Category Archives: Cooking Methods

Microwave

The microwave cooks food with energy created by microwave emissions at high frequency, which activate the water molecules in the food and the agitation created produces heat which cooks or reheats food.

Microwave oven
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It can be used to cook food in its entirety, partially, reheat food or even to defrost food. You can save up to three-quarters of the time taken by conventional methods, for his reason it is often called the refuge of the lazy and/or disorganised cook. This is because the microwave does nothing for the flavour of food and in many cases provides a far inferior tasting finished product to a conventional option, but it sure is quick. That said it does cut cooking odours and minimise the shrinkage of meats or fish and it is useful for small quantities of food.

The interior needs to be kept clean at all times. Metal or gilded containers should never be used. Also the door seal should be checked regularly, if it is damaged the microwave should not be used until it is repaired.

I’ll admit that our microwave gets a lot of use in our kitchen for three purposes, the first is for making porridge in the morning and this falls into the lazy/disorganised category as I just can’t be bothered with saucepans and watching when I’m still just waking up myself, mix the porridge in the bowl, bung it in the microwave and ninety seconds later I stir in some mashed banana and eat my breakfast. The second is for heating Elly’s “hotpack” that she uses instead of a hot-water bottle.

The final and most frequent use that our microwave gets is as a bread box, it’s big enough to hold 2 full loaves and it’s an airtight container, you just have to remember to let the oven cool before placing the bread inside and closing the door.

Baking

Baking is one of the broadest terms when it comes to cooking as it covers so much from the humble baked spud through cakes, pastry, breads, pizza and uses such a wide range of equipment and even different types of ovens – however throughout all this diversity the following statement is true of all the variations…

A wood-burning pizza oven baking pizzas at Mau...
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Baking is the cooking of prepared foods by convected dry heat in an oven using natural moisture.

You can use any number of specialist tins and trays for specific baked items as well general purpose ovens, pastry ovens, pizza ovens and forced air convection ovens. Regardless of the tins or trays and the oven that is used they should always be loaded within their capacity and should be cleaned regularly to prevent spilt food and particles starting a fire.

Shallow frying

Five sausages (Cauldron Lincolnshire) fried in...
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When shallow frying the food is cooked in a small quantity of fat or oil. There are four different types of shallow frying.

  1. Shallow frying where the food is fried on both sides in oil or fat in a frying pan.
  2. Sauté where the food is tossed in hot fat or oil to cook quickly. A sauté pan is ideal but a frying pan can be used
  3. Griddle fried where the food is cooked quickly on a lightly oiled hot plate or Griddle pan.
  4. Stir-fried where the food is tossed in hot fat or oil over a very high heat, usually done in a wok but a frying or sauté pan can also be used in an emergency.

This is a quick method that can add colour, flavour (from the oil or fat) and a crisp finish to most foods as required.

It’s important to use a pan of a suitable size for the food that you intend to cook and not to crowd the pan as this can affect the quality of the result. As always care should be taken when moving hot pan and especially when tossing a pan with hot oil in it. Finally never leave a pan unattended as oil and fat can catch fire when too hot.

Deep-Frying

Deep frying
Image via Wikipedia

Deep-frying is the process where food is immersed in hot oil or fat to be cooked. Food can be partly cooked in advance and then finished just before being served.

To partially cook food you immerse it in the preheated (to 160C-175C) fat or oil until softened and not coloured.

To fully cook food you immerse it in the preheated (to 170C-190C) fat or oil until cooked through and crisp on the outside.

While it is relatively easy to deep fry food with the correct tools (basket or spider), there are a number of things to be concerned about, first you are cooking in either fat or oil, so it’s important to remove as much of this as possible after cooking. The most common way is by shaking as much off the food as possible as soon as it is removed from the cooker and then rested on clean kitchen paper to absorb more of the oil.

It’s important to have the correct amount of fat or oil for the food you wish to cook and this should be changed regularly to avoid the build up of hydrogenated fats (a.k.a. bad stuff). It’s also vitally important to remove as much excess moisture as possible from the food before frying to prevent accidents.

In most cases a specific deep fat fryer should be used, however you could use a large saucepan. I would strongly recommend that if you are going to deep fry then use a dedicated deep fat fryer as this will have its own temperature controls and is far less likely to go on fire than any cooker top method of deep-frying. That said it’s always a good idea to have a fire-blanket and an appropriate fire extinguisher handy as well as knowing how to use them!

Grilling

Grilled Asian Shortribs
Image by Another Pint Please... via Flickr

Grilling is a great way to cook small quantities of food by radiant heat. There are 3 types of grilling, grilling with heat from below (e.g. the barbecue); grilling with heat from above, what our friends across the pond in the U.S. call broiling (e.g. the grill in your kitchen); and grilling “toaster” style between heated bars or plates (e.g. the George Foreman-style grills).

Essentially the food is cooked on top, below or between the heat source(s). With the exception of the “toaster” style of grilling the food is visible and this makes it easy to see when the food is cooked. Any excess fat is usually lost in the grilling process which makes it healthier and it’s usually quick to adjust the heat level while cooking as well as get a good colour and crisp finish.

It’s important to prepare your grill well before beginning to cook on it, making sure to clean them regularly and remove fat and grease to prevent it starting a fire.