About fairfoodmatters and our Effective Cooking Techniques for Aspiring Chefs
Food matters to us all; we need it to survive. While some foods(fruits) can be eaten raw, most will need to be cooked. Cooking techniques are a set of methods and procedures for food preparation, cooking, and presentation. Cooking techniques or methods should not be confused for recipes as recipes are a list of ingredients and step by step instructions.
Depending on how heat cooks food, cooking techniques are classifiable into wet (which uses water or steam, e.g., boiling and poaching) and dry (without water, e.g., frying, roasting) cooking techniques. Based on this classification, there’s an almost inexhaustive list of cooking techniques. Still, for the aspiring chef, some methods are considered more effective and are more widely used than others. Below’s a list of these effective techniques.
Baking is a dry cooking technique. It involves the application of heat to food in an enclosed environment (usually an oven). By convection heat, the food cooks from outside to inside. This process causes the food’s exterior to brown and harden, thus sealing moisture inside the food.
Baking is used mostly for cooking pastries, but can also serve in cooking savory foods like chicken and lasagne.
To a large extent, one may consider roasting to be baking, but at higher temperatures. Due to the more significant heat involved in roasting (usually up to 500°F or 260°C), browning of the food is achieved faster and is more pronounced than in baking.
This accelerated browning causes complex aromas to develop and prevents moisture from leaving the food. After achieving the browning of the food’s exterior, the temperature is lowered to between 425°F and 450°F (218°C and 232°C).
Broiling and Grilling
Broiling and grilling are much the same. Food is cooked by intense radiant heat as opposed to convection heat like in baking and roasting. The difference between broiling and grilling lies in how you apply radiant heat. Whereas heat is applied to food from below in grilling, in broiling, heat is applied from above. Broiling and grilling are suitable for cooking vegetables, fish, meat, and chicken within short periods.
Water boils at 212°F or 100°C at sea level. At this temperature, the bubbles that have formed at the base and sides of the pot get released. Boiling is, therefore, cooking food in a scalding liquid that has reached critical temperatures.
Boiling is suitable for cooking starchy foods like potatoes, rice, yam, corn, and dried pasta, as well as beans and tough fibrous textured vegetables like carrots.
It’s important to note that although the bubbles may make it seem like there’s more energy in the water, increased heat from the stove will not make boiling water any hotter. A gentle boil will cook food at the same rate as an aggressive boil and will reduce spillovers.
Simmering is a gentle technique useful for cooking vegetables, soups, stews, and even meat.
In simmering, the food is allowed to cook in liquid at a temperature just below boiling. Hence bubbles rise gradually to the surface. Simmering temperature ranges from 180°F (82°C) to 205°F (96°C).
Poaching is cooking food in a liquid at temperatures lower than that of simmering. Poaching temperature ranges from 160°F (71°C) to 180°F (82°C) and bubbles form at the bottom of the liquid, but won’t rise to the surface. Although lower, these temperatures do not always imply that food will take longer to cook than simmering or boiling. Poaching is suited to cooking delicate meals like eggs without shells, and fish which may fall apart at boiling temperatures.
Steaming is a wet cooking technique that uses hot steam to transfer heat to the food without boiling, poaching, or simmering. An advantage of steaming over poaching and simmering is that food does not get submerged in any liquid, so there is no loss of nutrients through leaching. Also, food does not suffer agitation, hence steaming is a suitable cooking technique for fish and other seafood.
Unlike boiling water, steam can be made hotter by pressurizing it. However, cooking with pressurized steam requires specialized equipment that is often unavailable to the aspiring chef.
Frying involves cooking food in hot fat or oil to transfer heat to the food. The end product of frying is usually a crispy brown exterior. Meats, dough, and vegetables do well with frying.
There are several forms of frying, they include;
- Deep frying, in which the food cooks by immersing it completely in hot oil.
- Sáuteing, where you toss the food about in a pan with a small amount of oil and over relatively high heat
- Stir-frying, in which the food is continuously stirred around the pan with little oil and over high heat.
- Pan-frying, where the food cooks in a frying pan with oil. For uniform browning, the food gets flipped over at intervals.
Frying is not a wet cooking technique because while fat is liquid at frying temperatures, it does not involve water.
In blanching, food (usually fruit or vegetable) gets cooked halfway in scalding water or steam for some minutes and then immersed into ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. Blanching helps to preserve the quality of the food for extended periods by deactivating enzymes’ actions that can cause loss of flavor, color, or texture.
Cooking techniques are many, and some have sub techniques. The aspiring chef will find the methods discussed in this article beneficial.