Methods of Cooking

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  • Created by: Louise98
  • Created on: 24-10-14 18:13

Why do we cook food?

  • To make food easier to digest
  • To add flavour to food
  • To make food look more appetising
  • To make food smell more appetising
  • To make food safer to eat by destroying bacteria
  • To prevent spoilage and increase keeping qualities.
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What does cooking do to food?

All foods contain protein, fat, carbohydrates,vitamins, minerals and water. Animal proteins need to be broken down and vegetabke proteins softened. Fats need other foods such as vegetables or starchy food like bread, to enable the body to digest them more easily. The starchy carbohydrates in potatoes are indigestible when in their raw state so have to be cooked first. Heating breaks down foods, bringing out the flavour and producing an appetising smell. However, heat can destroy important vitamins for food. For this reason, it is important to keep cooking times as short as possible and use the correct method of cooking.

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Cooking methods

The three main methods of cooking are:

  • Cooking in water
  • Cooking in fat
  • Cooking in an Oven
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Boiling

Boiling is cooking in deep, bubbling liquid in an open or covered pan. Foods can be boiled in water, stock or wine. In the Catering industry, boiling pans and bratt pans can be used for boiling. When food is boiled, starches softened, particles are broken down and water-soluble vitamins are leached into liquid.

When deciding whether to place food into boiling or cold water the rule is:

  • All root vegetables have cold water start
  • All other vegetables, plus rice, pasta and eggs have a hot water start
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Simmering

Simmering is cooking in deep water just below boiling point. When food is simmered , starches are softened, proteins are broken down but water-soluble vitamins are largely preserved. Simmering is used for foods like dumplings, rice egg dishes and fruit.

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Steaming

Steaming is cooking in a perforated container over boiling water, although modern combi ovens and pressure-less steamers used in the catering industry steam very effectively.

Steaming is an excellent method of cooking, as the steam cannot flush out the nutrient content of the food. Food also retains its shape and more of its natural flavour.

Steaming is used for vegetables, potatoes steamed puddings, fish and tender pieces of meat. Steaming is a great way to reheat food without spoiling it.

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Poaching

Poaching is lengthy steaming with the liquid off the boil. Eggs need gentle poaching so that the white stays intact.

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Pressure- cooking

Pressure-cooking is cooking in a sealed pan. The higher the pressure- the shorter the cooking time. Pressure steamers are used in the catering industry to deliver a constant supply of vegetables and puddings for busy service times.

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Stewing

Stewing is cooking food in its own juices in a covered pan. If food has a low water content, more liquid needs to be added for the cooking process. Stewing is a long, slow method of cooking, used to tenderise tough cuts of meat and to cook delicate vegetables and fruit.

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Blanching

Blanching is short cooking in boiling liquid. The short cooking time prevents the enzymes that destroy vitamins and minerals from becoming active. Chefs often blanch vegetables and plunge them into cold water to halt the cooking process. These vegetables can then be reheated very quickly fo food service without losing their colour or shape.

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Bain-Marie or Water Bath

This is a very gentle cooking process carried out by standing the food in a container either suspended in or standing in hot but not boiling water. It is used for cooking delicate foods like egg custard or sauces containing high content of butter, eggs or cream that would be separate or burn with direct heat.

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Cooking in Fat

The important thing to remember about frying is that you are cooking at twice the temperature of cooking in water and a single minute can mean the difference between perfectly cooked food and a disaster.

Shallow Frying

Shallow frying is a quick method of cooking in which food is browned in hot fat. All foods should be turned and cooked and browned on both sides. As a general rule, the "presentation side" should always be fried first as this side will have the best appearance.

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Sauteing

Literally translated from the French this means "Jump or toss". Sauteing is tossing small pieces of food in fat that is hot but not smoking. Ideally this is carried out in a pan with a handle (a saute pan is ideal). A mixture of oil and butter is considered to be best for sauteing. Foods such as fish, liver, kidney and strips of steak are ideal.

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Deep-Frying

Deep-frying is cooking food in a friture or deep-fat fryer, in deep fat. It is important that the food is able to float freely in that fat. Because of the safety issues of using hot fat there are some rules you should follow when using a deep-fat fryer.
Safety when frying:

  • Use good quality oil
  • never fill deep fat fryer more than three-quarters full.
  • Dry food thoroughly before frying.
  • Normal frying temperature should be between 175C and 195C.
  • Allow the fat to "recover" its heat before adding more food.
  • Strain fat after use.
  • Have frying basket and spider to hand for safety.
  • Protect delicate foods with batter, flour, egg and breadcrumbs or pastry to prevent breaking up in the hot fat.
  • Change fat regularly.
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Stir-Frying

Stir-Fried food is stirred and tossed very quickly in a deep pan or wok using a very small amount of oil. The success of stir-frying relies on excellent preparation of the food. As large a surface area as possible is exposed, so the food cook as soon as it goes into the pan or wok. Stir-frying is very popular in the preparation of Chinese dishes.

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Braising

This is a method of cooking used for inexpensive cuts of meat. It is a combination of frying, steaming and stewing. A selection of vegetables is fried and placed in the bottom of a dish. A (browned) joint of meat is placed on top and liquid is added to come half way up the food. the dish is covered and cooked slowly inside an oven. The fat gives the food a delicious brown crust and the juices can be used for juices.

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Flambeing

This is not a "cooking method" in the traditional sense; but the term used to describe quick flaming of the food in alcohol (usully brandy, rum or Calvados). Flambeing is used to give added flavour to food and usually follows shallow frying. amaost of the alcohol burns off to leave only the flavour. High percentage alcohols (40% proof) should be used. Flambeing is carried out in high-class restaurants by trained staff when preparing dishes such as Steak Diane.

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Fondue Cookery

A fondue can be used as a container for hot fat. Small pieces of meat (usually veal, beef or pork) are dipped into the fondue on long skewers to cook and served with sauces, salads and bread. You can get cheese fondues where the fondue is lit and the cheese melts which can be put on meat.

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Cooking in Ovens

Cooking in an enclosed space is one of the oldest cooking methods known. modern technology enables caterers to use convection ovens, combi ovens, microwave ovens and grills. Heat can come from the sides, base or top of the oven. In a traditional oven hot air rises so that the top shelf is always the hottest. Fan-assisted ovens are the same temmeprature on each shelf.

Other types of oven used in a catering kitchen:

  • Baking oven or pastry oven
  • Forced air circulation (convection) oven
  • Combination (steam and convection) oven
  • Pizza oven
  • Proving oven
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Baking

Baking is cooking food in the dry heat inside an oven at temperatures between 100C and 250C  or Gas 1/2-9. Baked goods usually have a good colour and texture. Baking is used for cakes, puddings, fish, pastry dishes, bread, potatoes and meat.

oven temp     Gas Mark        Foods to be cooked

160C             4                   Biscuits

180C             5                   Cakes and puddings

200C             6                   Shortcrust pastry

210C             7                   Puff pastry, bread and scones

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Roasting

This is cooking and browning with the aid of fat. It can be carried out on a constantly revolving spit, e.g a hog roast or spit roast chicken, or in the oven. Roasting is a very popular method for cooking large pieces of meat such as those offered in carvery restaurants.

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Casseroling, Pot-Roasting or Casserole Roasting

This is similar to braising. Food to be casseroled should be browned on the hob first as this quick browning "seals" the meat to lock in the flavour. Once the liquid has been added to the Casserole, cover and cook in a moderate oven.

This is cooking seasoned meat either with or without a bed of root vegetables in a covered casserole or pan, using butter for basting. The lid of the casserole needs to be removed at the end of cooking time to allow the meat to brown.

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Grilling

Grilling is a method of cooking foot under intense heat. Because it is such a quick method of cooking, the protein in food is broken down immediately so that no juices are lost. It is an excellent method of cooking for those on a diet to lose weight as it uses no fat.Expensive cuts of meat are needed because of the short cooking time e.g fillet steaks, rump steak, stirloin steak, lamb cutlets, pork chops. Food such as bacon, sausages, kidneys, tomatoes and mushrooms can also be grilled.

Tips for Grilling:

  • Season food before grilling but add salt when cooked so the juice is drawn out and meat is dry.
  • Pre-heat the grill for at least 3 minutes.
  • Place food directly under the grill.
  • Place thicker foods which take longer to cook lower down under the grill.
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Cooking Au Gratin

Cooking Au Gratin is to brown dishes e.g in a cheese sauce by intense heat from above.

Other types of grills used in catering:

  • A salamander is a type of "top heat" grill used in many catering kitchens.
  • A BBQ is popular for outside cooking. BBQ'D food has a smoky flavour and should be seasoned or marinated before cooking. Always cook over glowing embers and not over flames. If very fatty food is barbecued, the fat will drip onto the charcoal and burn, producing thick smoke.
  • A Char-grill is similar to a BBQ as it "holds" the food above the heat. Many fast food outlets use automatic conveyor char-grills to cook burgers and buns.
  • With a rotary toaster, slices of bred are placed on a conveyor belt and are carried through the toaster until brown. These are used in many hotels where demand for toast is high e.g. during breakfast service.
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Microwaving

Microwave ovens cook or warm up food much quicker than a conventional oven. Microwaves quickly heat any food containing water, by causing the water to oscillate (vibrate), which produces heat. The food absorbs the microwaves, but the oven and baking dish remain cool (depending on length of cooking time). 

Metals reflect microwaves and therefore metal dishes cause sparks if they are used in microwaves. However, microwaves will pass through porcelain, earthenware, paper, cardboard, plastic, heat resistant glass and ceramic so any of these can be used.

Microwaves don't brown food, but special browning dishes can be used. Some microwave ovens combine convection with microwave power or a grill with microwave power.Microwaves are primarily used for defrosting food and reheating pre-prepared foods. Microwaved food is popular because foods can be cooked without adding fat or water- an advantage for people on special diets.

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Microwaving

Microwave ovens cook or warm up food much quicker than a conventional oven. Microwaves quickly heat any food containing water, by causing the water to oscillate (vibrate), which produces heat. The food absorbs the microwaves, but the oven and baking dish remain cool (depending on length of cooking time). 

Metals reflect microwaves and therefore metal dishes cause sparks if they are used in microwaves. However, microwaves will pass through porcelain, earthenware, paper, cardboard, plastic, heat resistant glass and ceramic so any of these can be used.

Microwaves don't brown food, but special browning dishes can be used. Some microwave ovens combine convection with microwave power or a grill with microwave power. Microwaves are primarily used for defrosting food and re-heating pre-prepared food. Microwaved food is popular because foods can be cooked without adding fat, or water- an advantage for people on special diets.

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