In the Kitchen

Your Cheat Sheet to Basic Cooking Techniques

Sometimes, it seems like there are as many cooking methods out there as there are ingredients, so we thought: what better than an easy, straightforward guide to some of the most common techniques. Mastering these will land you in good stead for pretty much any recipe that comes along (Plated included, of course).

Boiling

Boiling is a fairly universal concept—heating a liquid to the point that bubbles break the surface. Lesser known is why one is supposed to bring everything to a boil when cooking (soups, in particular). The answer? It ensures that everything in the pot is remains at the same temperature, and will therefore cook at the same rate. Once you reduce things to a simmer (which generally happens after boiling) the ingredients will continue to cook at the same rate, too. We boil everything from rice to pasta water to soups to sauces, and this technique is one of the simplest—just crank up the heat and keep an eye on the pot! FYI: a rolling boil is one that cannot be stopped by stirring.

Roasting

Roasting involves cooking food in the oven on a relatively high heat in an uncovered pan; slow roasting involves a lower heat and longer cooking time (think Thanksgiving turkey). The advantage to roasting is that it generally produces a moist interior and crisp exterior, and is a simple, easy-to-master technique. Unlike baking, roasting requires the addition of fat, like olive oil. In Plated recipes, we always recommend cooking vegetables spaced apart so that they get extra crispy.

Baking

Like roasting, baking involves cooking food in the dry heat of your oven, but at a lower temperature. Though it’s generally associated with all the desserts (hello, chocolate cake), casseroles, breads, vegetables, and meats are often baked as well. Case in point, this pumpkin ziti.

Simmering

Simmering, like boiling, involves cooking food in liquid—or cooking liquid itself—at a low temperature (generally about 185°F) until small bubbles release at the surface of the liquid. Once a food is brought to a boil, it is frequently reduced to a simmer to continue cooking without overcooking. More here.

Sautéing

The word “sauté” comes from the French verb “sauter,” which means “to jump.” This technique involves quickly cooking food in a skillet over direct heat with a small amount of oil. We use sautéing frequently to cook vegetables, and to create that golden-brown exterior for various proteins. Sautéing is actually a form of frying, which involves cooking food in super hot oil over moderate to high heat. You can also deep fry (more oil) or shallow fry (less oil).

Broiling

Broiling is a cooking method that involves exposing food to high heat directly under the source.  Generally done in the oven, this technique can be employed on the barbecue or other electric gas source. For meats, broiling ensures a super crisp skin. Be sure to bring protein to room temperature before broiling, so it cooks more evenly.

Poaching

Like boiling and simmering, poaching involves cooking food in a liquid, but unlike the other two, it is not used for sauces or stews. Liquid is heated to just below the boiling point (when there’s movement, but no bubbles), and then the ingredient is added, making for a very delicate cooking method. You probably know poaching best when it comes to eggs, but you can also poach proteins—salmon is a great place to start.

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