To help you become free of recipes, you want to learn (about) the main cooking techniques. Understanding of what you are doing and why, will help you become a more confident and creative cook.
What are the cooking techniques?
The word “technique” can be used in many different ways. Here I reserve “cooking technique” for a few main cooking techniques that help you cook most food according to just one or two directions. These rules go beyond ingredients and dishes. I like to summarize them in 1 sentence that captures the essence of the technique.
Take boiling as an example. 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
These seventeen are all techniques with their own specific instructions. They have their own distinguished impact on the food that is cooked with the technique. Boiling is similar to poaching but there are enough differences to make them a separate technique.
Some add simmer, sweating, searing and barbecue to the list too. Others add deglaze, making stock, making roux, pan sauces, etc to the list. Although these are pretty specific and can be described in 1 sentence too, they make use of the main cooking techniques, or are too similar to it. Therefor I like to call them cooking concepts, by lack of an “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:
… know cooking them this way comes with a certain flavor and texture (compared to roasting for instance),
… can decide for yourself how firm or soft you want them (shorter vs longer cooking time), 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. They are oversimplified, and work as a general rule. Not all ingredients are suited to use on all techniques. And different ingredients might require extra instructions to get the best out of them. While the main technique is still the same.
Let’s get back to our boiling example. You can ask yourself:
* what ingredients you can boil?
* how much water do you use?
* does it matter what pot I’m using?
* how salty should the water be?
* can you use another liquid?
* how long do you boil your ingredient?
These are all legit questions to ask.
The answers differ per ingredient (group). The instructions (and myths) of boiling pasta are different from the rice boiling rules, which is not the same as boiling green beans.
And the answers might vary with who you ask. First of all, every chef or cook has their preferred way of doing things (me too!). And not many of them have studied and realized that there are others ways (cooking techniques) leading to more a or less the same result. We did!
How do we teach the cooking techniques?
We share our knowledge on the main cooking techniques in a few different ways:
* check out our unique The Cooking Techniques Explained class,
* join our Technique classes, focusing on 1 technique only: check our cooking class calendar here
What makes these cooking classes so unique?
It truly is our goal to help you understand cooking, so you learn to see recipes as an inspiration, not as a strict rule book. Learning about the cooking techniques helps you with that.
In our classes and accompanying e-cookbooks, we dive deep into 1 (or more related) cooking technique(s) to help you fully understand them.
Playing with the technique and different ingredients will help you understand how tiny changes influence the outcome on your plate. Then you can make a conscious decision how you want to cook your food. Or at least understand what might have happened if you didn’t get the outcome you aimed or hoped for.
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. We focus on what really works, and might debunk some cooking myths on our way.
Like we did with the boiled green beans pictured below: 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!
The goal for all our cooking classes and e-cookbooks is to teach you essential skills, not just another recipe. 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.
And our students see that this approach works!
Want to learn more?
Fill out the form if you have any questions about the main cooking techniques or our classes.
Our upcoming classes
- From campfire to air fryer: the cooking techniques explained – class
- ~ on a short break ~
- Knife skills class