In cooking what exactly does it mean to deconstruct something?

Haven't seen this covered much in dictionaries, etc.

edit: as per @Frank's request

this is everywhere in cooking recently:

deconstructed shortcake

deconstructed tiramisu

deconstructed sauce

  • 2
    Can you provide a sentence or quote showing the usage of the word? That would probably help.
    – Frank
    Jul 6, 2014 at 9:41
  • 1
    @Frank edited - sorry it's not super specific but it's everywhere recently
    – Mou某
    Jul 6, 2014 at 9:51
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    I think if you want to go beyond the dictionary definition of what's essentially a Lit Crit term, this is a "domain-specific" usage that should be addressed on the SE Seasoned Advice site devoted to cookery. Jul 6, 2014 at 11:36
  • I agree with @FumbleFingers, please ask this question on cooking.stackexchange.com and add a link to the question on that site in this question. If you prefer not to I think I might ask there as I'd never heard of the term before you asked your question.
    – Frank
    Jul 6, 2014 at 11:42
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about "domain-specific" terminology that should be asked on Seasoned Advice Jul 6, 2014 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


To deconstruct a dish is something of a current fad here in the UK; I put it down to the influence of the popular BBC amateur chef program 'Masterchef'. A deconstructed tiramisu will comprise a quenelle of mascarpone, a sponge finger, a sprinkling of sugar, some grated dark bitter chocolate and, who the heck knows, a double espresso on the side. All of this will be artfully arranged on a large plate with lots of white space. You get all the ingredients of a tiramisu, but without putting the kitchen staff to the terrible effort of combining them into a tiramisu.

So, that's what deconstruction of a dish is all about.

You are entitled to conclude that I am not a fan of deconstructed dishes ...

  • Do you mean that the restaurant will provide you with the basic ingredients of a dish and you (the customer) have to put them together on your own?
    – Frank
    Jul 6, 2014 at 10:07
  • That's right. In the case of a tiramisu, to continue with the example, they give you a spoon, possibly also a fork, you put the ingredients into your mouth, in whatever order and combination you desire, and masticate. But now we're wandering well off topic for this site. Surely there's a Stack Exchange for people who eat. Well, I mean, for people who take a serious interest in food and cooking. Jul 6, 2014 at 11:21
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    This answer is a bit of an oversimplification. Have a look at this answer in "Seasoned Advice" (the SE cookery site). It's more a matter of the essential elements of a dish being identified (non-essentials usually being discarded), then those essentials presented in whatever way is simplest to ensure they all contribute whatever they're supposed to to the final dish as served (that's not exactly "Here are the raw ingredients, make it yourself")." Jul 6, 2014 at 11:29
  • I suppose I can see that that might catch on, you could leave out something you didn't like. I particularly dislike orange peel in desserts that I would otherwise enjoy.
    – Frank
    Jul 6, 2014 at 11:29
  • @FumbleFingers A quick look around the internet seems to suggest that there are two meanings to this, the first is as the answer suggests basic components of the dish served separately on one plate and another is decomposition of a dish or sauce to identify the ingredients and figure out which one (or blend) causes the dish to have it's characteristic flavour.
    – Frank
    Jul 6, 2014 at 11:39

Deconstruction in cooking is a method for taking traditional dishes and reconfiguring them to create new interpretations for modern times. This method was popularized by some of the worlds most famous chefs, most notably Thomas Keller of The French Laundry.

The interpretations can come in many forms.


If you look at the last picture in this series you will see strawberry shortcake deconstructed. Fresh strawberries, mint cream, and cake that was made with a CO2 can and a microwave. This is a great example of deconstruction in cooking.

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