I was watching Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend today. In the third episode, the theme of the competition was pastry, and the key ingredient they had to use was milk.

This site's pastry tag says that "pastry dough is made of fat, flour and a thin liquid. It is typically light and flaky with a tender inside." Wikipedia defines pastry as "baked food made with a dough of flour, water and shortening." That is what I have always understood by the word "pastry".

However, in the episode, only three of the ten dishes had any dough at all. One of those dishes was pasta and another involved an ice cream cone, neither of which I think are really pastry. Mostly they were making custards and ice cream and the like. There were a couple dishes where the judges said, "we're not sure if this quite meets the pastry criteria", but for several of the dishes they all seemed to agree that they were eating "pastry", even when there was no dough involved. For one of the dishes, the chef said, "I have made three pastries", where one of the "pastries" was a caramel candy and another was milkshake.

It seemed pretty clear that they meant something very different by "pastry" than the definitions I'm familiar with. But then again, I think of pastry in the context of baking, and this was a cooking show, not a baking show.

Is there another definition of "pastry" in use in the cooking world that I'm unaware of?

  • 3
    I don't know enough to answer authoritatively, but I believe that in the typical large kitchen setup, the 'pastry chef' is responsible for all desserts (whether or not they are made with pastry), so it may be that this is what the show is using.
    – dbmag9
    May 19, 2023 at 6:33
  • 1
    Iron Chef contestants often go 'off brief' a bit, the producers are more interested in good TV than strict adherence to definitions.
    – GdD
    May 19, 2023 at 9:52

1 Answer 1


Sort of.

If you're working at a professional bakery, the word "pastry" is generally going to refer to items that are made from some kind of laminated dough, and sometimes also to items made predominantly from short crust, such as hand pies.

If you're in a general food kitchen, the term "pastry" will be used much more liberally, with folks using it to refer to:

  • any baked dessert
  • any kind of unleavened and/or high-butter baked good
  • anything with any layered dough in it, including filo

So, for example, while an ice cream cone would be unlikely to be called "pastry" at a bakery, it very well might be on the dinner line.

Further, humans do not use words with precise definitions in mind. This is more true the more general the word already is. While there may be good consesus on what is and is not a "bechamel sauce", more general terms like "pastry", "pasta", and "bread" are going to inspire as many systems of categorization as there are cooks.

An American cooking competition game show is a "least precision" environment.

  • 1
    Indeed. In the context of "competitive cooking show" the word pastry means dessert - including ice cream, panna cotta, and other things with no dough of any kind. Just as protein means meat or fish, not eggs, legumes, cheese etc. It's their jargon. May 20, 2023 at 15:56

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