45 Cooking Idioms: Culinary Phrases You Should Know

When we explore the richness of the English language, we often stumble upon colorful expressions that stem from the universal experience of preparing and enjoying food. Cooking idioms pepper our everyday language, offering a glimpse into the cultural importance of food and the culinary arts. These phrases add flavor to our conversations, illustrating complex ideas in a way that’s instantly relatable, whether we’re talking about tackling a challenge or evaluating someone’s work.

What are Cooking Idioms?

In the world of language, we encounter cooking idioms quite frequently. These are expressive phrases that use culinary terms to convey meanings that are different from the literal cooking process. We use these idioms to spice up our daily conversations with flavorful imagery because just like a pinch of salt, they can transform bland dialogue into something much more interesting.

Here’s a snapshot of a few more cooking-related idioms we might whisk into our conversations:

Idiom Meaning
Put all your eggs in one basket Rely on a single avenue and risk everything
Full plate Having a lot of responsibilities
Too many cooks spoil the broth Too many people trying to control a situation can ruin it

45 Cooking Idioms: Culinary Phrases You Should Know Pin

List of Cooking Idioms

Bite off more than one can chew Too many cooks spoil the broth
Full plate Stir the pot
Spill the beans A pinch of salt
A recipe for disaster Bread and butter
Bring home the bacon Butter someone up
Chew the fat Cream of the crop
Cry over spilled milk Eat humble pie
Half-baked idea Hard nut to crack
Have one’s cake and eat it too Icing on the cake
In a pickle Out of the frying pan and into the fire
Piece of cake Put all one’s eggs in one basket
Simmer down Slice of life
That’s the way the cookie crumbles The proof is in the pudding
To butter up To sugarcoat something
Tough cookie Use your noodle
Warm up to With a grain of salt
Cut the mustard Gravy train
Chew on something Eat one’s words
In the soup Salt of the earth
Sell like hot cakes Small potatoes
Sour grapes Sweeten the deal
Take it with a pinch of salt The big cheese
To curry favor

Cooking Idioms with Meaning and Example

Bite off more than one can chew

  • Meaning: To take on a task that is way too big or beyond one’s ability.
  • Example: When John decided to work full-time while taking a full course load at college, he quickly realized he had bitten off more than he could chew.

Full plate

  • Meaning: To have a lot of tasks or responsibilities at a particular time.
  • Example: I can’t take on another project right now; I already have a full plate.

Spill the beans

  • Meaning: To reveal secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly.
  • Example: The surprise party was ruined when her little brother spilled the beans to the birthday girl.

Too many cooks spoil the broth

  • Meaning: Too many people involved in a task or activity can ruin it.
  • Example: We had ten people trying to help organize the event, but it became a disaster—too many cooks spoiled the broth.

Stir the pot

  • Meaning: To cause trouble or controversy.
  • Example: Every time we have a family gathering, Uncle Joe can’t help but stir the pot by bringing up politics.

A pinch of salt

  • Meaning: To view something, especially a piece of information, with skepticism or not take it literally.
  • Example: I take everything he says with a pinch of salt because he tends to exaggerate.

A recipe for disaster

  • Meaning: A set of conditions that seem to inevitably lead to a negative outcome.
  • Example: Mixing inexperienced workers with complex machinery is a recipe for disaster.

Bread and butter

  • Meaning: A person’s main source of income or livelihood.
  • Example: Web design is my bread and butter; it’s what pays the bills.

Bring home the bacon

  • Meaning: To earn money, particularly for one’s family; to be the breadwinner.
  • Example: Since I lost my job, my wife has been bringing home the bacon.

Butter someone up

  • Meaning: To flatter or compliment someone, often to gain a favor.
  • Example: She’s been buttering up the boss for weeks, hoping for a promotion.

Chew the fat

  • Meaning: To engage in casual conversation or small talk.
  • Example:  After the meeting, we stayed behind to chew the fat about our weekend plans.

Cream of the crop

  • Meaning: The best of a particular group.
  • Example: The students at this university are the cream of the crop of high school graduates.

Cry over spilled milk

  • Meaning: To be upset about things that have already happened and cannot be changed.
  • Example: I know you didn’t get the job, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk now.

Eat humble pie

  • Meaning: To admit one’s faults or errors and apologize.
  • Example: After making such strong accusations, he had to eat humble pie when he was proven wrong.

Half-baked idea

  • Meaning: A poorly thought-out plan or idea that is unlikely to succeed.
  • Example: He’s always coming up with half-baked ideas that never work.

Hard nut to crack

  • Meaning: A person or problem that is very difficult to understand or solve.
  • Example: The new encryption software was a hard nut to crack, but our team finally figured it out.

Have one’s cake and eat it too

  • Meaning: To want to have or do two good things at the same time when it’s impossible to have both.
  • Example: You can’t have a high-paying job with lots of time off—that’s trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Icing on the cake

  • Meaning: An additional benefit or positive aspect to something that is already considered positive or beneficial.
  • Example: The pay raise was great, and the extra vacation days were the icing on the cake.

In a pickle

  • Meaning: To be in a difficult or tricky situation.
  • Example: I’m in a real pickle—my car won’t start, and I need to be at the airport in an hour.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

  • Meaning: To go from a bad situation to one that is worse.
  • Example: Leaving an unfulfilling job without having another one lined up is like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Piece of cake

  • Meaning: Something that is very easy to do.
  • Example: I finished the test in half an hour. It was a piece of cake.

Put all one’s eggs in one basket

  • Meaning: To risk everything on a single venture or decision.
  • Example: Investing all your money in one company is risky; you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Simmer down

  • Meaning: To become calmer or less agitated.
  • Example: The crowd started to simmer down once the concert was over and the lights came on.

Slice of life

  • Meaning: A realistic representation of everyday experiences in art, literature, or entertainment.
  • Example: That movie was a perfect slice of life, capturing the essence of suburban America.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles

  • Meaning: That’s just the way things happen; used to express resignation in the face of a minor setback or disappointment.
  • Example: I was hoping to get that job, but they gave it to someone else. Oh well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

The proof is in the pudding

  • Meaning: The real value, quality, or effectiveness of something can only be determined by putting it to the test or by seeing the results.
  • Example: They claim that their new software will double our productivity, but the proof is in the pudding—we’ll have to see how it performs in a real-world test.

To butter up

  • Meaning: To flatter someone, usually to gain a favor; synonymous with “butter someone up.”
  • Example: He’s been trying to butter up the manager by complimenting his decisions.

To sugarcoat something

  • Meaning: To make something unpleasant seem more palatable or less harsh.
  • Example: I won’t sugarcoat it; the feedback from the client was not positive, and we have a lot of work to do to improve.

Tough cookie

  • Meaning: A person who is strong, resilient, and can handle difficult situations.
  • Example: She’s a tough cookie; even after all the setbacks she’s faced, she never gives up.

Use your noodle

  • Meaning: To use your brain or think logically about a problem.
  • Example: We can’t seem to solve this issue the usual way; it’s time to use your noodle and come up with a creative solution.

Warm up to

  • Meaning: To begin to like or enjoy someone or something after being initially unsure or indifferent.
  • Example: I wasn’t sure about the new guy at first, but I’m warming up to him now.

With a grain of salt

  • Meaning: To consider something with skepticism or to not take it literally; synonymous with “a pinch of salt.”
  • Example: Take his advice with a grain of salt—he doesn’t have much experience in this area.

Cut the mustard

  • Meaning: To meet the required standard; to be good enough.
  • Example: The applicant had a good resume, but during the interview, he just didn’t cut the mustard.

Gravy train

  • Meaning: An easy way to make money, often with little effort required.
  • Example: He’s been riding the gravy train ever since he patented his invention.

Chew on something

  • Meaning: To think deeply about something; to ponder or mull over.
  • Example: I need to chew on this problem for a while before I decide what to do.

Eat one’s words

  • Meaning: To take back what one has said; to admit that one’s statement was wrong.
  • Example: He said it would never work, but he had to eat his words when the project turned out to be a huge success.

In the soup

  • Meaning: To be in trouble or a difficult situation.
  • Example: I’m really in the soup now; I accidentally sent a confidential email to the wrong person.

Salt of the earth

  • Meaning: A person or group of people of great kindness, reliability, or honesty.
  • Example: My grandparents have been married for 50 years and have always been there for us—they truly are the salt of the earth.

Sell like hot cakes

  • Meaning: To sell quickly or in large quantities.
  • Example: The new smartphone model is selling like hotcakes; the store can hardly keep it in stock.

Small potatoes

  • Meaning: Something insignificant or unimportant.
  • Example: The amount of money we’re arguing about is small potatoes compared to the company’s overall budget.

Sour grapes

  • Meaning: Pretending to despise something because you cannot have it.
  • Example: He said he never really wanted the promotion, but that’s just sour grapes because he didn’t get it.

Sweeten the deal

  • Meaning: To make an offer more attractive.
  • Example: The seller agreed to sweeten the deal by including a two-year warranty at no extra cost.

Take it with a pinch of salt

  • Meaning: To not completely believe something; to be skeptical about the truth or accuracy of information.
  • Example: I would take those rumors with a pinch of salt if I were you. They don’t sound credible.

The big cheese

  • Meaning: An important person; a leader or someone with authority.
  • Example: In this company, the big cheese is the CEO. She makes all the final decisions.

To curry favor

  • Meaning: To try to gain favor by flattering or pleasing someone.
  • Example: By always agreeing with the boss, he’s trying to curry favor.

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