A Complete Guide to Different Types of Cooking Methods

When it comes to cooking, there are three primary methods: Dry Heat Cooking, Moist Heat Cooking, and Combination Cooking. Each method uses heat to impact food in distinct ways. Understanding how to pair different types of meat, seafood, and vegetables with the right cooking methods is crucial for creating delicious meals. Let’s break it down

Three Cooking Method Categories

1. Dry-Heat Methods (Can Be Used with or Without Fat)

Dry heat cooking involves techniques like stir-frying, pan-frying, frying, and sautéing, where fats and oils serve as the main cooking medium. This category includes Broiling, Grilling, Roasting, Baking, and Sauteing. Techniques that don’t involve fats, such as grilling or roasting, use either direct or indirect applications of radiant heat.

2. Moist-Heat Methods

Traditional moist heat cooking methods, including steaming, shallow poaching, deep poaching, and simmering, have been favored for their simplicity and cost-effectiveness.

Many classic dishes worldwide rely on moist heat methods because they preserve the soluble nutrients in foods, resulting in tender and flavorful dishes.

3. Combination Methods

Combination cooking methods, like braising and stewing, incorporate elements of both dry and moist heat. These methods are suitable for foods that are too tough to be effectively cooked by other means.

Even tender foods like fish and vegetables can benefit from braising or stewing, requiring less cooking liquid, low heat, and a shorter cooking time.

Dry Heat Cooking

Dry-heat cooking methods, like grilling, roasting, broiling, and baking, don’t involve fats and rely on direct or indirect radiant heat. No liquids are used, and any fats added aren’t meant for cooking.

Temperatures exceeding 300°F (149°C) are employed to achieve browning through a chemical reaction that gives off a distinctive aroma and flavor. Examples include toasted bread and seared meats, resulting in a crispy exterior and a tender interior.

Broiling

Broiling directs intense heat from above, usually using a radiant source, cooking one side of the food at a time. This method quickly cooks meat, sealing in juices and flavor while creating a crisp exterior.

Due to its speed, using a timer or monitoring the food’s progress is crucial to prevent burning or overcooking. Broiling can be done with a salamander broiler or an electric broiler.

Food for Broiling:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Fruits and Veggies

Grilling

Similar to broiling, grilling uses radiant heat for quick cooking. Grills typically have an open top with a heating element, like a gas flame beneath the food. Grilling involves placing food directly on a hot surface, usually metal, and requires flipping to achieve charred grill marks for added flavor.

Food for Grilling:

  • Burgers
  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish

Roasting

Roasting entails placing meat in an oven for even browning using indirect heat from all sides. While it takes longer than searing, roasting yields superior flavor.

Tough cuts can be roasted at lower temperatures (200°F to 350°F), while more tender cuts can be cooked at higher temperatures (up to 450°F).

Food For Roasting:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fruits and Veggies

Baking

Both baking and roasting use indirect heat to cook food from all sides simultaneously. Roasting involves high temperatures for extended periods, while baking uses lower temperatures for shorter durations. Though technically similar, baking is typically done at lower temperatures compared to roasting.

Food For Baking:

  • Baked Goods
  • Pizza

Sauteing

Sauteing is done on a stovetop burner with a hot, deep skillet, using a small amount of oil or fat to cook food evenly. It’s a quick cooking method, so keep the food moving by tossing or flipping. The term “saute” comes from the French word meaning “jump.” Heat the oiled pan first, avoid crowding the pan, and stir or toss often.

Food For Sauteing:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Vegetables

Moist Heat Cooking

Moist heat cooking relies on liquids or steam to cook foods, avoiding direct contact between hot surfaces and the food. It’s a healthy cooking method that doesn’t require the addition of fats or oils.

This technique is ideal for tenderizing tough meats like beef chuck or brisket, as well as softening fibrous vegetables and legumes until they reach the desired tenderness. While moist heat methods won’t produce a browned crust, they excel at baking bread and cakes.

Poaching

Poaching is a gentle cooking method where foods are submerged in hot water, typically between 140 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This technique is best suited for delicate foods, preserving moisture and flavors without the need for fats or oils.

Foods for Poaching:

  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Fruit

Simmering

Simmering is a milder form of cooking compared to boiling, requiring higher temperatures, usually ranging from 180 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

It produces larger bubbles above the boiling point. To achieve a simmer, bring the water to a boil first and then reduce the heat.

Food For Simmering:

  • Rice
  • Meats
  • Soups and Stocks
  • Vegetables
  • Grains, Legumes

Boiling

Boiling involves placing food in hot water, with two variations: slow boil and full boil. A slow boil features large, slow-moving bubbles just below boiling temperature, while a full boil produces fast-moving, rolling bubbles.

Food For Boiling:

  • Pasta
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables

Steaming

In steaming, water is heated to produce a continuous stream of steam. Steam retains heat and moisture, ensuring even cooking without drying out.

There are various methods for steaming, including using a pot and steaming basket, indirect steaming, microwaving, or wrapping foods in aluminum foil for oven steaming.

Food for Steaming:

  • Vegetables
  • Fish and Shellfish
  • Tamales

Combination Cooking

Combination cooking is a method that combines both dry and moist cooking techniques. Foods are cooked in liquids at low heat for an extended time, resulting in a tender and flavorful outcome.

This approach is particularly effective for the toughest cuts of meat, gradually breaking down fibers until they meld into the liquid.

Braising

To braise meat, start by searing it in a hot, oiled skillet, then transfer it to a large pot with hot liquid. Only some of the food is partially immersed in boiling liquid. By using lower heat, the ingredients soften over time, and the liquid reduces, intensifying flavors. Braising is excellent for producing fork-tender meat that easily falls off the bone.

Most combination recipes begin with searing the main ingredient. Braising is commonly used for portion-sized or larger foods, especially cuts from more exercised parts of large animals, mature full birds, or large fish.

While any type of meat can be used for stewing, it’s crucial to cut the meat into small pieces and adjust the ratio of liquid to ingredients.

Food For Braising:

  • Meats
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes

Stewing

Unlike boiling, stewing involves completely immersing foods in hot water. Slow cooking at low heat is the same for stews made from smaller cuts of meat. You can use a slow cooker for this method. As the stew simmers, vegetable fibers break down, and fats and collagens from the meat dissolve into the liquid, creating a rich, flavorful gravy with tender pieces of meat and vegetables.

Food For Stewing:

  • Meats
  • Vegetables

Ready to Try Out Different Cooking Methods?

In your kitchen, consider investing in quality restaurant equipment for long-term cooking. Here are some kitchen essentials recommended for experimenting with various cooking methods:

  • Salamander Broiler
  • Commercial Restaurant Fryers
  • Braising Pan Cover and Kettle
  • Steam Cooking Equipment

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