Tasting Terminology

Become a Master Taster in your own right by understanding the language employed by the expert chefs who use our judging methodology.

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adhesiveness -  The tendency of some foods to stick to the tongue, teeth or upper palate; not to be confused with "cohesiveness," or the tendency of food to stick together. Example: Peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth; white bread sticking to the teeth.
aftertaste -  The taste remaining in the mouth after eating or drinking; sometimes associated with unpleasant flavors or bitterness. Example: Some diet sweeteners leave behind a bitter aftertaste.
anchor -  Set points at each end of a scale that measure a given attribute; used to describe the possible range of that attribute. Example: When the attribute salt intensity is measured from low to high, “low” and “high” are the anchors.
appearance -  The visual quality of a food. Used to organize attributes such as color and consistency of size, it is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate food. The other dimensions are: aroma, texture, flavor and taste. Example: The appearance of green olives includes attributes such as color (pale to dark) and consistency of size (inconsistent to consistent).
aroma -  The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.
astringency -  The tendency of some foods to cause the mouth to pucker; often associated with the presence of tannins or acidity. Example: Red wine, tea, grapefruit juice and pickles can be astringent.
attribute -  A narrowly defined quality belonging to a food or ingredient; used to break the many qualities of food into specific parts that can be evaluated separately. Example: To judge cheese crackers, Master Tasters will look at specific attributes like cheese intensity, saltiness, crispness, color, and the character of cheese flavors.
basic tastes -  Tastes that are experienced exclusively by the tongue, and not in conjunction with the sense of smell. The basic tastes are: sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami. Example: If a raw onion is tasted while one’s nose is pinched, only the sweet and sour basic tastes will come through
bitter -  One of the basic tastes; often considered harsh and unpleasant in abundance, but a key basic taste for foods like coffee and dark chocolate (see “Basic Tastes”). Example: Unripe fruit, aspirin and coffee all have bitter components.
bitter intensity -  The measurement of perceived bitterness in a particular food. Example: Brewed coffee sometimes has a strong bitter intensity.
blind test -  A form of judging in which brand identities are hidden from the judges to promote impartiality. ChefsBest conducts blind tests on all of the products it judges. Example: By identifying foods with code numbers instead of their brand names, ChefsBest is able to create a blind test.
bright -  The opposite of dull; used to describe fresh, clean, natural flavors and aromas, or the apparent freshness of fruits and vegetables. Example: Acidic products like lemons, pineapples and blush wine can have bright flavors. The presence of acidity often brightens fruit flavor. Tomato sauce should have a bright appearance that is not dull or overcooked.
Briny -  An aromatic associated with ocean air, salt water, pickling salts. Brine is an aroma, not a taste.
chalky -  The tendency of some foods or ingredients to have a fine or powdery texture that clings to the mouth. Example: Antacid liquids and meal replacement drinks can have an unpleasant chalky texture.
character -  The combined aromas and flavors of a particular food or ingredient. The character of a food is considered simple when it is one-dimensional, but it is complex when it has many discernible ingredients. Example: Mole sauce has several ingredients that blend to give the sauce a complex character. On the other hand, granulated sugar has a very simple character.
characteristic -  Sometimes used as a synonym for “attribute”; refers to a distinctive quality of a food or ingredient. Example: A characteristic of French fries is their golden color.
chew -  The texture of a food as it is being chewed, as opposed to the texture of the first bite (see “Initial Bite”). Example: Good beef jerky should be tender, but have a long chew.
clean finish -  When a food, particularly its oil component, clears from the palate after swallowing, leaving no residue behind; often the opposite of “waxy” or “coating.” Example: A high-quality pound cake will have a clean finish after swallowing, with no greasiness or oiliness left behind.
cohesiveness -  The tendency of some foods to stick together while being chewed, as opposed to sticking to the teeth, tongue or palate (see “Adhesiveness”). Example: Because they are cohesive, both bubble gum and white bread lump together into a ball while being chewed.
complexity -  The intricacy of a food's individual aroma and flavor components, and how well they blend together. Typically used as an anchor for character, from simple to complex. Example: Mole sauce has a complex character because it exhibits flavors and aromas ranging from chocolate and cinnamon to chicken broth and chile.
dimension -  A group of food attributes that are organized by which senses are used to perceive them. ChefsBest Master Tasters consider five dimensions when tasting food: aroma (sense of smell), appearance (sense of sight), flavor (a combination of smell and taste), texture (sense of touch) and taste (sense of taste). Example: The texture dimension of a food includes attributes (such as initial bite, chew, crispness and cohesiveness) that can be felt while the food is in your mouth.
flavor -  A combination of a food’s basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.
flavor balance -  A measurement of how well a food product matches the expected profile of flavors. Example: If there is too much garlic in a marinara sauce, the flavor of garlic will dominate the other flavors, making the overall flavor unbalanced.
flavor intensity -  A measurement of the strength of a flavor in a particular food. Example: Good quality chocolate will have high cocoa flavor intensity.
flavor note -  An individual flavor that exists within a given food’s blend of flavors. Example: Tomato sauce might have a basil flavor note.
flight -  A group of products which are similar enough to each other to be judged together. Products within a given flight generally have common attributes that vary in a significant way from products in related flights. Example: An ice cream judging might have flights of vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and butter pecan, all judged separately.
floral -  A natural, flower-like aroma or flavor. Example: High quality vinegar, vanilla, honey, Mandarin oranges and dark chocolate can all have floral notes.
graininess -  When a food's texture consists of unsmooth grain particles. Example: Ice crystals in ice cream and the Parmesan cheese in Alfredo sauce can create graininess.
grainy -  A texture consisting of grain particles; unsmooth. Example: Whole-grain bread, corn chips and brown rice can have a grainy texture.
grassy -  A natural flavor or aroma suggesting grass. Example: Green tea, olive oil and some dairy products can have grassy notes.
gumminess -  When a food or ingredient has a thick and sticky texture. Example: Prepared tapioca has gumminess from its starch component.
heat -  The intensity of spiciness or the perceived warmth of food in the mouth. Example: Hot sauce has a distinct flavor, but it also a heat component that warms the mouth.
initial bite -  The sensation of texture from the first bite of a particular food, as opposed to the sensation while it is being chewed. Example: A cookie might offer resistance on its initial bite, but it will crumble easily when chewed. Corn should have a snap on its initial bite.
Master Taster™ -  Judges who are sensory-certified by ChefsBest. To be certified, a Master Taster must have a culinary degree and experience as an executive chef. Next, prospective tasters must pass a palate acuity test before being trained in ChefsBest’s rigorous Sensory Attribute Quality Analysis (SAQA) judging methodology. Example: All ChefsBest judges are certified Master Tasters.
metallic -  Having the flavor of a can or foil; typically an off note acquired from a product’s packaging. Example: Some canned foods, like ham, can acquire metallic flavors from their metal containers.
mouthfeel -  The texture experienced while food is being eaten. Examples include smooth, chalky, grainy, greasy, etc. Example: Super-premium ice cream is often described as having a rich and smooth mouthfeel.
off notes -  Inappropriate flavors, such as rancid or oxidized oils, freezer burn, plastic, metallic or other flavors acquired from a food’s packaging and storage. Example: Canned pineapple that picks up a metallic flavor from its can or stale flavors from freezer burn in a frozen entrée are types of off notes.
panel -  A group of Master Tasters used by ChefsBest to judge America’s best foods. Example: To determine which foods are the best, ChefsBest employs panels of Master Tasters.
panelist -  An individual Master Taster who is part of a panel. Example: A ChefsBest panel consists of individual panelists.
perceived intensity -  A measurement of how prevalent a basic taste seems in a given food, as opposed to how much of the detected ingredient is actually present. Example: A food that is both sweet and sour might seem less sweet than another food with the same amount of sugar, but without a sour component.
piece consistency -  When the individual pieces of a food or ingredient are similar in size and shape, making it easier to prepare them consistently. Example: If all frozen fish sticks in a package are the same size and shape, their piece consistency will make them easy to cook without burning some or undercooking others.
rancid/oxidized -  A stale, unpleasant aroma or flavor, often produced by oxidized or decomposed oils. Example: Old potato chips and spoiled salad dressing can have rancid aromas and flavors.
richness -  Associated with creamy and dense mouthfeel; often evident in products containing significant amounts of butter or cream. Example: Alfredo sauce, coffee and super premium ice cream can be described as rich.
salt -  One of the basic tastes; tasting of or containing salt (see “Basic Tastes”). Example: Potato chips, sea water and cured meats all have a strong salt component.
salt intensity -  A measurement of the perceived saltiness in a particular food. Example: A regular tortilla chip will have a higher salt intensity than an unsalted tortilla chip.
SAQA -  An acronym for Sensory Attribute Quality Analysis™, the proprietary ChefsBest methodology that is used to measure and judge the overall quality of food. SAQA organizes the sensory experience of eating into an objective set of dimensions, attributes and anchors. Example: Using SAQA judging, ChefsBest Master Tasters are able to objectively judge which foods are best.
sensory analysis -  See SAQA (above).
Sensory Evaluation -  A scientific discipline that analyzes and measures human responses to food and beverages. A professional sensory evaluation is much more than just a blind taste test. The expert panel of chefs at ChefsBest measures the attributes in order of experience - appearance, aroma, basic taste, flavor, and texture. ChefsBest evaluations are objective and the panel members preferences are not weighed in the evaluation. A single evaluation can yield anywhere from 20 - 100 pages of sensory data.
- Synonyms: Sensory Analysis
snap -  When a food breaks apart cleanly. Example: Fresh corn, grapes, carrots and the casing of a hot dog will have a snap when bitten.
sour -  One of the basic tastes; often considered sharp, tart and acidic (see “Basic Tastes”). Example: Lemon juice, vinegar, and fermented foods often have a strong sour component.
sour intensity -  A measurement of the perceived sourness or acidity in a particular food. Example: Lemon juice without any sugar has a high sour intensity.
structural integrity -  A measurement of the solidity and durability of a food or ingredient when eaten, prepared or transported. Example: Potato chips that remain unbroken in the bag have good structural integrity, but frozen crab cakes that fall apart while being cooked do not.
sweet -  One of the basic tastes; often considered pleasing while exhibiting characteristics of sugar (see “Basic Tastes”). Example: Honey, ripe fruits, and syrup all have a pronounced sweet component.
sweet intensity -  Measures the perceived natural or artificial sweetness in a particular food. Example: Apple cinnamon cereal will have a high sweet intensity.
tangy -  A notably sharp aroma or flavor. Example: Orange juice and sharp cheddar cheese both have a tangy flavor.
taste profile -  The expected levels of each basic taste in any given food; defines the overall taste balance. Example: The taste profile of baking chocolate is led by bitterness that is balanced by a low amount of sweetness.
texture -  A dimension used to organize attributes like mouthfeel, graininess and initial bite, it is one of the five dimensions used by ChefsBest Master Tasters to evaluate food. The other dimensions are appearance, aroma, texture and taste. Example: Glazed popcorn will have a crunchy texture. The texture of milk chocolate should be creamy and smooth.
Umami -  One of the basic tastes; the savory flavor in meat and broths; sometimes an additive (MSG). See “Basic Tastes.” Example: Natural Parmesan cheese, meats, seaweed, fish sauce and sesame exhibit an umami taste.
waxy -  When a product leaves a coating on the palate that does not dissolve easily. Example: Poor-quality chocolate, margarine and white chocolate can leave a waxy film after being swallowed.