BASIC COOKING COURSE WEEK 5: Basic Cooking Techniques

Mar 11, 2020 | Cooking Tips

I’m willing to bet that if you were to pick up a guitar and started strumming without ever having played one before it wouldn’t sound very good. However, if you took a little time, learned a bit of technique, and practiced, you could eventually make a sound that wasn’t altogether terrible. The more time and effort you put into it, the better it would sound. The only difference between learning to play guitar and learning to cook is perception.

We all cook. Some of us cook by re-heating a can of baked beans, while others make full meals daily. Because of this, the perception is that cooking is easy. Cooking should be something that we can all do right away. If we can’t do it well right away we are terrible at it and shouldn’t bother trying to get better. But, most people would never think that about learning to play guitar, right? We recognize that learning an instrument takes time, and effort, and practice. So does cooking.

If you asked me for advice on how to learn to play the guitar I would tell you to learn some basic techniques and use them as much as possible. That is the same advice I give to people who want to learn to cook. Today is all about those basic techniques. These are the foundation of cooking and learning to use them and understand them, will do nothing but make you a better cook.

Basic Cooking Techniques


In French satué means to jump, and that is the best way to describe this cooking technique. Food is added to a hot frying pan with a small amount of fat and cooked quickly while being tossed or stirred. The food is almost constantly kept in motion to prevent burning due to the high cooking temperature. This technique is most commonly used for vegetables though meat and fish can be sautéd as well.

Typically, a frying pan is used to sauté. It is important that only enough food to cover the surface of the pan in a single layer is added. Any more than that and steam won’t be able to escape which will cause water to pool and the pan to cool down.

Sautéing is often called pan-frying, though these are two different techniques. Sautéing uses much less oil than pan-frying and is more closely related to stir-fry. The difference being one uses a frying pan or sauté pan, the other uses a wok.


To broil is to cook something quickly over a very hot direct heat source. Most ovens have a broil setting that activates the top element in the oven which reaches temperatures in excess of 500°F. Broiling is most often done to melt cheese or quickly brown foods. It can also be used to cook steaks or pork chops.

When broiling it is important to let the broiler heat up fully. Then place food under the broiler and watch carefully as the cooking process will happen very quickly. It is important to make sure the cooking vessel you are using is able to withstand the high temperature of the broiler. Don’t put pots, or frying pans under the broiler for an extend amount of time. Also, avoid using parchment for items placed under the broiler as it will catch on fire.

To broil a steak first turn on and preheat the broiler. Pat the steak dry with a paper towel and season well with salt and pepper. Place the steak on a heatproof pan and place the oven 6-10 inches from the top element of your oven. The closer the food is to the element the quicker it will cook. Let the steak sit for 3-4 minutes depending on size, then flip it and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the steak from the oven, check the doneness using a thermometer or another preferred method, let the steak rest for five minutes, and enjoy.

Another good use for broiling is to caramelize sauces. Sometimes I will use the broiler to brown, and even slightly char BBQ sauce on pork chops or chicken to make to taste like it is actually barbecued.

It is important to note that unless you have a good hood vent your smoke alarm is probably going to go off if you cook a steak this way.


Roasting traditionally refers to cooking in front of a flame over a long period of time. Today it is more commonly used to refer to baking meat on high heat between 375°F – 450°f. Modern ovens will have a “roast” setting which turns on the top element of the oven rather than the bottom element. This creates a nice crust or “roasted” appearance on the surface of the meat.

Roasting is a technique most commonly used for large cuts of meat such as hams, legs of lamb, or big pieces of beef. It is also common to roast vegetables. Roasted vegetables take on a mildly sweet flavour that highlights their natural flavours.

The easiest and the best way (in my opinion) to roast vegetables is to cut them into even-sized pieces, toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs (thyme, rosemary, and/or oregano work very well), spread them on a sheet pan and put them in the oven on 400°f for 35 minutes or so.

To roast meat first dry the surface using a paper towel, season it generously with salt and pepper, add a touch of oil then roast in a 375°F oven until cooked through. Flip halfway through cooking.


To bake or baking means to cook something with dry, indirect heat as in an oven. An example of cooking over direct heat would be cooking over a flame. Typically baking is done with a moderate heat between 300°F – 375°F. Foods that would typically be baked include cakes, cookies, and bread.


Pan-fry can mean to either cook in a shallow pan on the stovetop in a small amount of oil over moderate heat. It is often used as an interchangeable term for sautéeing however pan-fried items are often coated in bread crumbs or flour prior to cooking. Pan-frying differs from shallow-frying in that much less oil is used to pan-fry generally only 1-2 tbsp. However, more oil is typically used to pan fry than to sauté.

Although items that are to be pan-fried are often breaded, they don’t have to be. For example, you can pan-fry a steak but you probably wouldn’t bread it.

To pan-fry, simply heat a pan or skillet over moderately high heat. Add a bit of oil, then the food that is being cooked. Let the food sit for a few minutes, flip and let sit again. Ideally, the food should only be cooked once through the cooking process. Pan-fried foods are typically cooked the whole way through in the pan on the stovetop.

Deep Fry

To deep fry is to cook foods completely submerged in hot oil. The temperature range for deep frying oil generally falls between 325°F and 375°f. Canola oil, lard, duck fat, and peanut oil are the fats most commonly used for deep frying due to their high smoke point.

When deep-frying it is important that the oil is up to temperature prior to the food being added. Food added to oil that has not reached a proper cooking temperature may absorb large amounts of oil and be overly greasy.

Deep-frying can be done in a deep fryer, a pan, work or skillet. However, deep-frying in anything but an actual deep fryer does come with risks. There is potential for spills, bubbling over, splatter and even fire. Care must be taken at all times when deep-frying.

Foods that are added into hot oil should always be dried as best as possible first. Adding water to hot oil will cause splatter, and possibly boiling over.


Searing used to be called sealing because it was believed that the process sealed in moisture and flavour. This is false. Searing is done in a pan over very high heat with little fat. The purpose is to brown the surface of the meat, poultry, or fish very quickly. This browning adds a dept to the flavour that would otherwise not be there. This technique can be used on its own but is more commonly combined with braising.

When searing it is important to dry the surface of the foods. Wet foods will not sear. Heat the pan until it is very hot. Water splashed on the surface of the pan should sizzle and evaporate within 1-2 seconds. Make sure there is no oil in the pan if you are going to splash water into it. Season the food, add it into the pan and leave it alone for a few minutes. Flip it only after the underside has reached the desired degree of browning. Repeat the process on the other side.

If you are searing a piece of meat or seafood and it is stuck to the surface of the pan leave it alone. Generally, the food will release from the pan on it’s one when it has browned enough. This has likely happened because the pan wasn’t hot enough when the food went in. There wasn’t enough oil used. Or, you are trying to flip the food too early.


Boiling is the point at which a liquid is heated so that it is vigorously bubbling. Boiling is used mostly to cook pasta, potatoes, and some vegetables. It can also be used for the processes of reduction and steaming.

Boiling is a technique best used to cook pasta, potatoes, and some vegetables. Boiling meat will toughen the protein strands and make it unenjoyable to eat. So, I don’t recommend doing that. This technique can also be used to reduce and thicken a sauce quickly.

Typically, for most purposes (other than boiling potatoes, or pasta) it is best to bring something to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer it. Simmering is a gentle boil. This way meats don’t toughen, and will in fact start to breakdown and tenderize. Also vegetables, and more delicate pieces of food won’t be torn apart as they would with the vigorous action of boiling.


Steam is water in its gaseous form. Water has a boiling point of 212°F and at any temperature above that and the water becomes steam. Because steam is hotter than water is can be used to cook foods quicker and more efficiently than boiling or simmering water. Because foods that are steamed are not submerged in water then retain more of their nutritional value.

Food that is to be steamed is placed in a sealed basket above boiling water. The steam collects in the sealed basket and cooks the food. I like to think of steaming as water smoking. Where smoking is cooking food with vapour from superheated wood, steaming is cooking food with vapour from superheated water.

Most commonly fish and vegetables are steamed, but other foods can be steamed as well.

There is also a second technique for steaming which is common for cooking mussels. Wine (or water) is brought to a boil, possibly with other flavourings. The food (mussels in this case) is added into the pan, which is then covered. The key here is that very little liquid is used. Just enough to cover the surface of the pan. The steam generated by the boiling liquid is trapped by the lid. As the steam cools on the undersurface of the lid it turns back into a liquid from a gas, then rains back down on the food and on to the surface of the boiling liquid below to once again be boiled and circulated.


Braising is a moist-heat cooking method most commonly used for cooking meat. Braising is typically done at low temperatures over long periods of time. It is usually combined with a secondary cooking method such as searing or grilling.

The food item being braised is usually first seared in a hot pan to colour its outside and add flavour. Liquid such as wine, stock, or water is then added along with other flavourings. A lid is placed on the pot which is then placed in an oven preheated to a temperature between 275°F – 325°F.

Braising is a cooking method best suited to larger and tougher cuts of meat. Stewing is braising that is usually done on the stovetop rather than in an oven.


The techniques outlined in this post are most certainly not the only ones out there. However, they should give you a good starting point as you move forward. I’m willing to guess that if you’ve ever cooked anything, you have used some if not most of these techniques even if you didn’t know it at the time.

Come back next week as we continue the Free Basic Cooking Course with Basic soups. See you then!



  1. 5 Principles Of Cooking That Will Give You A Solid Culinary Foundation – - […] most important principles of cooking. You will not find anything about knife skills here, or even cooking techniques. What…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!