Part of being a great home chef involves knowing when to use which cooking method. After all, finding the right technique to develop a crispy, crunchy crust or a soft, tender interior can make or break your best recipes, so it’s a good idea to know the basic cooking styles! Here are the 10 cooking methods you should know:
From fish to meat to vegetables, your sauté pan can handle it all! Meaning “jump” in French, this technique involves tossing food around in a pan to brown or caramelize it. You can use a variety of fats, from traditional butter to trendy avocado oils, depending on your flavor palate.
This technique is a classic in Asian cuisines, and it usually involves different types of food cut roughly the same size. Like sauteing, it involves cooking in a pan (or wok), but the heat should be much higher—and as a result, your stirring or pan movement has to be much faster.
You’ll hear this term most often for meat or fish. Searing involves browning the outermost layer of food to caramelize it, which brings out the flavor and even creates added texture.
This slow-cooking method leads to tender, delicious foods. With meats, you’ll often want to sear or brown it first before finishing it with a braise, which involves cooking it over a low flame with a little bit of flavorful liquid like broth, tomatoes, or wine.
Foods that are boiled are placed in water that’s heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is best for things like pasta, eggs, and vegetables. “Simmering” is the more gentle method, occurring with smaller bubbles and a water temperature between about 180 and 200 degrees.
Like braising, stewing involves cooking food (often meat or hearty vegetables) with flavorful liquid—but the food is often chopped into smaller pieces rather than served whole. Some recipes will call for food to be browned first, while others will have you add it directly to the pot.
Hot, moist air makes the magic happen with this traditional Asian cooking technique. Food is cooked in a basket above boiling liquid (usually water), which helps the entire meal cook evenly.
This involves cooking food in the oven. Unlike the methods above, this is a “dry heat” cooking method. Our favorite breads and baked desserts happen this way, but it’s hard to overlook delicious savory meals like casseroles and lasagnas. For savory foods only, once you get to 400 degrees, you may see it called “roasting,” and 500 degrees or higher is a “broil.” These methods make the food brown faster, so the cooking time may be shorter, and you may need to turn it multiple times.
This dry heat method involves a grill and a live fire, which means you’re cooking food fast and over high heat (often 500 degrees or higher!). As a result, the foods we grill often develop a browned and even caramelized exterior with a tender interior, and you’ll often have to pay close attention and turn them multiple times to avoid burning. Meat, chicken, fish, and vegetables all work well when grilled.
Like grilling, barbecuing is typically an outdoor cooking adventure, though it can happen on either a grill or a smoker. The meat is cooked away from the flame over low heat (often below 225 degrees), meaning that it can take hours to an entire day for your food to be cooked through—and you won’t need to turn it so often. The result of this slow method is some very tender and delicious food!
Practicing (and perfecting) these cooking methods can help you hone your skills in the kitchen as a home chef. Once you’ve gained a bit of expertise, you can start experimenting with the ones that work best for you—and branching out to more specialized methods as well! If you’re just trying some of these methods, don’t hesitate to check out my other posts to learn more of the basics.