Say Hello to a Whole New World of Culinary Possibilities with these Food Cooking Methods
Sous vide? Broiling? Isn’t it just boiling, did they misspell and add in an extra “r”? HUH?!
Yeah, sometimes you see terms that look totally alien to you in new recipes. We totally get that.
If you’re new to cooking, having to follow unfamiliar cooking terms can really make your cooking experience a dicey one.
But you’re here because you want to get to know and understand different cooking techniques that are out there - well done you!
Cooking is both an art and a science. Which means that there are clear-cut methods you can most certainly learn to create delicious and well-prepared dishes, with cooking methods being part of it.
So whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, here’s your essential guide to every cooking method out there.
Let’s Start Easy with an Overview of Cooking Methods by Heat
Learning every single cooking method without properly categorising them can get overwhelming. So categorising cooking methods by the type of heat it uses is more often than not an easier method to understand them.
Because ultimately heat is the essential crux of cooking - you can’t do so without it! Even making ice cream involves heat during the first few steps.
There are four known types of cooking methods which we’ll go through together; dry heat cooking, moist heat cooking, combination cooking, and electrical cooking.
Dry Heat Cooking
Dry heat cooking happens when heat is transferred to the food without relying on moisture or liquids, namely water. It typically involves exposing food directly to heat sources such as ovens, hot surfaces, and even open flames.
So you’ll often see dry heat cooking in action for recipes that call for browning, caramelisation, or crisping.
Moist Heat Cooking
Moist heat cooking is the total opposite of dry heat cooking in that it involves transferring heat to food through moisture or liquids.
It’s an excellent method of cooking for recipes that need gentle, even cooking. Not forgetting recipes that will benefit from absorbing the cooking liquid’s flavour like tofu puffs in curries and risottos.
Exactly like its namesake, combination cooking combines both dry and moist heat cooking in a single cooking process.
It often starts with high-heat dry cooking to create the ideal flavour and texture, followed by lower-heat moist cooking to add depth to the flavour while ensuring tenderness.
Think hearty dishes like stews and braised dishes. You truly get the best of both worlds with combination cooking.
While dry heat cooking, moist heat cooking, and combination cooking are age-old cooking methods, electrical cooking is relatively new in the scene.
It relies on the use of electrical appliances and devices to prepare, heat, or cook food. This particular cooking method is an incredibly popular one, especially in urban homes because of its convenience, precision, and energy efficiency.
Some of these electrical appliances include the classic microwave, slow cooker, pressure cooker, and air-fryer for hot air frying with little to no oil.
Now that you know the main cooking methods, I promise that learning about all 17 cooking methods will be that much easier. So let’s get to it!
15 Methods of Cooking as Categorised by Different Heat Types
Dry Heat Cooking Methods
Baking involves cooking food by surrounding it with dry, heated air, usually in an oven. Because it involves cooking food with dry, heated air in a contained space, baking often ensures even heat distribution when you cook for consistent results.
Food like bread, cakes, pastries, and dishes like casseroles typically call for baking. An example of a delicious baked recipe you can try is the One-Pan Moroccan Chicken Baked in Red Sauce.
Roasting is similar to baking, in that both cooking methods are done via the oven. What separates them is how roasting involves cooking foods like larger cuts of meat, poultry, or a bulk of vegetables, and how it calls for a higher temperature in general compared to baking.
The usual desired goal when it comes to roasting is a nicely browned exterior and juicy interior. Prime examples include the traditional Sunday Roast, your Thanksgiving turkey, and roasted vegetables.
Love your annual summer barbies? Then you’ll most certainly be familiar with grilling.
Grilling involves cooking food out in the open directly over an open flame or hot coals - usually over the barbeque. This method imparts a smoky flavour and leaves tantalising grill marks on the usual suspects such as burger patties, steaks, sausages, and corn.
Kudos if you remember seeing this term at the start of the article! Broiling is done in an oven where it uses only the oven’s upper heating element to radiate high heat to food.
While it’s similar to grilling, what separates it is how broiling only happens in the oven. Common dishes that call for broiling are the popular French Raclette and gratin.
Frying is a highly popular cooking method and one of the basic cooking methods one can learn. It involves cooking food by exposing or immersing it in hot oil or fat like butter. The end goal of frying is to create a crispy exterior while maintaining the food’s juiciness like that of fried chicken and French fries.
That said, frying is actually an umbrella for various types of frying methods such as:
Deep Frying: Deep frying involves completely submerging food in hot oil or fat to cook it.
Stir-Frying: Quickly cooking small pieces of food in a hot pan or wok with oil while stirring continuously. Ingredients are usually diced or sliced into small pieces when it comes to stir-frys.
Sautéing: Sautéing involves cooking food with a small amount of oil in a pan while stirring continuously.
Moist Heat Cooking Methods
Boiling is one of the core basic essential cooking methods. It’s a quick and efficient method to cook and soften food that involves submerging food in boiling water up to 100°C to cook the food, or in hot liquid which has already reached the boiling point.
It’s commonly used to cook pasta, vegetables, and eggs. But it is also said that it can sometimes lead to nutrient loss because the ingredient’s nutrients are released into the water, which is often discarded.
Simmering is similar to boiling, but it happens just below the boiling point with tiny bubbles forming at the surface of the liquid. This cooking method is a gentle and controlled one that is ideal for rice, soups, stews, sauces, and curry.
Love your poached eggs? Then you’ll likely be familiar with the word “poaching”. Poaching involves gently cooking food in liquid that is barely simmering for moist and tender results. It also preserves the natural flavors of food.
It’s usually used to cook delicate foods which may break down or dry out when boiled such as poached eggs, fish, and chicken breasts. Did you know that poaching is also a popular way to cook certain fruits? Just like this delicious recipe for healthy poached pears!
One of the healthiest cooking methods out there where food is cooked through exposure to steam. Steaming happens by boiling water in a casserole or sauté pan with a steamer basket placed within, then placing food on the steamer basket with the lid on to steam food until fully cooked.
Steaming retains the ingredient’s nutrients and natural flavours well, making it perfect for steaming vegetables, seafood, and dumplings.
If you’re worried about vegetables and meat losing their nutrients when they’re boiled, blanching is an alternative cooking method you could try.
Blanching involves briefly submerging food in boiling water, then rapidly cooling it in ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve its colour and texture. It’s a great method when it comes to cooking fibrous vegetables without breaking down its texture, with some examples being spinach, beetroot, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Combination Cooking Methods
Braising combines both dry heat and moist heat cooking to tenderise tough cuts of meat and develop its flavour.
The cooking process starts upon searing ingredients in fat to develop flavour, followed by having said ingredients submerged in flavoursome liquid to be slowly cooked in a covered pot for delicious, tender results.
Popular dishes that call for braising include coq au vin, pot roasts, and lentil curries.
12. Stewing or Slow-Cooking
Stewing is similar to braising. But what sets it apart is how stewing involves cooking down tough cuts of meat into tender, succulent pieces with a larger amount of liquid for an extended period.
It’s the perfect cooking method to create hearty, one-pot dishes like a comforting beef stew or a delightful slow-cooked stroganoff with a side of fluffy steamed rice. Definitely an essential cooking method for winter warmers!
Electrical Cooking Methods
Sous-vide is a French word for “under vacuum”, because it involves placing vacuum-sealed food in a hot water bath to slow-cook it. This type of moist heat cooking relies on an immersion circulator, a hot water tank, and a vacuum-sealer to cook foods.
Ingredients can be marinated in fat or sauces for extra flavour or juiciness before it is vacuum-sealed and sous-vide. The end result is almost always a moist, tender and perfectly cooked dish that is incredibly flavoursome to boot! Popular sous-vide ingredients involve steak, chicken, eggs, and fish.
14. Pressure Cooking
Pressure cooking involves cooking food in a sealed pressure cooker, which raises the boiling point of water and speeds up cooking. The pressure cooker can be either an electric one or a classic stainless steel manual pressure cooker.
It’s essentially a sped-up version of stewing and slow-cooking to tenderise tough cuts of meat while cutting down immensely on cooking times.
15. Microwave Cooking
Bet you thought the microwave was only used to heat up food, did you? Let me debunk that for you.
Microwaving is a quick and convenient way to cook food by exposing it to radiant heat, which generates heat within the food. While it’s commonly used to reheat leftovers and prepare microwaveable meals, you can also use it to cook mug cakes, certain vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans, and even scrambled eggs!
It’s one of the quickest and most convenient cooking methods, making it a go-to for busy households and office pantries.
What is the Most Common Cooking Method?
I’d say the most common cooking method is definitely boiling. You boil water everyday, be it for a hot cup of tea, coffee, instant ramen, or even eggs.
Another common cooking method would be stir-frying as it is often the quickest way to cook up a complete meal of veggies, protein, and carb.
But with most urban homes getting familiar with microwave cooking, I dare say it’s now a close third.