Cooking Techniques That Everyone Needs to Know
Cooking is an absolute joy. It is medidative, brings people together and is pretty much key to every major event in your life. Marriage? You need to check out the food. Birthday? Let’s cook a nice meal. Saying goodbye to a friend or colleague? Give them something to remember you by with an incredible meal.
Whether you’re an old hand looking to increase your range of cooking skills or a complete rookie seeking to learn the basic cooking techniques that everyone needs to know, we’ve got you covered. Below, we discuss the range of cookery skills that everyone should know, no matter where they are in their life and cooking journey.
Sautéing is the act of quickly cooking tender pieces of meat and food in minimal fat, over a higher heat. Essentially, you don’t use any utensils to work your food over while it’s being cooked in the manner – you simply need to flip them over in the pan, when one side is golden brown.
Because the food is cooked quickly in this way, the meat or veg retains the moisture and texture that gives it a crisp, sumptuous taste. It allows the overall flavor to remain intact but with the fulfilling crispy outer that cooking in fat allows.
The best equipment for this technique is to use a sauté pan – which is a wide pan that has straight sides. In a pinch, however, you can easily head back to a standard skillet – a wide pan with sloped sides (just be careful that your food doesn’t shoot off the sides during the flips). These wider pans allow the food to have a wider berth, so your pan doesn’t become overcrowded with items.
The best foods for sautéing are the ones which require little time in the cooking process – big cuts of meat won’t cut it, as they’ll need longer in your pan. Smaller cuts of chicken, ideally those that have been diced, fish and pork taste great when using this technique. Similarly, asparagus, peas, onions and so on are great choices when it comes to sautéing vegetables.
You can even use some of the tougher vegetables- however, these will need to be blanched first to make them softer and more open to the quick cooking technique that is sautéing. Tougher meats such as beef aren’t ideal for this method, though. Indeed, these are more likely to become even tougher, using this method which does not make for a nice mouthful.
The following tips will help you make the most of your sautéed food:
- Heat up your pan and oil before adding any food. This will stop the fat from simply soaking in to the food when you’re trying to cook it.
- Coat your food in a fat, such as butter or oil before adding them to the pan. This will help prevent them from sticking the pan, making it easier to flip when the time comes.
- Don’t let your pan become overcrowded with food. There needs to be plenty of motion available in the skillet or sautéing pan, otherwise the flavor can be lost. The steam released when cooking stops the sautéing process and means your food is more likely to have a steamed texture. It also can be harder to see when the food is a nice, golden brown.
- Try not to over-stir. You’re looking at essentially keeping the integrity of the food, which means your involvement is more likely to break it down or interfere with this.
Easily the most popular cooking method, most of us will have fond memories of baking simple treats during our childhood and licking the spoon with delicious cake batter. Baking is all about letting the four basic ingredients of flour, sugar, eggs and butter mold together to create different tastes and textures, depending on the level of ingredients and addition of other spices and flavorings.
Yet, as simple as it seems, it can sometimes be really hard to get the exact flavor and texture you’re after. If this describes your current issues with baking, then check out tips to try and get the most out of your baking abilities and wow your taste testers with your new and improved skills.
- Leave your ingredients out of the fridge and allow to them to get to room temperature before baking. Not only does this make the whole process easier, since the ingredients are then softer, but they mix together more smoothly and evenly this way.
- Use the right cookware. Investing in the best bakeware can make a monumental difference to your finished goods. Ensuring that your items are cooked evenly and quickly with virtually no extra effort from yourself.
- Follow the recipe. While it’s all well and good mixing and matching different flavors and having a little fun with your baking, if you’re just starting out, you should get a good feel for the precise need for weighing ingredients, mixing and baking first. This will give you a solid start before you get a little more creative.
- Take your time and enjoy the cooking process. Too often we try to rush through certain stages, leaving our baked goods a little underwhelming. Part of the joy of baking is seeing the creations you make, so enjoy the journey to the final product.
- Rotate your food halfway through. This is simply because most ovens give an uneven heat distribution, with items toward the back of the oven and on the top shelf getting the most heat. Rotate your pans or trays to ensure a nice even bake.
Roasting is one of the easiest methods to learn, since it requires little to no interference during the process. Instead, you can let your meat or veg sit under the right conditions and continue with your other work or hobbies, returning once or twice only to baste or turn during the cooking time.
Perfect for larger cuts of meat, roasting can produce tender foods from tougher cuts – when done right. To get the most out of your roasting, follow these cooking techniques:
- If you’re cooking larger cuts, be sure to leave your food out for at least an hour before cooking.
- Season your meats. Basic salt and pepper is always a good choice but feel free to check out various seasonings available from your local market or try your own creations.
- Add in some vegetables to your roasting tray. Not only will the flavors add a little extra something to your main dish, it cuts down on washing up and gives you a great side dish that matches your mains perfectly.
- Start on a higher heat, before changing the temperature about 20 minutes after starting. This will help “seal” the outside and create a crispy outer layer, while ensuring the inside is still tender.
- If you aren’t sold on this idea, you can always cover your mains with foil, sealing the moisture and allowing them to steam a little, making them more tender. You can then remove this foil when there’s 15 minutes left on your cooking time to crispen the outside of your meal.
Related Post: Best Pepper Mills
One of the main French methods of cooking, braising (or stewing) is when your food is cooked at lower temperatures over a longer period of time. With the rise of slow-cooker recipes coming into play, this is a great time to get up-to-speed on your braising technique.
Essentially a combination of vegetables, stock, water and meat, the overall meal produced by braising creates a hearty home-cooked feel that will warm you up during the winter months. You’ll need to start by browning your meat, before adding it to your dish, which will seal the flavor. However, other than that, there are very few ways in which you can go wrong when stewing or braising your food.
Simply follow these simple tips to keep your stewing abilities at the best they can be:
- Use cheaper meats. After all, there’s no need to waste money on the finest cuts when the harsher, cheaper cuts will be perfectly suited to the braising process. These meats will be soft and delicious by the time you finish your cooking.
- Give your food plenty of time. This is not a meal that should be cooked roughly an hour beforehand. Assuming it’s safe, you can even leave the food to cook overnight or during the work day, ready for you to eat when you come home. In fact, you can even improve the flavor by mixing your ingredients together one or two days before and leaving it (sealed) in the fridge before you use in the oven.
- Use the right pot which allows for a slow, long heat to be evenly dispersed through the entire meal. Slow cookers are a great choice but the right braising pot with a lid produces great results when used in an oven on a lower heat.
Boiling and Simmering Tips
Another classic that covers the basics of the culinary world boiling and simmering your food is a quick and easy way to get your food cooked. However, spending too long in the water can lead to a soggy, flavorless mess. These two methods are essentially the same thing but with very precise differences.
Boiling cooks food at a higher temperature, allowing for heat bubbles to be created as the liquid moved and turns to steam. This keeps the food in motion during the cooking process, prevents the items from sticking to the pan and allowing the food to retain its flavor, as the food is cooked as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, simmering cooks food in water at a temperature just below boiling point (roughly 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit). This ensures foods are cooked thoroughly but slowly and at a much gentler pace. This is preferred for foods that are more prone to breaking apart, such as fish. It’s also ideal for making stock, as the fats and proteins sit on the top of the water, which can then be skimmed off, giving a clearer stock.
If you’re not sure about how to control your water, or are having trouble maintaining your temperature, check out these tips:
- If you’re struggling with simmering, because your flame is too strong (even on the lowest setting) you can buy a simmering ring, which absorbs some of the heat dispersed.
- Generally, simmering is used with a stock, so that the food can absorb the flavors.
- Most simmering can be done with food placed in while the water is cold and built upon from there (with the exception of fish). Meanwhile, for boiling, food should be placed in the water when it is already bubbling.
- Simmering should only allow one or two bubbles every few seconds, while boiling should have a constant stream of bubbles. If your simmering water is boiling, turn the heat down, or place is to one side of the flames, so the heat can be dispersed elsewhere.
A hugely popular choice – particular when it comes to making hearty, heavier foods that are enjoyed with family and friends – frying is the act of submerging food in hot fat to cook. Quick and easy, it is the preferred method of many, especially since the outer parts of the food can be flavored with various spices and seasonings before being cooked.
- Be sure to check your oils carefully. Oils shouldn’t be reused, as the liquid will break down after the first use and the level of trans fats which be much higher. Meanwhile, you should only use oils with high smoke points, which are less likely to break down, such as sunflower oil, peanut oil and canula oil.
- Like sautéing, your food will need plenty of room to move around. Too much food in one place will stick to each other and not cook evenly or thoroughly.
- You’ll need to be around the pan for the entirety of the cooking process. The risk of fire is much higher with frying pans than with any other cooking style and remember that oil and water don’t mix under any circumstances. Pouring water on oil causes the mixture to explode.
- Be very careful when using this method – we recommend buying a fire extinguisher and keeping it nearby for optimal safety.