Now that the Holiday season is over, and we’re done with all the eating and drinking, let’s look at it from a different angle: the linguistic angle.

We’ re going to look at three culinary verbs and see how they are used: COOK, BOIL and BAKE. Let’s start with COOK. The first table on the left shows the words that come immediately to the right of the lemma COOK, that is, any form of COOK. The table on the right lists the words that come immediately after the word cook.


While we expect most words to be related to food, we also find proper names, such as Cook County and Cook Inlet in the first table and Cook Islands and James Cook University in the second:

  • And it’s about the 17 years he worked at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
  • The scientific portion of these reviews focused on the current status of Cook Inlet
  • He said you had a much harder time in Micronesia compared to Cook Islands.
  • Fabricius collaborated with marine biologist Philip L. Munday of James Cook University, Australia.


Other combinations are related to cooking activities: cooking school, cooking classes, cooking demonstrations and cooking utensils.

  • A trick I learned in cooking school: Never put ice on a burn — it will blister.
  • They share their know-how via blogs, books, and cooking classes.
  • Highlights include cannon firing; craft and cooking demonstrations.
  • Clothing, papers, and cooking utensils were scattered, evidence of a hasty looting.


Pots can be named cook pots (39 occurrences in the COCA[1]) or cooking pots (with 201 occurrences):

  • The Chinese popularized rice, which, grain by inscrutable grain, infiltrated cook pots half the world over.
  • Candies filled boxes, baskets and cooking pots as the Elks bar became the Santas workshop for a night.

cooking pots

Whereas in Brazil we usually grease a grill or baking pan, in the U.S. it is more common to use a special spray for that purpose:

  • Lightly coat grill or grill pan with cooking spray and prepare for medium-high heat.

cooking spray

Notice that Portuguese ‘óleo de cozinha’ is cooking oil in English, and ‘líquido do cozimento’ is cooking liquid:

  • Reuse cooking oil several times by straining it after each use.
  • Save cooking liquid from homemade beans to add to soups.
  • Turn off heat and let lentils rest in cooking liquid for 15 minutes.


To state the amount of time a dish will take to cook we can either say: cooking time (1580 times in the COCA) or cook time (790 times).

  • Cooking time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes


Now, let’s see what we can cook. We find meals, dinner and breakfast. Strangely – or perhaps not so strangely – we don’t find lunch. This is probably due to the fact that most Americans don’t cook lunch, rather they either take their own lunch or eat out. You might also find it strange that Americans cook breakfast, but that is because they usually have something hot in the morning, such as: pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon etc.

  • He imagined her at home, in her kitchen, cooking meals that he would never taste.
  • I am going to cook dinner when I get home from work….
  • The next morning, I got up early to cook breakfast.


Let’s move on to the kinds of food one can cook.

  • The Wall Street Journal shows us a new smart oven that can cook food by itself.


The first one on the list is pasta:

  • Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Cook pasta in boiling water for 6 minutes.


But here are a few more:

  • Cook bacon in a large skillet for 4 minutes or until light golden.
  • Cook onion, stirring, until softened, 4 minutes.
  • If grilling outside, cook chicken until browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side.
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan and cook chicken until browned and cooked through, turning pieces occasionally, about 7 minutes.
  • Centuries ago, Spanish explorers observed Native Americans cooking meat over fire on wooden racks and called it barbacoa.
  • Always cook meat until safely done, but don’t overcook.


In the second table we’ll find rice, potatoes, beans, fish.

So far, COOK does not seem to pose any problems, except, maybe, for the fact that in Portuguese we would hardly say ‘cozinhar uma refeição’ or ‘cozinhar o jantar’, let alone ‘cozinhar o café da manhã’. We prefer to ‘preparar uma refeição’, ‘preparar o jantar’ and even ‘preparar o café da manhã’, right?

Our next verb is BOIL. Here are the two tables: BOIL+1R on the left and boil+1R on the right:



Again, we find a proper noun, Cook Springs. But you will see that all the other words are somehow related to cooking. The most common noun, in both lists is water:

  • But all she did was look away and begin to boil water on the fancy stove, preparing herself something hot to drink.

BOIL is usually translated as ‘ferver’ in Portuguese, but not in the example below. The preferred translation would be ‘cozinhar’:

  • Reduce heat to medium, and boil potatoes 10 to 12 minutes, or until very soft.


BOIL usually denotes a cooking process with water or some liquid, as in:

  • Radio announcements advised residents to boil drinking water.
  • More than 100,000 residents near Harrisburg, Pa., were ordered to boil tap water before drinking it.
  • For supper, she boils eggs, fries potatoes, and opens a can of peaches.
  • Boil sauce over high heat, stirring often, until reduced to about 4 cups.
  • Boil mixture vigorously to reduce liquid slightly.
  • Boil corn in salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender.
  • Boil asparagus in a large pot of salted water for 2 minutes.
  • In a small saucepan, boil sugar and cup water over high heat just until sugar dissolves.


Even though there are three examples of boil rice, the usual collocation is cook rice (68 occurrences). Maybe boiling rice refers to making rice without any oil or condiments, in the Asian style, as shown in

  • Xi was responsible for manlier tasks, and barely knew how to boil rice.


A similar situation occurs with boil pasta. Although there are a few examples of this combination, the most common verbal collocation is actually cook pasta, with 233 occurrences.

  • When we don’t feel like cooking, we boil pasta, and dinner is done.


As usual, when we use Corpus Linguistics methodology we end up coming across some quite unexpected renditions. For example:

  • He has a voice that could boil coffee.
  • Those eyes of hers, “he laughed,” she could give you a look that would boil coffee.


But the collocation also occurs with a denotative meaning:

  • …and women were making fires to boil coffee for the second time that day.


However, it is also common knowledge that coffee should not be boiled, as attested in the following dialogue:

  • ASSURAS: Right. What about boiling it, boiling coffee? A lot of people used to boil it.
  • Mr-PENDERGRAST: Do not ever boil coffee.
  • ASSURAS: Do not ever boil coffee.
  • Mr-PENDERGRAST: Not good. Not good.


And here is another interesting collocation:

  • The New South Wales Health Department issued a “boil order” after parasites were again discovered in the city’s water supply.


Boil seasoning is usually preceded by some seafood, as in

  • If you want to throw in this crab boil seasoning.
  • 1/2 cup shrimp boil seasoning


There are five occurrences of BOIL time:

  • Boil time: 7 minutes. (4 times)
  • Boiling Time: […] Our field experience shows that the time required to reach a boil is highly dependent on operator skill… (1)


And finally, a utensil:

  • Add to the boil kettle and keep the liquid at a rolling boil for about an hour.


Our last verb for this month is BAKE.

Again, the table on the left shows BAKE+1R and the one on the right, bake+1R


BAKE, as you probably know, usually refers to cooking in the oven. It seems, from the above tables, that what Americans mostly bake is cookies.

  • Bake cookies until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.


But we can also bake bread, potatoes, cakes, pies, pecans, biscuits, crusts etc.

Pastry, cupcakes, muffins, rolls or anything that strikes your fancy.


Two almost essential ingredients for making cookies and other sweets are baking powder (‘fermento em pó’) and baking soda (‘bicarbonato de sódio’).

  • Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.


In addition to an oven

  • This year my daughter got an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. (15)
  • And over here, we have a bake oven actually built into the wall. (4)


there are some utensils we need for baking, like baking sheets, baking dishes and baking pans:

  • Place tortillas on baking sheet and bake until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Add apples and Plum Compote to baking dish, and stir to combine.
  • Return baking pan to oven and bake vegetables, uncovered, 30 to 35 minutes longer.



Bake sales are usually promoted to raise funds for some charity, campaign or organization:

  • Holiday bazaar Includes used book sale and bake sale.


But it is also the title of a song by American rapper Wiz Khalifa.


While the time for cooking and boiling could be stated in two forms, cook(ing) and boil(ing) time, there is only one for baking:

  • Baking time: 20 minutes


Just one final remark. While one of the tables shows that chicken combines with bake 13 times,

  • Bake chicken 15 minutes, until juices run clear when pierced.


this is not a usual collocation when we compare it with ROAST, which occurs over 400 times, both as a verb and as a noun. But that we’ll have to leave for our next post.


I bet that after reading this post you’re eager to go to a bake shop:

  • Another place we go is Tate’s Bake Shop. Its pies, cakes and cookies are fabulous.



Enjoy!!! Bon appétit!


[1] Corpus of Contemporary American English:, the source of all our examples.