When describing the thickness of a sauce or other liquid when cooking, what are the standard terms that should be used?

I've heard things like "gravy-like" or talk of coating metal spoons, but I'd like to know if there's a list of "standard terms" that are known to most chefs/cooks.

  • mucilaginous ? (used to describe overly okra-thickened items)
    – Joe
    Oct 4, 2010 at 16:45
  • I have been very curious about this. The problem is that there are so many non-Newtonian fluids in cooking. Just think of a mucilaginous liquid.
    – papin
    Oct 5, 2010 at 1:12

2 Answers 2


The one I hear most often in professional kitchens is nappe, which is the "coat the back of a spoon" test. That is the general starting point for an average sauce that you can use in a wide variety of dishes; it is thick enough to cling to food without being stodgy.

Beyond that, I'm not familiar with other standard professional terms specifically for viscocity. Usually just thin, thick, stiff and so forth. Sometimes it is useful to talk in terms of percent reduction, as in "add 2 cups of wine and simmer until reduced by half", although in many cases this is done more by eyeball than with precision.

  • Is there only one term? I was hoping for a list.. :D Oct 7, 2010 at 21:50

I'm not sure what other terms there are, but the "coat the back of a spoon" test is known as nappe.

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