15 Basic Cooking Methods You Must Know: Tips and Tricks

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Yes, we all love to eat home-cooked food, and we also want our children to enjoy the same healthy, nutritious home-cooked meals. To encourage them to make such home-cooked meals, we try different new recipes, but have we taken a minute to try and adopt new cooking methods? So, in case you are using those online cooking portals or recipe books to hunt for these and are confused with the terminology specifying the cooking method or technique, here are 15 basic cooking methods you must know.

Cooking is an art, no correction-it is a science. It’s a science you ought to master if you want to be able to ensure that the food you put on the plate after preparing it is tasty, healthy, and something you want to sink your teeth into again and again. Well, that is exactly the beauty of artful cooking, to be able to make one’s palate dance and ensure that he/she identifies with the particular dish and comes back to it the next time it is made.

Cooking methods basically refer to the method used while preparing any vegetable/meat or dish. While being broadly classified, these basically depend on dry heat modules or moist heat modules. With dry heat, one does not need water to cook the types being steamed, baked, grilled, roasted, etc. In the moist heat mode, some form of liquid is used to cook the food, the types being boiling, frying, barbequing, basting, and so on.

I know you guys will be like-Arey, why are you telling us about something so basic today. But hey, I am not. It’s just that when we are caught up in the humdrum of our fast daily lives, sometimes we kinda get confused in a bit of technicality, you know. Like say, for instance, you might be experimenting with a new recipe straight from a cookbook or a Youtube channel and may come across a term such as braising or searing. So, always good to have a bit of back info first before trying your hand at it, right?

A detailed look at 15 basic cooking methods you must know – Tips and Tricks

1. Steaming

In this method, the ingredient/food is placed in a steamer kept over hot liquid, aka water. The steam emanating from it cooks the food, but the water used for steaming does not come into contact with the actual food. A good option actually, since here there is minimum usage of fat or oil and definitely healthier if you ask me. Albeit sometimes, not all things taste that great when steamed vis-a-vis other methods of cooking them.

2. Grilling

Cooking over direct heat, thereby exposing the food/ingredient to flames/gas here the heat from gas/coals under the grate comes into direct contact with it. Such food usually has charred lines on its surface as a result of the process. A good method, this one uses heat as a medium directly and thereby again uses less to medium amount of fat or oil so you can be sure the healthy option is ticked on your chart. Again, many may or may not like the nutty, umami sort of texture, and taste this method produces.

3. Boiling

Here, food/ingredient is cooked in boiling water, aka water above 100 degrees Celsius, and boiled to the point of becoming soft and tender. Say, for example, boiling eggs or potatoes. One thing of concern, I personally feel there is although this one uses no fat at all technically, from the point of view of taste, not all ingredients necessarily taste great after boiling. It depends on the texture of the individual food or ingredient and one cannot ignore the fact that a lot of important nutrients are dissolved and lost whilst boiling it, most of the time.

4. Searing

Searing means the browning of food. Any food/ingredient that is seared has a brown and caramelised appearance from the outside. One can sear food using small amounts of fat over high heat to give the outside of it a caramelised appearance, with the inside not being cooked through. Always a great and effective way to cook any kind of meat, this one does lock in some flavour, retaining the original taste of the food/ingredient albeit with an additional brown flavour/appearance. Definitely, a better option than frying, if you ask me.

5. Poaching

For poaching, one needs to submerge the food/ingredient in water that has a temperature between 71 and 82 degrees Celsius. The food is retained in water until completely cooked. This is a technique which has a bit of an advantage over regular boiling since the temperature is somewhat regulated here. However, again the technicality of how much nutrition the food/ingredient retains post-poaching is a debatable issue.

6. Sautéing

One of the most commonly used techniques in cooking, the food is cooked with very little oil or fat until it turns tender. Usually done in a pan, the food is cooked over medium to high heat. This is one method I for one, highly advocate since I feel this is the fastest, easiest and the same time cooks food in the right manner, also retaining maximum flavour and nutrition at the same time. I am of the school of thought that one should try not to cook the majority of vegetables completely but rather at par or al-dente’. It is healthier to have them in that form for your gut health.

7. Broiling

This usually requires the source of heat to come from the top, and mostly ovens are used to broil. The settings can be adjusted to broil, but one has to keep an eye on the food while broiling since it cooks very quickly. A debatable method for me though, personally since I am usually against broil or cooking of any sort in the oven/microwave. However, to each his own.

8. Roasting

Similar to baking, this involves the use of an oven to cook the food. Mostly, vegetables or meats are roasted until they turn golden brown. This one is used usually for heavier textured ingredients, again roasting is somewhat a labour of love and those who prefer the 2-minute quick fix may not really like to use this much.

9. Baking

It refers to cooking food items in an oven using dry heat. This method is used to cook foods like slices of bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, lasagne etc.

10. Braising

Here the ingredients are seared and then cooked in water. Foods that are braised are usually high in protein, like pot roasts. A technique used by those who do cooking on a more regular basis, here one needs to smartly balance and decipher how much searing is needed before putting the particular food/ingredient finally in water to finish its cooking. It is a matter of balance as the wrong method used if at all can make the food taste well umm let’s say as your grandma’s woolly knitting stewed to glory!

11. Stewing

Similar to braising, here the ingredients are first seared and then cooked in the liquid. is one of the techniques that is widely used to retain and lock in nutrients as well as flavours. Again, this a method where I advise a good understanding and judgement of how one is working alongside the ingredient before doing any major change to its textures.

12. Blanching

This is similar to boiling, but the food is first partially cooked, and then submerged in an ice bath to stop the cooking process completely. Blanching again uses the moisture lock technique while cooking. Again, this is one used by those who know how to adapt this one on a regular basis and is something that one can perfect over time with the practice since you need to be precise about when you want to stop cooking for it. This one is a game of fine balancing if you ask me.

13. Deep Frying

Cooking the food in hot oil or fat, where the food/ingredient is cooked until its colour turns golden, being crispy on the outside and cooked completely on the inside. Personally, one method I am kinda against since I am of thought that deep-fried food is seldom healthy but as it is rightly said “tamsik is what is truly tasty” So yeah many junk foods especially Indian snacks are deep-fried and I strongly advocate changing them to some other method.

14. Shallow Frying

In this method, the oil only reaches about half an inch up in the cooking vessel, and food is first cooked on one side before being turned over on the other side so it can be completely cooked. Although, many people argue that this one is a better option than full, deep frying I beg to differ. Anything, which is soaked up to half of its density in hot oil is, in all probability prone to sucking up that excess fat or oil from the pan and retaining it and leaking it back once cool. Urgh, unhealthy as well as unpalatable, if you ask me!

15. Barbecue

This technique requires foods to be cooked slowly and for a long time over a spit that is fueled by smoke produced from coal or wood. Traditionally, what our ancestors used to adapt to, we today turn to this as a more fancy, entertaining form of cooking, especially when we want to have a great and relaxing time cooking in the open. Whether the taste turns up to one’s expectation or not, the mood definitely does for sure!

So, I hope you guys liked my little tete-a-tete today on brushing you up on 15 basic cooking methods you must know. Cooking is a wonderful, holistic experience and is also one of the best ways to ensure good health since you are cooking your own food and, hence, can decide the best and most suitable cooking technique for you, to try and retain as many nutrients and vitamins as possible.

Guys, be it any method you choose to cook, remember the golden rule-every element/food/ingredient is different and thus needs to be understood fully in essence before you begin working with it. It is always better to try smaller quantities especially when you are experimenting with something first. Also, remember, most important of all, always be open to change and experimenting since you never know which technique you may land upon which might be unconventional but will give you the best possible you may have ever tasted. And lastly, cook with a broad smile and a full to brim heart-aka a heart which wants each and everyone to enjoy the food being prepared. So as our ancestors fondly say “Deepo Bhakshyate Dhwaantaha” aka We are what we eat, make sure what you eat is healthy, palatable, wholesome and most importantly what keeps you and others around you happy.


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Ciao peeps!

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