- Methods of cooking
- Dry heat methods of cooking
- Ways to cook with wet heat
- Methods of cooking using specific equipment
Cooking can seem like a chore. After all, most of us will cook at least once a day, and potentially prepare food 2-3 times a day. I like to try and mix up the meals I make so try to meal plan a few weeks out. It helps with shopping, reducing waste, and helps keep meals more interesting. But sometimes methods of cooking are restricted due to ability, interest or availability of kitchen equipment.
Research suggests that the majority of people have a repertoire of fewer than 10 meals they cook. And that’s despite all the resources available to us to try more foods. TV cooking shows, magazines, food websites, recipe books, apps and more.
The way you cook can also bring more interest to meals. But not everyone is aware of the different options. I wrote about easy ways to increase your repertoire on my other blog. But the way you cook can also increase your options.
You might only have a cooker, while others buy every gadget on the market. In recent years, slow cookers / crockpots have been really popular. But in the latest year air fryers have been talked about more. Many of these have multiple uses – with 9 in 1 or 15 in 1 multicookers becoming more popular (Ninja being the top brand we hear about).
So here’s some of the different ways you can cook, and some of the benefits.
Methods of cooking
There are two main methods – by dry heat or wet heat.
Dry heat (with or without fat)
This method creates more flavour, you get browning and a flavoursome crust. it’s healthier as you usually use less fat. Cooks faster at a higher heat.
Is a good way to cook tougher meats, and is when you’re cooking the food in water or another liquid.
Dry heat methods of cooking
Grilling (UK term) or broiling
The heat comes from above – cooking inside your oven on the top shelf with a high heat. Certain cuts of meat are good for this, chops or loin, bacon or sausages. It’s also good for melting and browning cheese on top of dishes like macaroni cheese.
Griddle, BBQ, grilling (US term)
The heat source is underneath with a high heat to stop sticking, e.g use a BBQ, griddle pan, or indoor standalone grill (I like my George Foreman grill). Great for meat, fish or veg, kebabs
Done in the oven and allowed the heat to circulate around the food. Mostly used for joints of meat, but also vegetables. Allows a crust to form or fat to crisp up.
Sauteing or frying
Uses a little oil or fat, high temperatures and generally requires moving around the food in the pan.
The heat circulates around the food while in the oven. Lower temperatures than for roasting (although fan assisted ovens cook faster). Good for desserts, but also savoury dishes like traybakes or those in sauce.
Use this method to brown meat or fish fast and seal in the flavour and juices in a pan on the hob. Often followed by searing off with stewing or roasting.
Ways to cook with wet heat
Usually for veg, but some meats like ham are cooked nicely by boiling in water (or another liquid, often then finishing off with a glaze on in the oven).
Steaming uses only a small amount of water boiling or simmering under the food to create steam and cook it. It’s a healthy way to cook and retains more nutritional goodness than when boiling.
Cooking fish or meat in a little simmering liquid at low heat. This enables all the food to cook through without the outside overcooking.
In particular good for tougher (and cheaper) cuts of meat. Sear first in a pan with dry heat to keep the flavour in. Then add liquid and cover, cooking in the oven on a lower heat for longer, to help tenderise it.
Cooking food over a low heat in simmering liquid, and this will help tenderise meat. Great for stews and chowders cooked on the hob.
Cooking foods in very hot oil or fat, for a short time. This cooks the food until golden and crispy. Not the healthiest way of cooking.
Methods of cooking using specific equipment
Dutch oven (or casserole pot UK)
A Dutch oven is a thick walled casserole pot, usually made of seasoned cast iron. You can use them in the oven or on top. Some even use them on campfires.
Can be used for a variety of dishes, but most popular with casserole type or meals with sauces, and for cheaper cuts of meat. Cook long and slow, a slow cooker is good for using less electricity.
Cooks food by using electromagnetic waves, and is useful for defrosting, warming through foods, with low energy consumption. All sorts of foods can be cooked in them but are probably underused by most people compared to what they can be used for.
Multi-use cooker which includes steaming, slow cooking, sauteing, with food cooked in a shorter time than other cooking methods. The downside is they don’t brown or crisp up food.
Cook using a range of methods e.g. boil, simmer, bake, fry, deep fry, grill roast, stew, steam and brown food.
Wonderbags are just being talked about more. They’re a non electric, standalone insulated bag that you add your piping hot food to in its pot, and the bag continues cooking the food like a slow cooker. They were designed to reduce the amount of fuel needed in developing countries.
Air fryers simulate deep fat frying taste but without using fat. They’re a healthier way of cooking, and can be faster.
What method of cooking do you use most frequently?