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PERFECT COOKING METHODS

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  Cooking Methods

 

Cooking methods are divided into three categories: dry-heat, moist-heat and combination-heat. Dry-heat methods cook the foods with hot air or fat (sautéing, pan-frying, deep-frying, grilling, broiling, roasting, baking); moist-heat cooking methods cook the food with a liquid, usually water, stock or steam (poaching, simmering, boiling, steaming). And combination cooking methods use, as the name suggests, a combination of dry heat and moist heat methods (braising, stewing).

By understanding the cooking methods enables one to choose the correct method for specific foods, the various methods of cooking have a direct impact on the outcome of the finished dish. Choosing the correct method not only affects the flavor of foods, but also texture and appearance.

Most dry-heat cooking methods are rather quick processes—they add crispness and flavor to food but do not tenderize. Thus, it is imperative to choose the appropriate product to be cooked in this manner (tender, thin or small). Moist-heat and combination-heat methods, particularly braising and stewing, have the ability to break down naturally tough cuts of meat because of the long, slow cooking period. So in the case of these methods, it would be more appropriate to choose less expensive cuts of meat, poultry or seafood.



Dry-Heat Cooking Methods

  • Sautéing
  • Pan-frying
  • Deep-frying
  • Grilling
  • Broiling
  • Roasting
  • Baking




Moist-Heat Cooking Methods

  • Poaching
  • Simmering
  • Boiling
  • Steaming




Combination Cooking Methods

  • Braising
  • Stewing




Types of Food Suited For Dry-Heat Cooking Methods

  • Thin, tender cuts of meat such as chops, steaks, or cutlets.
  • Ground meats
  • Most seafood
  • Most vegetables




Types of Food Suited For Moist-Heat Cooking Methods

  • Most seafood
  • Most vegetables
  • Tender cuts of poultry, such as chicken breasts.
  • Some fruits
  • Starches and pasta




Types of Food Suited For Combination-Heat Cooking Methods

  • Tough, less expensive cuts of meat, such as beef round or pork shoulder.
  • Certain firm-fleshed seafoods, such as swordfish, tuna or monkfish.
  • Some vegetables



The Similarities and Differences between Sautéing, Pan-Frying and Deep-frying.

The main similarity between these three cooking methods is that they all use hot fat to cook the food; the major difference is the amount of fat.

  • Sautéing—There should be just a thin coating of fat in the pan (about 1/8th inch). Sautéing uses conduction to transfer the heat from the hot pan to the food.
  • Pan-frying—The food should be partially submerged in fat. The fat should cover approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the product which is to be cooked. The heat is transferred through both conduction and convection: the conduction of the hot pan to the food, and also through the convection of the hot fat which partially surrounds the food.
  • Deep-frying—To deep-fry, the food is entirely submerged in hot fat. Heat is transferred to the food in deep-frying through the conduction of the hot fat which surrounds the food.

The Similarities and Differences Between Grilling and Broiling.

Though these terms are often used interchangeably, they are distinctly different. While both use a radiant heat transfer, the heat source from grilling comes from the bottom, or underneath the food, whereas the heat source from broiling is on top, or above the food.

The Similarities and Differences between Roasting and Baking.

Roasting and baking are basically the same thing; the difference is in terminology. Generally speaking, meats, poultry, large fish, and vegetables are roasted. Baking is generally applied to breads, pastries and other sweet confections. Heat is transferred to the surface of the food through the convection of hot air, and then penetrates the food through conduction.


The Similarities and Differences between Poaching, Simmering, Boiling and Steaming.

These four cooking methods are similar in that they are all moist-heat cooking methods and they all use convection as the mode of heat transfer. The difference is in the temperature of the liquid and steam.

  • Poaching—To poach, the liquid should be between 160-180°F, the liquid will "shiver" slightly, but there should be no visible bubbling.
  • Simmering—The temperature of the liquid is between 185-205°F, there should be small bubbles breaking the liquid's surface.
  • Boiling—At sea level, water boils at 212°F, there should be large bubbles breaking the surface and a large amount of movement in the liquid.
  • Steaming—In order to create steam, water has to be at 212°F or higher. When steaming the food is in contact with the steam only, if submerged in a liquid it is considered poaching, simmering or boiling.

The Similarities and Differences between Braising and Stewing.

Braising and stewing are similar in that both entail first sautéing the item, then adding liquid and simmering. The difference here, as with baking and roasting, is in the terminology. Generally foods that are cut up or diced are referred to as a stew, whereas a larger items (poultry legs, porkchops, pot roast, etc.) are referred to as braised.


How to Sauté

  1. Prepare the item(s)—cut, slice or pound the item(s) to an appropriate thinness. If desired, dredge the item in flour or coat it with breadcrumbs or other coating. If it is a vegetable that is to be sautéed, trim and cut it/them into uniform sizes for aesthetic purposes and to insure even cooking.
  2. Place a sauté pan on a burner over high heat and allow it to heat; the pan should be just larger than the item to be cooked.
  3. Add a small amount of fat to the pan (oil, clarified butter, animal fat, etc.) and allow the fat to become very hot, but not smoking.
  4. Carefully place the food in the pan and caramelize one side. If there are several pieces to be cooked, add the food in a single layer and do not overcrowd the pan (it would cool down the pan and liquid will be released from the food, which, in turn, will cause moist heat to develop and steam your ingredients.
  5. Turn the ingredient over and allow it to cook through. Transfer the cooked food to a serving plate, and if desired, de-glaze the pan and make a simple sauce or jus.
  6. (Optional) Deglaze the pan by pouring 2 ounces per portion of a selected liquid in the pan and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any caramelized particles. A variety of liquids such as wine, brandy, stock or any other flavored liquid may be used. Reduce the heat to medium when the liquid starts to boil and let it reduce by 3/4, or until it has a syrupy consistency. Wine or brandy looses its acidity during the cooking process. Deglazing with a vegetable, chicken or fish stock, in place of an alcohol, will reduce the amount of calories and still add flavor to the finished dish. Drizzle the reduced deglazing liquid across the sautéed item.



How to Pan-Fry

  1. Prepare the item(s)—cut, slice or pound the item(s) to an even thickness. Coat the item(s) with breadcrumbs or other coating using the standard breading procedure.
  2. Add approximately 1/2 inch of cooking oil to a skillet, or more if needed. Heat the oil to 350°F.
  3. Carefully add the item(s) to the hot fat. If there are several pieces to be cooked, add the food in a single layer, do not allow the pieces to touch and do not overcrowd the pan. This would cool down the fat and cause the coating of the food to become soggy and greasy. Keep the pieces of food in motion by gently shaking the pan, or using a utensil.
  4. Allow the item(s) to cook until the breading on one side is well browned and crisp. Turn the food over and complete the cooking process. Small or thin items will usually cook completely through on top of the stove, if the item is too thick it may need to be finished in a moderate oven.
  5. Remove the item(s) from the fat and drain briefly on absorbent towels.



 

How to Deep-Fry

Foods that are to be deep-fried are almost always coated with a batter, breadcrumbs or other appropriate coating. They are then cooked by submerging them in pre-heated hot fat, and by using one of the following methods. The same rules apply as with pan-frying—do not overcrowd the deepfryer or it will cause the oil temperature to drop, which will cause the coating on the food to become soggy and greasy.

  • Basket Method—The food is placed in a wire basket and lowered into the hot fat. The basket is lifted out of the fat when the food is cooked. This is the most common method of deep-frying in a foodservice environment. It is also the most common method used for breaded items.
  • Double Basket Method—Often it is desirable to keep the frying item(s) submerged in the hot fat to insure an even crust. Without the aid of a second basket the food naturally floats to the surface. In this method the food is placed in a basket and lowered into the fat as with the (single) basket method, and then a second basket is placed on top of the first to keep the frying item(s) submerged in the hot fat.
  • Swimming Method—Foods are gently dropped into hot fat and allowed to "swim" to the surface by themselves. After they float to the surface they are allowed to cook on one side, then turned over and cooked on the other. This is the most common method used for battered items.

How to Grill and Broil

  1. Preheat the grill or broiler on high heat.
  2. Prepare the food--cut the food to an appropriate thickness and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Carefully place the selected food on the heated grill and allow to cook a portion of the way, then carefully turn the item to achieve a crisscross pattern of the grill or broiler. If the item is stuck to the grill, allow it to cook for a few minutes longer, the natural juices will caramelize and release itself from the grill.
  4. Turn the item over and repeat the process, allow to cook to desired temperature.



How to Roast

  1. Trim excess fat and tendons from the item to be toasted (for added flavor and moistness leave a thin coating of fat covering on the meat).
  2. Season the item and place it in an appropriately sized pan on either a bed of vegetables (mirepoix) or a wire roasting rack.
  3. Roast the meat at the desired cooking temperature (generally between 275—425°F), the larger the roast the lower the temperature.
  4. Once the item is at desired doneness, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for a couple of minutes and continue its "carry over cooking process."
  5. While the roast is resting make a jus by deglazing any caramelized juices on the bottom of the pan, and if desired, thicken it with cornstarch or arrowroot.



How to Poach and Simmer

Foods that are to be poached should be naturally tender; the cooking process will not tenderize the food. Simmering, on the other hand will tenderize a tough food by breaking down the naturally tough fibers during the cooking process.

When poaching or simmering, always try to use a liquid that has flavor (stock or broth seasoned with wine, garlic, herbs, lemon, etc.), which in turn will add flavor to the item which is cooked; if plain water is used, much of the flavor of the item will dissipate into the water. After the item is poached or simmered, the flavorful liquid will often be used as the base to a light and healthy sauce, or broth.

  1. Prepare the item by trimming away any fat or silverskin, and cut to an appropriate size.
  2. Bring the seasoned cooking liquid to a simmer. The pot should be large enough to comfortably hold the food item, and there should be enough liquid to completely submerge the food.
  3. Carefully lower the food into the liquid. If the food is extremely delicate, such as a flaky fish, this may be done with the aid of an appropriately sized wire rack, or carefully with a large slotted serving spoon.
  4. Maintain proper cooking temperature through the poaching or simmering process; do not let it boil. The temperature should be checked periodically with a probe thermometer.
  5. When the item is cooked, carefully remove it and transfer it to a serving plate. Or, if making a sauce, transfer it to a holding container that is at least 140°F, and proceed with the sauce.
  6. (Optional) Make a sauce by straining the liquid and reducing it slightly, and thickening it with a roux, or other starch slurry such as cornstarch or arrowroot.

Hot To Boil

Boiling is generally reserved for cooking vegetables and starches, such as rice, potatoes and pasta. A key rule to remember when boiling is to have enough water boiling before you add the product, and also not to over crowd the pot. If there is not enough water or the pot is too crowded the water temperature will drop dramatically and the time it takes to re-boil will be extended, which in turn, will have a negative effect on the cooked food (pasta and rice will be gummy, vegetables will be soft and overcooked).

  1. Bring an ample amount of water to a rolling boil. Season the water with a small amount of salt (2 teaspoons per gallon).
  2. Add the product to the boiling liquid and give it a gentle stir.
  3. Allow the water to return to a full boil; boil the food until appropriately cooked.
  4. Carefully drain the product in a colander and serve, or transfer to a holding container which is at least 140°F

How to Steam

When food is steamed it is suspended above simmering or boiling liquid; it does not actually come in contact with the liquid. Steaming can be done in a commercial steamer, or in one which is fabricated in the kitchen. A steamer may be fabricated by fitting a 2-inch deep perforated hotel pan inside a 4-inch deep solid one. Add a couple inches of liquid to the bottom pan and cover securely with an inverted 2-inch pan. Another method is to fit a pot with a rack that will suspend the food above a small amount of simmering liquid. The product should be naturally tender, as steaming does not tenderize food.

When steaming, it is also beneficial to use a flavored liquid (stock, wine, water infused with herbs, wine, lemon, etc.), it will have a positive flavor impact on the finished product.

  1. Prepare the item by trimming away any fat or silverskin, and cut to an appropriate size. For extremely delicate items, such as flaky fish, the item may be wrapped in cheesecloth or lettuce leaves for added protection.
  2. Bring the liquid to a full boil and cover the container. Allow the steamer to heat.
  3. Carefully remove the lid (remember that steam is at least 212°F) and place the food in the steamer in one single layer. Replace the lid.
  4. Adjust the temperature so the liquid is simmering. Steam the food until cooked appropriately.
  5. Remove the lid of the steamer; transfer the food to hot plates or serving platters.

How to Braise and Stew

  1. Prepare the main item. Trim any excess fat or silverskin off of the item to be braised; if it is a stew, dice the items to an appropriate size. Meat and poultry is often dusted lightly with flour before braising/stewing.
  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed roasting pan, or appropriately sized skillet over high-heat, add a small amount of oil and allow it to become very hot.
  3. Add the main item(s) to the hot pan and sear all sides. If it is a dark colored item, such as beef, the food is usually seared until a dark caramelization occurs. Remove the item(s) from the pan and set aside.
  4. Drain of any excess fat that may have been released during the searing process. To the same hot pan, add any flavoring vegetables (mirepoix) which are to be used in the braise/stew and sauté briefly.
  5. If it is a braise, place main item on top of the mirepoix; if it is a stew, add the seared product back to the pan and gently stir it into the mirepoix.
  6. Add an appropriate amount of liquid to the pan. There should be enough liquid added to keep the main item(s) moist throughout the cooking process, and also enough to produce an adequate amount of sauce. If using a sachet, add it at this point.
  7. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then lower it to a simmer. Cover the pan securely and place it in a moderate oven. (Braising and stewing can also be cooked on top of the stove, but an oven will offer a more consistent and even heat which surrounds the entire pan.) Cook the food until it is fork-tender. If desired, a portion of the way through the cooking process, remove the cover from the pan, this will allow the liquid to reduce and produce a more flavorful sauce.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and, if desired, thicken thew liquid for a light sauce. When making a sauce the mirepoix can be strained out, left as is, or puréed for added viscosity. The liquid may be thickened through reduction, or thickened with a roux or other starch, such as cornstarch or arrowroot.

 

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