To help you become free of recipes, you want to learn (about) the main cooking techniques. The knowledge and understanding of what you are doing and why will help you become a more confident and creative cook.
What are the cooking techniques?
Although you can use the word technique in different ways, I reserve it for describing a cooking method going beyond ingredients and other additional directions. I like to summarize them in 1 sentence that captures the essence of the technique.
Take boiling for instance. You could describe the cooking technique to boil as “cooking your food in a liquid at the hottest stage possible” (which is boiling point). Whether it’s green beans, pasta, rice or any other ingredient.
So, what are the cooking techniques? Part II
Boil, blanch, poach, sauté, fry, stir-fry, deep-fry, confit, roast, bake, grill, steam, braise, smoke, sous-vide, dry, ferment.
Some add simmer, searing and barbecue to the list too.
I also wouldn’t add deglaze, making roux, making stock, pan sauces, etc to the list. Although they are pretty specific and can be described in 1 sentence, they make use of the main cooking techniques and I therefor call them cooking concepts (as there is no “official” word for it).
How does knowing the cooking techniques help you cook better?
If you know and understand a cooking technique, reading recipes becomes much easier. Even if the recipe writer does not, or wrongly, specify the technique, once you know what they intend, you understand what is meant. And you can decide to follow along or take your own way. And eventually you will be able to create your own dishes.
For instance, knowing that the recipe wants you to boil your green beans, you could:
… tell they would have a certain flavor (compared to roasting for instance),
… decide for yourself how firm or soft you want them, and
… decide for yourself how you want to boil them (what amount of water, how much salt to use, etc).
Lots of ingredients can be cooked in various ways. When you know what the different ways are, you can decide how you want to cook them that day. Even if a recipes wants you to do it differently, you can confidently take your own creative route.
How can you learn the cooking techniques?
Unfortunately, learning to cook is not as simple as learning those 1 sentence descriptions by heart, as they are oversimplified. For boiling, what ingredients you can boil, how much water do you use (and what pot), how salty is the water, can you use another liquid, and how long do you boil your ingredient are legit questions to ask. And the answers differ per ingredient (group).
And who you ask. Every chef or cook has their preferred way of doing things, but not many really have studied and realized that there are others ways leading to more a or less the same result. We did!
In our technique cooking classes, we will dive deep into 1 (or more related) cooking technique(s) to help you fully understand them. Take pasta for instance. It is often suggested to boil your pasta in a generous amount of salty water. But is that really needed? We will study the current discourse and test it out.
Like we did with the boiled green beans pictured: we played with the ratio water to beans and saltiness of the boiling water. You can see some differences in color, and they were very apparent in taste too!
Our cooking technique classes calendar
* Boil, blanch and poach ~ buy the e-cookbook Boil, blanch & poach
* Sauté & fry ~ buy the e-cookbook Sauté & Fry
* Roast & barbecue (March 27)
* Braise / make a stew => try our Braised chicken: February 13
The goal with our cooking technique classes is to help you understand what is going on in your pots and pans. If you know why you are doing and how you are doing it, you can become more free of recipes. You can decide for yourself to follow the instructions or go your own way.
Want to learn more?
Fill out the form if you have any questions about the main cooking techniques or our classes.
Our upcoming classes
Check our full cooking class calendar.
~ Or learn why we teach these classes the way we do.