Mastering the Fundamentals: Basic Methods of Cookery You Should Know

Discover the foundation of excellent cuisine with these basic methods of cookery. This is an essential knowledge guide for every aspiring chef and home cook.
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When I first became a chef decades ago, one of the first things I learned was the basic methods of cooking. There are 15 methods of cooking. They are timeless and have been used for centuries.

Cooking is an art form that transcends cultures and time; rooted in these fundamental methods is a structure of cooking methods that yield various results.

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned cook, understanding the basic methods of cookery is essential for mastering culinary skills and creating delicious meals.

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In this fundamental guide, we’ll explore the various techniques, from moist heat to dry heat, and how each method can transform ingredients into culinary delights.

Basic Methods of Cookery You Should Know

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The Basic Methods of Cookery You Need To Know

Moist Heat Oven

Adding a liquid to ingredients usually secondary cuts of meat and cooking over long periods of time. This will achieve a tender moist result.

1. Braising

Braising is a technique that combines both moist and dry heat cooking methods. It involves searing meat or vegetables in fat or oil. Then, slowly simmer them in a flavorful liquid, such as stock with wine, in a covered pot or Dutch oven placed inside a low-preheated oven. This low and slow cooking process breaks down tough fibers in meat, resulting in tender, succulent dishes packed with intense savory flavors.

  • Braising basic methods of cookery — Ensure the meat is well-seared before braising to develop rich flavor and enhance the final dish’s savory complexity.
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2. Confit

Confit, a traditional French technique, involves slow-cooking meat in its own fat at low temperatures. The meat is seasoned, submerged in fat, and cooked slowly for several hours until tender. This method preserves the meat while infusing it with rich flavor and texture. Once cooked, the meat can be stored in the fat for an extended period and then reheated for serving.

  • Confit basic methods of cookery — Ensure that the meat is completely submerged in the fat during the confit process to prevent it from drying out.

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3. Pot Roasting

Pot roasting is another moist heat cooking method involving significant cuts of meat in a covered pot or Dutch oven with a small amount of liquid and aromatic herbs. The meat is typically seared first to develop flavor and then simmered in the oven until tender. This method is ideal for tougher cuts of meat, as the slow cooking process helps to tenderize and infuse them with rich flavors.

  • Pot Roasting basic methods of cookery — Use a tight-fitting lid or cover the pot with foil to trap steam and ensure the meat stays moist and tender during the pot roasting process.
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Moist Heat Stovetop

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4. Boiling

Boiling is perhaps one of the simplest cooking methods, involving immersing food in seasoning boiling liquid, usually water until cooked through. This method is commonly used for cooking pasta, vegetables, grains, and soups. It’s important to monitor the cooking time carefully to prevent overcooking and ensure the food retains its texture and flavor.

  • Boiling basic methods of cookery — Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water to enhance the flavor of the cooked food, such as pasta or vegetables.

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5. Poaching

Poaching involves gently simmering food in liquid, such as water, broth, or wine, until cooked through. This method is often used for delicate proteins, such as fish, chicken, or eggs, as it helps to preserve their moisture and flavor. Poached foods can be served hot or cold, often accompanied by flavorful sauces or broths.

  • Poaching basic methods of cookery — Maintain a gentle simmer rather than a rolling boil when poaching delicate proteins like fish or eggs to prevent them from breaking and falling apart.
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6. Steaming

Steaming is a gentle method of cooking food over boiling water in a covered pot or steamer basket. This method preserves the natural flavors and nutrients of the ingredients while keeping them moist and tender. Steaming is ideal for dumplings, vegetables, and fish, producing vibrant and healthful dishes with minimal added fat.

  • Steaming basic methods of cookery — Use a steamer basket or a bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper to prevent food from sticking to the steaming surface.
  • Steaming can also be wrapped in aluminum foil or baking paper and placed into the oven. This creates a stem chamber inside the foil. This French steaming method is called “En Papillote” or cooking in an envelop.

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7. Stewing

Stewing is a slow cooking method that involves simmering ingredients in a flavorful liquid, such as stock, wine, or sauce, until tender. This method is perfect for tough cuts of meat, root vegetables, fruits, and legumes. The low and slow cooking helps break down fibers and infuse the dish with rich flavors. Stews are versatile and can be customized with various ingredients and seasonings to suit your taste.

  • Stewing basic methods of cookery — Allow the stew to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to infuse and develop fully.
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Dry Heat Oven

8. Baking

Baking is a dry-heat cooking method that involves cooking food in an oven using indirect heat where no fat or oil is added. This method is commonly used for baking bread, pastries, and cakes. However, it can also be used for meats with high-fat content, potatoes, and casseroles, resulting in golden brown crusts and tender interiors. Baking requires precise measurements and temperatures to achieve optimal results, making it a favorite among home bakers and professional pastry chefs.

  • Baking basic methods of cookery — Always preheat the oven before baking to ensure even cooking and proper rising of baked goods.

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9. Broiling

Broiling is a high-heat cooking method that involves cooking food under direct heat in an oven or broiler. This technique is ideal for quickly cooking proteins like steak, chicken, or fish while creating a caramelized crust on the exterior. The meat is turned, and the cooking process is monitored closely to prevent burning and ensure that the food cooks evenly.

  • Broiling basic methods of cookery — Adjust the oven rack to the closest position to the broiler to achieve maximum heat and ensure quick and even cooking.
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10. Roasting

Roasting is a dry heat cooking method that involves cooking food in an oven using hot, circulating air. This method is commonly used for roasting meats, poultry, vegetables, and fruits. Resulting in tender, caramelized dishes with rich flavors and aromas. Roasting requires proper seasoning and basting to ensure the food cooks evenly and develops a golden brown delicious crust.

  • Roasting basic methods of cookery — Let the meat rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before roasting to ensure even cooking and a juicy interior.

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Dry Heat Cooktop

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11. Frying

Frying is a dry-heat cooking method that involves cooking food in hot oil or fat until golden brown and crispy. This technique is commonly used for frying foods such as chicken, fish, potatoes, and doughnuts, resulting in deliciously indulgent dishes with a satisfying crunch. It’s essential to use the correct type of oil and maintain the proper frying temperature to achieve optimal results.

  • Frying basic methods of cookery — Use a frying thermometer to monitor oil temperature and ensure that it stays within the recommended range of 175-180oC (347-356oF) for a crispy result.
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12. Grilling

Grilling is a dry-heat method that involves cooking food over hot coals or an open flame. This technique is ideal for cooking proteins such as steak, chicken, or vegetables, imparting a smoky flavor and distinctive grill marks. Grilling requires proper preparation and attention to cooking times to ensure that the food cooks evenly and retains moisture and flavor.

  • Grilling basic methods of cookery — Oil the grill grates or marinate the food before grilling to prevent sticking and enhance delicious flavor.

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13. Sautéing

Sautéing is a dry-heat method that involves quickly cooking food in a small amount of oil over high heat. This technique is perfect for tender proteins such as shrimp, scallops, thinly sliced meats, and vegetables, resulting in dishes with caramelized exteriors and vibrant flavors. Sautéing requires constant stirring and attention to prevent burning and achieve even cooking.

  • Sautéing basic methods of cookery — Pat food dry with paper towels before sautéing to prevent excess moisture from lowering the pan’s temperature and inhibiting browning.
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14. Searing

Searing is a high-heat cooking method used to brown the surface of meat or vegetables quickly. Preheat a skillet or grill until very hot, then cook the food briefly on each side until caramelized. This process enhances flavor, creates a crispy exterior, and helps lock in moisture. Allow the food to rest before serving to ensure juiciness and even cooking.

  • Searing basic methods of cookery — Heat the pan to a high heat, the oil should be shimmering before placing the meat into the hot pan. This will prevent excess moisture from lowering the pan’s temperature and inhibiting browning.

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15. Stir-Frying

Stir-frying is a high-heat cooking method that involves cooking food quickly in a wok or large skillet with a small amount of oil over high heat. This technique is commonly used in Asian cuisine to cook vegetables, meats, and noodles, resulting in crisp textures and bold flavors. Stir-frying requires fast-paced cooking and constant tossing to ensure that the ingredients cook evenly and retain their vibrant colors and nutrients.

  • Stir-frying basic methods of cookery — Cut ingredients into uniform sizes and cook them in batches to ensure even cooking and avoid overcrowding the pan. Overcrowding can lead to temperature loss and inhibit browning.
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Broiling and grilling are both dry-heat cooking methods that involve cooking food with direct heat, but they differ in the heat source and cooking technique. Broiling cooks food from above using the heating element in the oven.

While grilling cooks food from below using a heat source such as charcoal or gas. Grilling typically imparts a smoky flavor and distinctive grill marks, while broiling creates a caramelized crust on the surface of the food.

Braising involves searing meat and then slow-cooking it in a covered pot with a flavorful liquid, resulting in tender and delicious dishes.

On the other hand, pot roasting involves cooking meat in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid, usually in the oven, until tender.

While both methods use moist heat, pot roasting typically involves more significant meat cuts and less liquid than braising.

When stewing, it’s essential to season the meat at the beginning of the cooking process to allow the flavors to develop fully. Use a combination of salt, pepper, herbs, and spices to season the meat, vegetables, and broth. Taste the stew as it cooks and adjust the seasoning as needed to achieve the desired flavor profile.

While you can technically use any oil for frying, some oils are better suited for high-heat cooking than others. Choose oils with a high smoke point, such as rice bran, canola, or peanut oil, for frying. These oils can withstand the high temperatures required for frying without smoking or burning.

Cooking Is A Science And A Skill

Cooking Without Guesswork Know Your Conversions

Cooking is a science and a skill that requires a deep understanding of both the technical and creative aspects. Cooking is also a matter of precise measurements and ratios.

For example, baking is particularly sensitive to accurate measurements and temperatures. A slight deviation in the amount of an ingredient or cooking degrees can result in a completely different outcome.

So, to help you, here is a handy little unit converter tool for cooking without guesswork.