The top cooking methods you need to know
Here are 15 cooking methods that you should know.
Have you ever heard of sautéing a cake or grilling french fries? How about steaming a leg of lamb or simmering cookies? We sure haven’t — and we know we’re not alone. If these techniques sound a little odd to you, too, it’s because there are certain cooking methods that coordinate with specific foods. In order to get the desired outcome for whatever you’re making, you first have to choose the right way to cook it — and we’ll show you how.
Choosing the correct cooking method not only impacts the final product, but also affects the texture, appearance, and flavor of the dish. It’s the slow-cooking of ribs that makes them fall-off-the-bone tender, and the hot deep-frying oil that gives donuts a crispy, golden brown exterior and soft, doughy middle. The Cook editors at The Daily Meal want to make sure that you get the most delicious final product out of your cooking, so we’ve designed a cheat sheet of the most common cooking methods and how to perfect them.
Cooking methods can be broken down into three sub-categories: dry heat, moist heat, and a combination of the two. The dry-heat method, which is a relatively quick process, adds crispness and flavor, but doesn’t tenderize. Ingredients cooked this way are small, thin, and already tender — think sautéing ground meat and roasting vegetables. The moist-heat cooking method involves cooking with water or stock, like poaching fish and steaming broccoli. The third category is a combination of the two and often uses long, slow-cooking periods to tenderize and break down tough cuts of meat, like braising pork shoulder.
Whether you’re preparing a feast far in advance or whipping up a quick dinner, once you’ve mastered these basic cooking methods, it will be easy to pair ingredients with their appropriate cooking techniques. Take a look at our how-to guide to learn about the cooking methods you need to know to prepare for your next meal.
Emily Jacobs is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRecipes
20 Basic Cooking Techniques That Every Home Chef Should Master
There are an endless amount of cooking techniques one should know, but let's just start with the basics. Master these 20, and we'll definitely be coming over for dinner.
A mere step up from boiling, steaming is a great option if you want to preserve the color, flavor and nutrients in your food. Basically, you’re cooking the food in a bath of moist heat. The food sits in a pot with enough headroom to accommodate a steamer. These aren’t expensive and they’re easy to find in any department store. The trick to steaming is to make sure that the steam can circulate freely in and around the food so it cooks evenly. Steamed foods are great for special diets and are popular in Oriental cooking.
13 Cooking Methods You Need to Know
Photo by Yvonne Lee Harijanto
Braising is a French cooking method that involves using heat and moisture to bring out the maximum amount of flavor in a dish.
With the braising method, the food, usually a meat, first starts out in a pan, where it is quickly seared (see #2) before it’s transferred to a covered pot filled with liquid — think slowcooker here — where it is finished with a slow roast.
2. Pan Searing
To pan sear a meat or vegetable, all you need is a skillet over a high temperature. To complete the pan sear process, heat up your skillet to a high enough temperature that a droplet of water immediately dissolves.
Then, remove the skillet from heat and immediately add oil or fat and add your meat or vegetable, letting it cook only long enough to form a crust before flipping it to the other side.
This cooking method is quick and is used often with seafood dishes.
Ideally, you would steam vegetables by using a steamer, but for the rest of us, steaming is still an easy way to serve veggies with a minimum cook time using our cooking dishes.
Remember that some vegetables cook faster than others, but no vegetable takes longer than about ten minutes to cook all the way through when you’re steaming.
If you don’t have a steamer, add a small amount of water to a skillet or pot. The exact amount will depend on how many vegetables you’re steaming, but it shouldn’t be enough to even cover the vegetables in the container.
Then, turn on the heat and add a lid. Use a timer to avoid over-steaming, which will leave you with a big mushy mess of veggies on your hands.
This is my personal favorite way to enjoy vegetables. Virtually anything in the produce section can be roasted.
My method of choice is cutting up whatever vegetable I’m using, throwing in a gallon size bag, adding oil and seasoning and then shaking them to coat evenly before placing them on a baking sheet and putting them in the oven for approximately 30 minutes.
However, you can chop the vegetables and add them to the baking pan before dribbling them with oil or do it another way. The essentials of roasting are placing vegetables in the oven after you have evenly coated (but not drenched) them with whatever oil and seasonings you’re using. It’s a great way to put a fresh twist on a vegetable you eat all the time.
Roasting is kind of full proof. You can use pretty much any temperature on your oven between 300 and 400 degrees and roast your vegetables anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour. Have fun!
Blanching is an easy technique used to prepare vegetables to be frozen or to give them a color boost before serving.
To blanche, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add your desired vegetables to the water. After two to three minutes, use tongs to remove the vegetables from the boiling water and immediately place them into a bowl of ice water.
This ice shock makes the vegetables stop cooking, meaning that nutrient loss is minimum and the vegetables look and taste delicious.
Letting meat soak in a brine is similar to using a marinade. A brine is simply cold water mixed with salt, but the effects on the meat after “brining it” or allowing it to soak for several hours, can make the difference between a dry Thanksgiving turkey and succulent, moist turkey meat.
Give brining a try the next time you’re preparing a turkey, a chicken or a roast in the oven and watch the difference it makes.
Smoking is a complicated but worthwhile process of preparing meat that will leave you with a distinct and delicious flavor.
Like steaming, smoking is best done with proper equipment — a smoker in this case — but a plain old grill will also do just fine.
Smoking is a long process — it can take the good part of a day and requires careful attention to cooking materials such as coal and the type of wood or wood chips used.
The trick with smoking is that the coals going into the grill should already be warm, meaning you’ll have to prepare and heat them up somewhere else, like a second smaller grill. Once they’re warm, you can add them to your grill or smoker through the side. After that, you should avoid opening your grill, period unless it’s to add more coals.
Another trick is that you don’t want your temperatures to get too hot. Use your temperature gauge on your grill to ensure that the temperature doesn’t get above 250 degrees F to ensure your meat will stay moist and flavorful and not dry up on the rack.
Poaching is a great cooking method for delicate foods such as eggs or meat that falls apart easily — think fish. There are two methods of poaching, both of which involve moist heat cooking methods.
To shallow poach something, get a skillet and add enough water to submerge the food without completely covering it and then turn your stove top on low heat. Add your lid and allow your food to cook thoroughly.
To deep poach something, cover the food completely in liquid and then cover it with a lid, allowing it to simmer for as long as it requires to cook thoroughly.
Poaching can be tricky, especially when it comes to eggs, but it’s a relatively quick method that yields delicious and soft results.
Want to make a delicious pie filling or fruit topping? Try macerating the fruit beforehand.
Macerating is similar to marinading, but it’s done with fruit instead of meat and vegetables. Fruit can be soaked in anything from liquor or wine to vinegar and syrup. Different combinations will obviously yield different flavors, but macerating fruit can be a fun cooking method to bring out a different flavor or texture from the same old fruit you’ve worked with a hundred times.
Grilling is an age-old warm weather favorite to prepare food. Although there are many indoor grills you can now purchase to get you through the winter months, there’s nothing quite like meat, vegetables or fruit that have been cooked over a bed of coals.
Although there are different variations of grilling — gas grills verses charcoal grills, marinade and brining versus using a rub — they are all inevitably delicious. Check out this excellent beginner’s guide to barbecuing to learn your way around your grill at home.
Sautéing is another fool proof method I use in the kitchen almost every day. Heat up a skillet or pan to a medium to high heat and add a small amount of oil or fat before adding your veggies or meat.
Make sure your food is cut into smaller, uniform pieces and stir it frequently to keep it from burning.
Blackening is a cooking method reserved for those of us who possess a cast iron skillet. If you don’t, go buy one. It’s a worthy investment.
This cooking method can be used to prepare a variety of meats and seafoods, but is most associated with Creole and Cajun cooking techniques. It isn’t the healthiest way to prepare meat, but it sure is yummy.
You start by melting butter (or ghee) in a microwave safe container. In a separate container, prepare your seasoning mixture. Dredge the meat through the butter before rolling it in the seasoning before throwing it in a hot hot hot cast iron skillet. A thick, yummy crust will form on the outside of the meat.
Most people associate glazing food with sweets like donuts or cake, but everything from meat to vegetables can be glazed if you’re creative enough.
A glaze is usually a mixture that is painted onto food using a brush before the food is cooked. A glaze can add different hints of flavor without overwhelming a dish easily.
10 Essential Cooking Methods and Techniques Everyone Should Know
1. What Does Sauté Mean?
It is difficult to think of a cooking method you can use with so many different kinds of food from fish to vegetables to meat to noodles. The definition of sauté literally means “to jump” in French, which alludes to the fact that with this technique the food is tossed around in the skillet quite a bit.
A variety of fats can be used from butter to various oils, or a combination, depending on the food you are sautéing. The pan and the fat must be hot enough so that the food added to the pan starts to brown quickly, since the heat used to cook the food comes directly from the pan itself. The exterior of the food is browned, sometimes only slightly, sometimes more caramelized, and the interior cooked through using this method. It’s somewhere between stir-frying and searing.
2. What is the Definition of Stir-Frying?
In a classic stir-fry, the food is always cut into similarly sized bite-sized pieces so that it cooks evenly. This method is usually referred to in various Asian cuisines. The cook keeps the food moving using a cooking utensil of some sort, and sometimes shaking the pan itself. The heat beneath the pan must be very high, a small amount of oil is usually used, and you will want to have every single ingredient fully prepped and measured before you begin, since stir-fries wait for no one, and the first ingredients might overcook while you are mincing the final components.
Ingredients are usually added starting with the ones that take the longest to cook, and finishing with the shortest cooking ingredients, so everything reaches just-doneness at the same moment. A wok is the traditional pan used in stir-frying but a large skillet works just as well.
Stir Fry Recipes
3. What Does Sear Mean?
Searing refers to the browning of food — usually pertaining to meat or fish — in a pan over high heat. It often is used at the beginning of the recipe, and the browning caramelizes the natural sugars in the food allowing another layer of flavor to emerge, and also can add a pleasing texture to the outside of the food.
A small amount of fat is usually used with this technique. In the case of a piece of fish, for instance, you may simply sear it on both sides, and the cooking process is complete, while in the case of a tougher cut of meat, the searing may be the first step in the preparation process, followed by braising or roasting.
4. What is the Definition of Braised?
Usually this term is used in conjunction with meat, in particular cuts of meat that benefit from long, slow cooking to become tender, though anything from endive to poultry can also be braised. In braising, the food is often browned first, though not necessarily, and then it is finished in a low oven or over a low flame with a moderate amount of liquid (not enough to cover the food), and usually a lid covers the pot so that the liquid condenses on the underside of the lid and self-bastes the dish while it cooks. The definition of braising usually refers to slow cooking with some liquid.
Sometimes aromatic vegetables like carrots, onions, and other seasonings are used in this cooking method along with the liquid. Braising liquids range from broth to wine to tomatoes.
5. What is the Definition of Stew?
Stewing is similar to braising, both moist heat cooking methods, but often refers to food that cut been cut into smaller pieces, while braising often refers to whole cuts of meat or pieces of chicken, for instance. In stewing the food is usually first browned over higher heat, then returned to the pot with other ingredients, such as vegetables, and liquid to cover the ingredients.
The pot is then at least partially covered, and the cooking is finished over low heat. Like braising, stewing is an excellent method for turning tougher cuts of meats or poultry or even certain kinds of seafood, like conch or squid, tender.
Often things that have been stewed (and braised for that matter) taste even better the next day, so these are two great make ahead techniques. And then there is the slow cooker, a stew-creating marvel.
6. What is the Definition of Steaming?
The consistent flow of hot air is what gently cooks the food in this cooking technique, and it is very popular in Asian cooking. The fact that the food is cooked above the liquid, and not actually submerged, means that most of the nutrients stay right where they belong, in the food. Water is often used, though broth, wine beer or other infusions can also be used to steam.
Make sure the food you are steaming has enough room around each piece so that the hot steam can cook everything evenly, and make sure the liquid level is about one or two inches below the food suspended above the liquid. You may have to add liquid to the pot as it evaporates.
There are many appliances that are used for steaming foods, but in the end they involve a perforated platform that holds the food suspended above simmering liquid. Sometimes food is steamed directly in the basket or sometimes on a plate, if juices are going to be released that would add to the finished dish. Chicken, dumplings, vegetables, fish are just some of the dishes that are often steamed.
Remember that steam burns! When you are steaming make sure to keep your face and other body parts far away from the top of the pot when you remove the lid.
7. What is the Definition of Baking?
Baking simply means cooking food in the oven—usually uncovered—using indirect, dry heat. The terms is often used when discussing foods like breads, cooking, muffins, and other, well “baked goods” though is also is used to describe cooking savory food like lasagna or chicken. The foods cook from the outside in, and the oven temperature varies from recipe to recipe, though once the heat gets higher, say 400°F or above, the term roasting often gets used.
8. What is the Definition of Roasting?
One of the least hands on cooking techniques, perfect for when you need to get dinner going but then have some other things clamoring for your attention before it’s time to eat. Roasting is very similar to baking, in that is usually involves dry heat cooking in the oven, uncovered, but it usually involves higher heats (and correspondingly short cooking times) than baking.
The baking pan used is usually relatively shallow so that the heat circulates evenly and the food doesn’t steam. The outside of foods that have been roasted, whether potatoes or vegetables or chicken or meat, browns nicely thanks to the high heat, and the inside should remain most and tender. Sometimes foods are places on a rock in a roasting pan to allow the hot air to circulate even more evenly. Roasting can also refer to foods cooked over live fire, such as spit-roasting.
9. What Does Broil Mean?
Broiling refers to cooking foods under a broiler, which sometimes is a separate drawer in your oven, and sometimes requires you placing the top rack in your oven close to the roof of the oven to be near the heat source, which may be electric or gas. The closer the rack is to the heat, the faster the food will brown and cook. The side of the food that is exposed to the direct and intense heat source is the only side that will brown , so you usually have to turn foods during the broiling process.
Often the food is cooked on a rimmed baking sheet, which allows the food to be close to the heat source. Foods that take best to this cooking method are foods that cook through quickly, so they don’t burn before they finish cooking inside. Fish and seafood, chicken breasts, burgers, kebabs, and the like are good candidates for broiling, and the technique can also be used to finish dishes like frittatas. Timing is of the essence, so when you are broiling any type of food, you will want to stay close and check the food often.
10. What is the Definition of Grilling?
Grilling is the technique of cooking foods over live fire over direct heat, usually fairly high heat. Food is exposed to the flames and it quickly develops a browned, caramelized exterior as the inside cooks through. You can adjust the heat on a gas grill fairly easily, if you are using a charcoal grill is it often advisable to have one area of the grill hot, and another less so. This way you can move the food from zone to zone as needed. It takes some experience playing with the charcoal or wood to get this down.
Tender cuts of meat and poultry and various kids of fish and shellfish are very well suited to grilling, as are vegetables and even fruits. As with broiling, you’ll want to stay quite close to the grill as flare-ups can occur. It’s easy for a food to go from nicely browned to charred in a flash. The timing varies wildly from food to food, and from grill to grill, so test the doneness of the foods you are cooking as you go. You can also experiment with keeping the lid open and closed, which affects the temperature.
Grilling is different from barbecuing, which is low and slow. Both grilling and barbecuing have very vocal fans who have very definite opinions about their definitions, and we’ll leave that debate be for the time being.
The Necessities Of Classic Italian Cooking
Sort of a Cupcake Wars meets The Great British Bake Off state of affairs. Well, this is basically that film within the type of a reality cooking present. Apparently the movie inspired Favreau to take a real curiosity in the world of cooking, and he determined to study under the guidance of famend chef Roy Choi. With superstar Food guests like Gwyneth Paltrow and Seth Rogan, Favreau and Choi cook a variety of dishes, including some you might remember from the 2014 movie. The present is textbook Hussain, featuring unpretentious, price range-pleasant, showstopping bakes to wow your loved ones, from pull-aside pizza bread to vegan banana ice cream cheesecake.
The high quality of your vegan cooking will depend on the standard of the components you buy. So growing your food purchasing skills is a big part of learning tips on how to cook vegan.
Prepare for any health classes you may address. For example, when you decide to check entire grains and refined grains, contemplate the following. Whole grains are full of vitamins, while refined grains solely provide a fraction of the nutrition.
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5. Clean as you go—and not at the end.
A major chunk of our grade in culinary school was based on organization. As much as I tried to keep my workspace clean, doing so while cooking a three course meal under a time crunch was nearly impossible𠅊nd I𠆝 often end class with a mountain of dirty prep bowls in front of me.
Ideally, cleaning as you cook makes it much easier to stay organized and work more efficiently. Wipe down countertops and cutting boards frequently (especially if you’re working with raw meat), keep the sink clear of dirty dishes, and use any spare moments (such as while you’re waiting for veggies to roast in the oven) to get a headstart on cleaning. This way, you can relax and enjoy your meal, instead of worrying about the tower of dishes you have to face later.
Proper seasoning is essential to making food taste good. A liberal sprinkling of salt and a healthy grind of fresh-cracked pepper should be added to virtually everything you make from pasta carbonara to roast tilapia. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with other seasonings: Ground nutmeg enhances white sauces and bitter greens, smoked paprika adds depth to soups and rice dishes, and cumin brings a Mexican flair to beans and meat.
Some people prefer steamed or blanched vegetables as side dishes or tossed into salads, but a smart home cook knows that the most flavor comes from roasting. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the vegetables (cut into chunks or broken into smaller pieces) on the parchment, and use your hands to simply toss with olive oil, salt, and fresh black pepper. Once every piece is lightly coated in oil, spread in one even layer on the baking sheet, and pop it into the oven. Vegetables like broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and peppers cook in 15 to 20 minutes. Heartier root vegetables like potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and butternut squash take longer to roast—about 40 to 50 minutes.
Assemble Your Tools and Stock Your Pantry
Need a definitive guide to stocking your pantry and refrigerator for a week or two of cooking from home? Eater has that for you right here.
Not sure where to buy groceries right now? Restaurants are turning into markets, and lots of farms are offering CSA boxes. Fresh produce and meat and eggs from small producers taste more like themselves and make simple meals tastier, and if you can afford to support small producers right now, it’s a great way to help the entire food system.
And as far as tools go, head over here for some products that make your kitchen an easier place to cook.
The Best Cooking Methods to Keep Nutrients Intact
News flash: There are plenty of ways to cook up juicy and flavorful food without adding tons of unnecessary extras. While most people know to ditch the fryer when cooking up healthy meals, many don&rsquot think about how their cooking method affects the nutritional makeup of their entrée.
Heat can break down and destroy 15 to 20 percent of some vitamins in vegetables&mdashespecially vitamin C, folate, and potassium. And as you&rsquoll see below, some methods are more detrimental than others. This is why raw foodists cut out cooking altogether, claiming that uncooked food maintains all of its nutritional value and supports optimal health.
But other studies suggest certain foods actually benefit from cooking. When cooking carrots, spinach, and tomatoes, for example, heat facilitates the release of antioxidants by breaking down cell walls, providing an easier passage of the good guys from food to body. Let&rsquos dive into the details.
Some research suggests that nuking may be the healthiest way to cook because of its short cooking times, which results in minimal nutrient destruction. Microwaves cook food by heating it from the inside out. They emit radio waves that &ldquoexcite&rdquo the molecules in food (read: make them move all round), which generates heat, cooking the food.
While microwave cooking can sometimes cause food to dry out, keep things moist by splashing the item with a bit of water before heating, or by placing a wet paper towel over the top of your dish.Regardless, the way that microwaves cook food nixes the need to add extra oils (bonus points). The best part? You can microwave just about anything, from veggies and rice to meat and eggs (and studies suggest it may just be one of the best ways to preserve nutrients in veggies). Just make sure to use a microwave-safe container.
Boiling is quick, easy, and requires nothing but water and a touch of salt. (Oh, and whatever food you&rsquore cooking.) But in addition to the high temperatures, the large volume of water dissolves and washes away water-soluble vitamins and 60 to 70 percent of foods&rsquo minerals.
While this method can dissolve vitamins and minerals in some foods (especially vegetables), it&rsquos not the worst way to cook food. &ldquoSome antioxidants are more available when cooked. Lycopene in tomatoes, for example, is more readily available when cooked,&rdquo says Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN. Carrots also fall into this category, and one study concluded that the level of beta-carotene increases after carrots are cooked.
Steaming anything from fresh veggies to fish fillets allows them to cook in their own juices and retain all that natural goodness. (Again, no need for fat-laden additions to up the moisture.) It&rsquos always good to add a little seasoning first, whether that&rsquos a sprinkle of salt or a squeeze of lemon juice. If the carcinogen-fighting glucosinolates in broccoli are important to you, some research suggests steaming could be the best way to cook the little green trees. In the body, glucosinolates become compounds called isothiocyanates, which some studies suggest inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
The only downside? Steaming doesn&rsquot always taste so great.&ldquoSo many people get steaming wrong, leading them to dislike veggies even more, so I don&rsquot typically recommend it,&rdquo says Sara Haas RDN, LDN. She admits that you don&rsquot get a ton of flavor from steaming and that can lead to reaching for excess butter or salt.
The same goes for boiling&rsquos cousin, poaching&mdashno additions required. Basically, poaching means cooking the given food in a small amount of hot water just below boiling point. It takes slightly longer (which some experts believe can decrease nutrient retention), but is a great way to gently cook delicate foods like fish, eggs, or fruit. Plus, it&rsquos just about the most delicious way to cook an egg in our book.
Broiling entails cooking food under high, direct heat for a short period of time. Broiling is a great way to cook tender cuts of meat, but may not be ideal for cooking veggies, as they can dry out easily. The hotter temperature also tends to degrade the enzymes in the produce, causing more nutrient losses.
In terms of getting maximum nutrition without sacrificing flavor, grilling is a great cooking method. It requires minimal added fats and imparts a smoky flavor while keeping meats and veggies juicy and tender. While these are definitely healthy benefits, not everything about grilling is so peachy. Some research suggests that regularly consuming charred, well-done meat may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.
Cooking at high heat can also produce a chemical reaction between the fat and protein in meat, creating toxins that are linked to the imbalance of antioxidants in the body and inflammation, which can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This doesn&rsquot mean BBQs are forbidden&mdashjust stick with lean cuts of meat that require less cooking time and keep dark meats on the rarer side.
While this method does require some oil in the pan, it should only be a moderate amount&mdashjust enough to get a nice sear on your meat and veggies. It&rsquos effective for bite-size pieces of meat, grains like rice and quinoa, and thin-cut veggies like bell peppers, julienned carrots, and snow peas.
Some studies actually found that cooking veggies in a little bit of olive oil may increase the antioxidant capacity of the food. This may come as no surprise, as olive oil is a large part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
No Cooking (Raw)
Raw food diets have gained tons of attention, and for good reason. Many studies suggest there are benefits to incorporating more raw foods into the diet: Eating the rainbow consistently reduces the risk of cancer, but the jury&rsquos out on whether raw or cooked is really best overall.
Plus, since the diet is mostly plant-based, more vitamins, minerals, and fiber are consumed with no added sugars or fats from cooking. And while some raw items might be super healthy, studies have found that cooking can actually amplify some nutrients, like lycopene in tomatoes and antioxidants in carotenoids such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and peppers.
We say: Do your best to eat your fruits, veggies, and lean proteins, but don&rsquot always cook them the same way (besides, then your taste buds will get bored and nobody wants that).