How to Say “to Cook” in French: Cuire, Cuisiner, Faire la Cuisine?

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

French uses 3 verbs to say ‘to cook’ = cuisiner, faire la cuisine and cuire. Literal translation would lead to an embarrassing mistake (you being cooked)…

1 – Cuire = to Cook as in to Simmer, Roast, Bake etc…

The focus is usually on how long the ingredient takes to cook.

It’s an irregular verb: je cuis, tu cuis, il cuit, nous cuisons, vous cuisez, ils cuisent.

  • Le poulet cuit pendant une heure – the chicken cooks for one hour = it roasts for one hour
  • Je cuis mon poulet pendant 1 heure – I cook my chicken for one hour = I roast the chicken for one hour.

Don’t forget “Le poulet”! If you sais “je cuis pendant 1 heure” YOU are dinner!  

However, it’s more likely that one would say “je FAIS cuire mon poulet pendant 1 heure.” rather than “je cuis mon poulet pendant 1 heure”.

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2 – Cuisiner = to Cook, as in to Prepare Food

The subject is most of the time going to be the cook, not the thing being cooked.

  • Je cuisine du poulet – I am cooking some chicken = I am preparing some chicken
  • Je cuisine pendant une heure – I am cooking for one hour = I am preparing food for one hour

However, one could say: “j’aime le poulet cuisiné à l’indienne” meaning I like chicken prepared the Indian way… But it is not common.

3 – Faire la Cuisine = to do the Cooking

“Faire la cuisine” is never followed by the thing that you prepare. The focus is on the action itself.

So “cuisiner” can always replace “faire la cuisine”, but “faire la cuisine” cannot always replace “cuisiner” 🤔

4 – Mistakes About to Cook in French ⚠️

  1. You cannot say “Je fais la cuisine le poulet.”
    The construction doesn’t work since “faire la cuisine” cannot be followed by the thing being prepared.
  2. You cannot say “Ce week-end, j’ai cuit pendant une heure.”
    It means you were the one being cooked!!!
  3. You cannot say “Le poulet cuisine pendant une heure.”
    It would mean the chicken was preparing food for one hour.

5 – Cuisiner ≠ Cuisinier

  1. Cuisiner = to cook
  2. Un cuisinier = a male cook (note the i before the er),
  3. Une cuisinière = a female cook but also a stove top, a range.
  4. La cuisine = cuisine and kitchen
  5. La cuisson = the cooking, how it is cooked

Le cuisinier cuisine dans sa cuisine: Il a une bonne cuisinière à gaz – The cook cooks in his kitchen: he has a good gas stove.

Quand elle sera grande, ma fille veut être cuisinière – When she grows up, my daughter wants to be a cook.

Now that you know all about the verb “to cook” in French, I invite you to watch this fun video I made using the popular videogame the Sims to illustrate the French grammar and vocabulary about cooking in French.

If you enjoy learning French in context, check out French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks: French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different levels of enunciation (enunciated French and modern spoken pronunciation).

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

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