Techniques. The way that we actually cook is of the utmost importance. The “how” of the process will change your food and presentation dramatically. From Barbecuing to Sous-Vide, here are some techniques to make your experience enjoyable.
Baking – This is the process of cooking with dry, high heat, applied evenly, in an oven. Interestingly, it is synonymous with Roasting. It’s just that we usually refer to making breads, cookies, and cakes as “baking” and meats and vegetables as “roasting.” Also, generally, the concept of baking is a much more precise and labor intensive event than is roasting. Due to my interests you may not see much “baking” on this blog.
Barbecuing – A widely variant technique of cooking meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, etc over an open flame, directly or indirectly, with of without smoking. The apparatus for barbecuing also vary widely from brick ovens to grills to spits to oil drums, and on and on.
Blanching – Cooking (usually vegetables) in boiling water for a very short time. Usually done to enhance color and retain internal crispness. Usually blanching is followed by placing the item in an ice-bath to stop the cooking process. Blanching is very helpful for removing the skins from tomatoes as well.
Boiling – Cooking food in boiling water. Used to soften some foods of to reconstitute others (eg pastas and rice).
Braising – A combination of cooking using dry and wet heat. Usually involves searing food over high heat, then finishing the cooking process in a covered pot, slowly, with liquid.
Brining – The process of soaking a food in a salt water solution for a time (commonly overnight) prior to cooking. Usually many ingredients are added to the brine to enhance the flavor. However, the entire process is meant to make the meat juicier.
Brochette – A fancy way of saying “putting food on skewers.” Grilling skewered food and using fondue are both methods of Brochette.
Broiling – The use of radiant heat, usually from the top element in and oven. It can be electric or gas (using gas is where the term “flame broiled” comes from). Broiling generally retains the juices of the meat but does not soften tough meat. Therefore it should be used selectively for tender meats and poultry.
Caramelization – The process of browning the sugar components of the food. Usually results in a brown color and a nutty flavor.
Deglazing – a cooking technique whereby a liquid is added to a pan in which something, usually meat, has been cooked to dissolve the solid particles of food which have adhered to the bottom. It is a basic step in the preparation of many sauces and may be accomplished with water, stock, an alcoholic beverage or cream.
Frying – Cooking food in fat or oil…nuff said. Not really though. Deep frying is fast cooking and immersing the food completely in hot oil. But interestingly sauteing is a form of frying too. It is just browning the meat in a little bit of oil. Based on the use of oil or fat from largest to smallest quantity we have Deep Frying > Pan Frying > Stir Frying > Sauteing.
Grilling – My personal favorite… The use of intense, dry heat from an electric, gas, charcoal, or wood source to fast cook food. Though this is not entirely true…this explanation is for Direct Grilling (ie, cooking directly over the flame). Whereas Indirect Grilling is akin to Roasting (ie, cooking not directly over the flame).
Parboiling – The process of starting to cook a food by boiling and then finishing it by another technique. Interestingly, parboiling can remove foul tastes and even poisons from certain foods.
Pickling – The process of preserving food in and acid. Used also to prevent the growth of microbes.
Poaching – Similar to blanching, but generally using water that is almost boiling. Coddling is cooking a food for a longer period of time in almost-boiling water.
Pressure Cooking – Using a special vessel in which the boiling temperature of water is increased, the purpose of which is to reduce cooking time.
Reduction – The process of boiling off extra water from a food to thicken and enhance flavors.
Roasting – High heat baking with very little moisture. Generally intended to brown on the outside while retaining internal juices. Usually roasting best occurs when you set the temperature higher (eg 450 degrees) for 15-20 minutes, then decrease (eg 325 degrees) for a longer period of time.
Sous-Vide – A French technique whereby food is vacuum-packed and then placed in a water bath at 170 degrees. Allows for extremely even cooking.
Smoking – The process of adding wood flavor to a food, usually accompanies grilling. Soaking the wood, then allowing it to smoke over its own heat source coming in direct contact with the food. Many times smoker chambers are kept separate from the place where the food is cooking (connected by a tube) to allow you to separately control the temperature of the smoking agent and add more easily when necessary.
Steaming – Cooking food by using the steam from boiling water. Common for many vegetables, seafoods, and Asian dishes.
Stewing – The slow cooking of a food in its own juices usually aided by another moistening agent (water, stock, broth, beer, wine, etc).