Cooking idioms

These cooking idioms are often used in everyday conversational English. Learning and using them will make you sound more natural when speaking English.

An idiom is a fixed phrase that doesn't change. It's meaning is metaphorical rather than literal so you cannot usually understand it from the individual words. I have created several different lists of idioms and infographics to help you as study English idioms.


Infographic with 9 cooking idioms, including definitions and sentence examples, of the idioms featured on this web page.

More examples of cooking idioms

Here are a few more examples to help make the meaning of these cooking idioms even clearer. I've also added a couple more cooking idioms that aren't in the infographic:


turn up the heat:  To intensify criticism or pressure on someone.

  • My girlfriend is turning up the heat for me to propose but I'm really not ready to get married and start a family.
  • I think it's time to turn up the heat and try to close the sale or we won't make our sales quota this month.
  • My parents are turning up the heat on me to move back home so I really need to find a job soon or I won't have any choice.


half-baked ideas:  Ideas which have not been thought out very well.

  • My assistant usually has half-baked ideas but I never discourage her because once in a while she thinks of something brilliant.
  • I have to admit my suggestion was a half-baked idea. I didn't think of the complications or downsides and it's cost me a lot of headaches and money.


simmer down:  To become less angry and agitated; to become calm and quiet after being angry.

  • Kids if you don't simmer down and be nice to each other I'm going to take the game away from you.
  • Take a walk and simmer down. We'll talk when you're calmer. I'm not in the mood to fight.
  • My husband simmered down after he found out I gave our daughter permission to stay out late last night.


stir the pot:  To deliberately try to make a situation/people more tense and upset.

  • My old girlfriend was always trying to stir the pot and I really hated the drama.
  • I look fat in these jeans? Wow, you're really trying to stir the pot.
  • Please don't invite the marketing director to this meeting. He's very critical and always tries to stir the pot.


cook the books:  To falsify the financial figures of a company's accounting books.

  • She used to work in our finance department but she was convicted of fraud and cooking the books.
  • I think our company is being investigated for cooking the books.
  • Believe me, if you cook the books it will only get worse later on.


whip something up:  To quickly prepare some food.

  • How did you whip up dinner so quickly?
  • I'd rather stay home and whip up a simple meal than waste money eating out again.
  • I'll meet you at the movies in 30 minutes.  I'll just go home and whip up a sandwich and change clothes.


from scratch:  To make something from basic ingredients.

  • I never have time to cook anything from scratch anymore—I just buy everything pre-made from the grocery store.
  • My date pretended that she made dinner from scratch but I saw the empty food containers in the trash can.
  • My children are always really happy when I bake cakes from scratch. They definitely taste better than store-bought cakes.


butter someone up:  To praise, flatter or be very nice to someone so they will do something you want.

  • Stop trying to butter me up. I already told you that I'm not buying you a new iPhone.
  • It's embarrassing how Sandra keeps trying to butter up our boss.  She would be better off if she just did her work.
  • I have to admit I love it when my boyfriend butters me up.


what's cooking/cookin'?:  What's happening, what's new, what's going on?

Note: this is a very informal idiom and the final "g"  is normally not pronounced ("cookin').

  • It's been so long since I've seen you! What's cookin'?
  • What's cooking tonight? Are we going to the club?
  • Welcome, come on in guys. What's cooking?


cook up a storm:  To enthusiastically and energetically cook a large amount of food

  • My husband's cooking up a storm again. Although I love it when he cooks, he makes a complete mess of the kitchen.
  • I hope you'll join us for the barbecue this weekend. My colleagues and I plan to cook up a storm.
  • I'm exhausted after cooking up a storm all week for my relatives who were in town.


grill someone:  To interrogate or intensely question someone in order to try to get a confession or answers.

  • My parents keep grilling me about what we did Saturday night but I keep telling them that we stayed at your house and watched movies.
  • Doesn't it annoy you that your boyfriend is always grilling you about what you do when you're apart?
  • The principal tried to grill my son about which students painted graffiti on the school's front door but my son would rather get expelled than lose his friends.


Your turn to practice these cooking idioms

Practice makes progress. Select a cooking idiom from the list and write an example sentence. I'll provide feedback on your sentence.


› Cooking Idioms

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