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Depending on who you ask, cooking can be considered an art, science, career or homely hobby. Regardless, cooking can sometimes seem unpredictable - even for seasoned chefs. The trick to improving your cooking skills is to practice well-known cooking techniques and methods that are sure to help you create numerous signature dishes that your friends and family will love time and time again.
Whether you simply wish to step up your home cooking game or aspire to become a professional chef, you need to master basic cooking techniques that act as the foundation of most recipes. Read the following guide for the most popular cooking methods, like roasting and searing, as well as fundamental procedures like making your own stock and sauces from scratch.
Build strong cooking foundations by learning and practising the following cooking techniques. Not only will it help you gain a better understanding of recipes, but it can also heighten the texture and taste of your dishes.
Sauteing is a popular cooking method and may be asked of you by several different recipes. To saute, you want to cook your ingredients over a high heat and with minimal cooking oil. Your cooking oil should simply act as lubrication to prevent your food from sticking to the pan and aid in the conduction of heat and the browning of meat or vegetables. For best results, use saute pans, which are specifically designed for this particular cooking technique.
Sauteing requires a small amount of cooking oil as it is the direct heat of the pan that cooks and browns your ingredients. Frying (and stir frying), on the other hand, refers to cooking in hot fat and using this as a means to cook through your meat and vegetables.
Stir frying is a well-known and popular Chinese cooking technique that involves cooking ingredients in a small amount of hot oil in a wok. Much like sauteing, avoid adding too much oil, as you want your ingredients to brown and keep their crunch. Due to the wok's high walls and bowl-like shape, stir frying is a quick cooking method and is synonymous with the signature flipping of vegetables up the wok???s high sides, which is done to produce an even and consistent cook.
Fun Fact: Stir frying in a skillet is referred to as pan frying!
When we hear the term 'grilling,' we tend to think of barbeques. Although cooking on a barbeque does typically use the grilling method, you can also grill on a normal stovetop. Grilling simply means cooking food on a metal grate over a direct heat source.
Because grilling happens over an intense heat source, such as burning coals, firewood or a gas flame, you'll experience very rapid browning. Therefore, you should only grill foods that do not require long periods of cooking.
Searing is used for fish and meat and is well-known for giving your ingredients a caramelised, browned crust, which is also known as 'browning.' When searing meat or fish, patience is key. Refrain from moving the meat or fish around too much, as this can reduce the heat and lessen the browning effect.
Wait for your pan and oil to get hot before adding your ingredients. By doing so, you will increase your chances of getting a more flavourful and caramelised outside, without overcooking the inside.
TIP: How do you know when to turn your fish or meat? Your meat of choice will lift and have greater separation between itself and the pan when it's finished browning and needs to be flipped.
Stewing is the process of cooking solid foods until they turn soft. Meats and vegetables are typically used for making stews; however, you can also cook with grains and legumes. Cookware such as cast iron casserole dishes and large stainless steel stockpots can make great cooking vessels.
Braising is a common cooking method that tenderises meat and vegetables through slow cooking. However, because braising does not contribute towards browning, sear your meat beforehand, so you can create a brown crust that helps develop flavours. Once your meat has been seared, slow cook your meat and vegetables in a liquid - this can usually be done in a cast iron casserole pot or a slow cooker.
For those seeking healthy cooking methods, look no further. This is because no oil or direct high heat is required to cook your ingredients. Rather, ingredients like fish and vegetables cook in their own juices, helping them retain nutrition and flavour.
Unless you have a dedicated electric steamer, you can use a saucepan and steamer basket to steam vegetables, fish or meat. Fill the saucepan with water, place the steamer on top, and put your ingredients in the steamer basket. Put it on a high enough heat, so the water starts to boil.
You may also wish to use a bamboo steamer for more authentic Asian recipes.
TIP: The desired texture of your vegetables or fish depends on personal preference. However, steaming for long amounts of time can cause your food to become mushy and fall apart easily. Ideally, you want the vegetables to allow the tip of a paring knife to easily push through, without the food falling apart.
Baking is a cooking technique saved for cooking bread, pastries, and other baked goods from the outside in. Ideally, you want to achieve a slight brown crust that surrounds a light, airy centre. Baking trays, baking tins and cake tins are great for baking, as they help conduct heat so you can achieve the best consistency for your baked goods.
Unlike baking which requires a medium, dry heat over long periods of time, roasting uses high temperatures which is ideal for cooking more complex ingredients like poultry, meat, and vegetables. Drizzle root vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper for delicious results that can be achieved between 20 to 30 minutes, whereas a whole chicken can take over one hour to cook through.
Broiling is when a high temperature is blasted on the top of cooked dishes, so you can achieve a crispy, browned top - much like a creme brule, but for savoury food instead! For instance, broiling is perfect for toasting the breadcrumbs on top of macaroni and cheese or for charring vegetables for added flavour.
Blanching requires you to cook your vegetables in generously salted water to draw out flavours that may be difficult to achieve through other cooking methods. Once you have blanched your vegetables, place them in an ice bath (a large bowl filled with ice cubes) to halt the cooking process. Most vegetables take between 2-5 minutes.
Boiling is a fast cooking method that is universally used to cook pasta, eggs and whole grains. Simply add water to your saucepan and place it on the heat. Once the water starts to boil, add your ingredients. How long you boil for depends on the ingredients you are cooking. Dried pasta can take between 5-8 minutes while fresh pasta takes 2-3 minutes.
Simmering is a gentler, low-heat version of boiling. You can simmer ingredients in liquid, or simmer the liquid itself, at a temperature slightly below the boiling point (around 180 to 190 degrees). Simmering below the boiling point is a great way to infuse the flavours of the ingredients together; it's also ideal for cooking delicate ingredients such as fish, as there's less risk of movement and the ingredients breaking.
Poaching is a cooking technique that refers to cooking ingredients in a liquid such as water, milk, wine or stock. A poached egg is a common recipe that requires poaching; however, poached pears is also a popular recipe. The liquid is brought to a light simmer, so you can slowly cook the ingredients placed in the liquid.
TIP: Poaching an egg can be difficult and time-consuming for some. Simplify the poaching process with our egg cooking cookware, such as our microwave egg poacher, which saves you from messy pans while also producing beautifully runny, poached eggs.
Deep frying is a method to help develop a golden, crispy coating on your ingredients. You can deep fry by submerging your ingredients in hot fat, much like vegetable oil. When deep frying be extra cautious as oil spitting can occur. You will want to deep fry in a large and deep cooking pot to minimise spitting and gently drop your ingredients, be it vegetables, fish or meat, before leaving it until it is golden brown. Remove your ingredients with a slotted spoon.
TIP: Protect yourself, your clothes, and your worktops from hot, spitting oil by using a splatter guard, which simply sits on top of your pot or pan while you are cooking or deep frying.
Sous vide cooking typically requires a sous vide machine, which is designed to seal the food in an airtight container (usually in a vacuum-sealed bag) before cooking your ingredients in a temperature-controlled pot of water. Sous vide cooking is great for consistent cooking as it requires you to cook your food at a precise temperature and for a precise amount of time. Furthermore, sous vide is a gentler cooking method that also sees your ingredients cooking in their natural juices, which cannot escape via evaporation, and adds further flavour to your dishes.
Knowing basic cooking techniques can enhance your dishes but also help broaden your overall cooking knowledge. For example, learning how to create your own sauce from scratch can push you towards experimenting with your own sauces, while learning how to whip up a classic oil and vinegar salad dressing can elevate the simplest of salads.
Preparing and making your own jam and chutney can be far more satisfying than buying a jar from your local supermarket. Whether you are wanting to make jam to put into a delicious Victoria sponge or wish to infuse beautiful flavours for a decidate chutney, we've created a guide that is sure to help you make and store your own jam and chutney safely.
Sauces play a vital role in maximising adding flavour, while also improving the mouthfeel of many dishes. Learning how to make basic sauces can enhance the flavour, look and texture of your food, while expanding your cooking horizons and providing you with the knowledge and confidence to create your own signature sauces.
In the culinary world, there are five basic sauces that are referred to as 'mother sauces.' By perfecting these five sauces, you can use their foundations to expand and develop secondary sauces. For instance, if you learn how to make a bechamel sauce, you can expand on this basic recipe and make a variety of small sauces like a cream sauce, cheesy sauce, or mornay sauce.
A good chicken or vegetable stock extracts flavour, colour, aroma and nutrients from the simmering bones or vegetables, forming a flavourful base for many soups, stews and sauces. When it comes to making your own stock, learning the difference between a brown and white stock as well as how to season your stock can help.