice bin to melt the ice.
Dead: Any food that has been plated and sat in the window for so long, it’s no longer okay to serve. It’s usually still okay for staff to eat, though.
Dragging: A specific item that’s taking longer than it should to plate and sell, or an entire station that’s underwater and generally taking long to sell their plates: “Sauté is dragging right now.”
Drop: To drop an item in the frier, to drop steaks on the grill, or to drop entrees off at a table.
Every swear word ever: Heh, just some good-natured ribbing. We love chefs!
Expo: Also known as the expeditor, their responsibility is to manage the window where the chefs and cooks plate and sell food, then coordinate that food’s journey to the dining room by handing it off to a runner or server, or running it there themselves.
Family meal: The free, pre-shift meal offered to staff, whipped up by the kitchen. Usually a fun way for cooks to show off their creativity.
Fire: When a dish is fired, it means its ready to be plated and sold ASAP. Sometimes orders are fired as soon as they’re put in, and sometimes the firing is delayed to make sure entrees don’t hit the tables before the apps are cleared.
Floor: The dining room.
Head chef: Chef who oversees the operation of the kitchen, from concept to execution.
Heard: An acknowledgement that something is heard and understood: “Fire that porkchop now!” “Heard!”
In the weeds: When someone is so busy—often overwhelmed—that they can’t catch up and food times drag. That said, some cooks can be weeded out (another version of the phrase!) and come out of it just fine.
Kill it: Also known as cremating, killing it is the command to cook meat to a crisp: past medium well, past well done, dead.
Line cook: Those on the front line who flank the head and sous chefs, typically manning stations like grill, broiler, sauté, and salad/dessert.
Main course: Also known as entrees: the biggest, baddest part of the meal.
Medium: Steak temp with a 140-150 degree bright pink center.
Medium rare: Steak temp with a 130-135 degree red center.
Medium well: Steak temp with a 155-165 degree thin pink center.
Mise en place: The culinary preparation process in which all ingredients are prepared and organized before cooking.
Nuke it: Throw it in the microwave!
On deck: Food next up to be fired, plated, and sold.
On the fly: Something needed from the kitchen ASAP: “I need another side of béarnaise, on the fly!”
On the line: The area where all the line cooks are stationed.
Plate: To plate a dish is to put it, once its done cooking, on its forever home: the plate that will be delivered to the guest.
Pump it out: To plate and sell food to the expo quickly.
Ramekin: A small bowl used for cooking and serving side dishes and sauces.
Rare: Steak temp with a 120-130 degree deep red center.
Refire: Something that needs to be remade—and remade quickly—is refired.
Run: To bring food from the kitchen to the floor. Some restaurants have dedicated runners, some use their expos, and some rely on the kindness of passing servers.
Sell: To sell a dish means to plate it, put it in the window, and be done with it. It’s the expo’s problem now.
Sharps: Called out when walking anywhere in the BOH with sharp objects.
Shoemaker: A chef or a cook who burns things to leather, a bad chef. Zapatero in Spanish.
SOS: Sauce on the side.
Sous chef: The lieutenant in the kitchen, second only to the head chef.
Stretch it: Try to make ingredients last as long as possible.
Sub: Short for substitute: “Ribeye, medium, no cream spinach sub fries.”
Tomahawk: Cut of a ribeye that has 5 or more inches of extra rib bone sticking out, resembling an axe handle.
Walk-in: Any refrigerator or pantry connected to the kitchen that can be walked into.
Well done: Steak temp with a 170+ degree center with no pink.
Window: The heated area where chefs place dishes once plated and ready to be run. On one side of the window is the expo, on the other side are the chefs and cooks.
Wanna learn more? Check out our bar and restaurant dictionary!