40 Key Culinary Techniques and Cooking Methods Explained

HowtoCook.Recipes is all about delicious food, and there are tons of ways to make it! There are countless cooking methods and styles from around the world, from the basics such as grilling to more advanced cooking techniques such as sous-vide. This food preparation guide explores basic cooking methods, culinary techniques, traditional cooking techniques from various countries, and more. Hopefully, this illustrated cooking method guide will educate and inspire — perhaps you will discover a new and exciting way to enjoy food!

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40 Key Culinary Techniques and Cooking Methods Explained

What Is Searing?

Searing food involves burning or scorching the surface until a browned crust forms. The searing technique is often used in conjunction with grilling, baking, braising, sautéing, and roasting.

What Does Searing Do?

When meat is seared, it undergoes something called the Maillard reaction.

What Is the Maillard Reaction?

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that imbues food with a distinctive flavor. This reaction is triggered by exposure to heat.

Why Does Seared Meat Taste Better?

Not only does the Maillard reaction create an appetizing color change, but it helps produce hundreds of flavor compounds that amplify the rich, savory notes and decadent aromas we associated with grilled, roasted, and seared dishes.

What Is Stewing?

Stewing is when food is cooked in a liquid at a low heat and then served within the gravy that formed during the cooking process.

What Is the Difference Between a Soup and a Stew?

Here is how Pillsbury defines the difference between stew and soup: “Soup is any combination of ingredients cooked in liquid. Stew is any dish that’s prepared by stewing — that is, submerging the ingredients with just enough liquid to cook them through at a simmer in a covered pot for a long time.” Stew is typically more thick and hearty than soup, with chunky ingredients and just enough liquid to cover them. The primary ingredient of soup is the liquid, although other things are often added. Chili is an example of a stew.

What Is Poaching?

Poaching is when food is submerged in a liquid and cooked at a relatively low temperature. It’s a popular cooking technique for eggs. If you want to learn how to poach eggs, you’ll find a poached eggs recipe right here!

What Is Blanching?

Blanching is when food, usually vegetables, is scalded in hot water briefly and then submerged in ice water to cut the cooking short. Tomatoes are often blanched before going into sauces and salsas because it softens them, helps make skin removal easier, cuts down on bitterness, and helps maintain their quality and longevity. Check out Clemson University’s guide on how to blanch vegetables.

What Is Sous-Vide?

Sous-vide is a cooking technique that involves placing food in a plastic bag or glass jar and cooking it in a water bath for a long duration (ranging from one to 72 hours) at a precise and consistent temperature.

What Is the Point of Sous-Vide Cooking?

The sous-vide cooking method is often used by restaurants so they can deliver consistent quality. It helps ensure that meat is cooked to the exact level of doneness desired.

What Is Kālua?

Kālua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that uses an underground oven called an imu. Kālua pig or kālua turkey will often be served at luaus.

What Is Kho?

Kho is a Vietnamese cooking method in which meat or fish is braised at low heat in a concoction of fish sauce, sugar, and liquid (such as water or young coconut juice). This creates a tender, rich, aromatic dish.

What Is Braising?

Braising is when food is first browned at a high temperature and then simmered in a covered vessel with cooking liquid.

What Does Flambé Mean in Cooking?

Flambé is a cooking technique that involves covering a food in alcohol and setting it aflame briefly. Not only is this impressive cooking method visually captivating, but it imparts a subtle liquor flavor that can complement desserts and savory sauces.

What Alcohol Is Used for Flambé?

Different types of alcohols are used when cooking. The more alcohol content (or proof), the more flammable. That’s why liquors such as vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and absinthe are the best alcohols to use for flambéing.

What method would you add to this list of cooking techniques? What cooking methods are your favorites for everyday meals? Share your feedback in the comments!

40 Key Culinary Techniques and Cooking Methods Explained

Method Description
Grilling Cooking over direct heat (food is exposed to flames and heat from coals beneath). This can be done over an open fire or a grill grate.
Steaming Cooking with steam from hot liquid. Food does not come in direct contact with the liquid.
Searing The surface of food is cooked at a high temperature (such as in direct contact with flames) until it achieves a brown, caramelized crust.
Stewing Food is cooked in a liquid with low heat and served in the gravy that is formed from the ingredients.
Braising Food is first browned at a high temperature, then simmered in a covered pot with cooking liquid. This is typically used for larger cuts of meat.
Basting Meat is cooked in either its own juices or a sauce or marinade, and as the meat cooks, it is periodically coated with the liquid.
Baking Food is cooked with dry heat in an enclosed space where air can move around freely, such as an oven.
Roasting Food is cooked in dry, high heat, such as in an oven or over an open fire.
Sautéing Food is cooked in a relatively small amount of oil or fat in a hot, shallow pan over high heat.
Blackening Food is dipped in melted butter/fat and crusted with seasoning, then cooked in a very hot cast-iron skillet.
Simmering Food is cooked by submerging it in a consistently hot liquid that is just below the boiling point but hotter than poaching temperature.
Poaching Food is cooked by submerging it in a liquid at a relatively low temperature.
Boiling Food is cooked in boiling liquid, such as stock, milk, or water.
Broiling Food is cooked with radiant or direct heat from above, essentially like upside-down grilling.
Scalding Moist heat is used to cook food. Liquid or steam is used to help solids such as sugar, flour, or chocolate to dissolve more easily into a liquid. Double boilers are often used.
Blanching Food is scalded in hot water briefly and then plunged into ice water to halt the cooking process.
Frying Food is cooked in hot fat or oil, typically while being turned over in the pan several times until fully cooked.
Deep frying Food is submerged in hot fat such as lard or oil.
Torching/Flambéing Food is covered with liquor and set ablaze briefly to caramelize the exterior.
Jugging Stewing whole animals, mainly game or fish, for an extended period in a tightly sealed container. Jugged hare is made by cutting up the animal, covering it with red wine, juniper berries, and spices, and then refrigerating the vessel for 24 to 48 hours before it’s submerged in boiling water.
Sweating Gentle heating of vegetables in a bit of oil or butter, rendering them tender and translucent
Stir frying Ingredients are fried in a small amount of very hot oil while being tossed or stirred in a wok.
Smoking The process of flavoring, cooking, browning, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from a burning material
Meunière Whole fish or fish fillets are lightly dusted in flour and then sautéed in butter.
Sous-vide Food is placed in a plastic pouch or glass jar and cooked in a water bath for long periods (1 to 72 hours) at a precisely regulated temperature.
Kalua Hawaiian cooking method that uses a type of underground oven called an imu
Kho Vietnamese cooking method in which a protein is braised at low heat in a mixture of sugar, fish sauce, water, or a water substitute such as coconut water
Karaage Japanese cooking method that involves coating meat in flour and deep-frying it
Robatayaki Japanese cooking method that involves cooking food over hot charcoal
Tempering spices Whole spices are roasted briefly in oil or ghee to enhance their flavor by releasing the essential oils. The spice-infused oil is then added to a dish.
Velveting Raw meat or poultry is coated in a mixture of cornstarch and liquid and then cooked. The technique is commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
Hot sand frying Common method of cooking nuts for street vendors in China and India. A large, hot wok is filled with sand. Nuts are buried in the hot sand and occasionally turned with a spatula. Gradually, the sand turns black from the carbon created by the fried food.
En vessie Food is cooked within a pig bladder. One example is Bresse chicken, a prepared chicken stuffed with truffles, foie gras, and seasonings that’s enclosed in a bladder and poached in chicken broth.
Smothering Cajun and Creole technique that involves cooking food with a moderate amount of liquid in a covered pan over low heat
En papillote Food is placed in a folded pouch and then baked. This method combines qualities of baking and steaming.
Dum pukht Food is cooked over a low flame, usually in dough-sealed containers. The dough bakes as the food cooks, absorbing its flavors. It is then eaten with the dish.
Curing Food is generously coated in a combination of salt, sugar, and nitrate and left to preserve over time.
Pressure-frying A combination of hot cooking oil and high pressure cook food more quickly, making it hot and juicy. KFC’s chicken is pressure-fried.
Microwaving Food is cooked using radiation from microwaves. The microwaves cause water particles in food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food.
Engine cooking Food is cooked from the excess heat of an internal combustion engine, such as the engine of a car or truck.



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This page was last updated by Megan Miller