Demystifying Professional Kitchen Vocabulary and Understanding the Term Salamander

Curious what a slimy, lizard-like creature is doing in the kitchen? We were too. Well, in all fairness, we knew a salamander was a piece of restaurant equipment, but we were still curious how a heat producing, shiny piece of metal came to be known as a salamander.

Living near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I’ve stumbled upon this endangered creature multiple times, but just to clear up any confusion, I’ve yet to see a single one broil, grill, toast, caramelize, or glaze a single dish.

Imperial Gas Salamander Broiler

Imperial Gas Salamander Broiler


Turns out, the relation actually comes from the Greek word “salamander” which means, “fire animal.” Despite the fact that salamanders live in cool, damp places, there was some confusion amongst the Greeks regarding the creation process of these little creatures.

According to cooksinfo.com, legend suggests that salamanders would leap from the hot flames of fires after being caught in damp logs where they would make their homes. Thus, it appeared as if the salamanders were rising from the flames when in fact they were simply escaping heat similar to the temperatures today’s kitchen salamanders produce.

Regardless, today we call the tool many chefs rely on to finish off meals a salamander. Lets just hope the “fire animal” of today’s kitchen is used with caution and remains to have nothing to do with slimy amphibians.

Read more about tricky kitchen terms in our article on Cornelius Kegs and Monkey Dishes.

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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