10 Basic Cooking Techniques
I know how to cook fancy stuff, but did I know the basic cooking techniques every diyhomegoddess should know? The basis for cooking? The ones, if you know these, you can do anything? I didn’t know.
A couple of months ago, I went to a Sur La Table class on ’10 Skills Every Cook Should Know’. To see if I knew them all. I am in the process of petitioning Sur La Table to give ‘degrees’ after you attend so many classes. I think I’m ready for a formal cooking degree from them!
What Are These Skills?
You know how to bake. And you know how to cook. When you watch the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, even PBS, do you understand what they are talking about? Do you know the terms for the skills you amassed, which are thrown around like they are the word cat?
Prepare yourself to be educated!
Basic Cooking Techniques for Meat
Get awesome flavor in your chicken and pork proteins. The use of salt and seasonings with refrigeration (24-48 hours before cooking). Rub the protein with the concoction (either on the pork or under the chicken skin). The salt draws out the moisture, mixes with it, and then slides into the fibers to season and retain moisture.
You do this, right? Roasting is cooking that provides a great browning for the food, hopefully done just enough to create a moist interior with great flavor. You start off very hot to sear, and flip it to a lower temperature (350F). Slow roasting provides better flavor.
Buying whole chicken is cheaper than buying parts. Cooking it with bones and skin adds flavor. But how do you serve a whole chicken? Cut it up.
- Pull the wing away, wiggle to find the joint and cut there (2 pieces).
- Pull the leg away, cut through the skin, wiggle to find the socket at the thigh, and cut there. Take the leg and thigh (skin side down), find the ball joint and the line of fat; this is where you cut these pieces (4 pieces).
- Take the rest and cut through the ribs along the backbone on each side. Take the large breast, skin side down, and cut along the breastbone (this is where you will use the diyhomegoddess muscles you’ve achieved) (2 pieces).
You can find good pictures of how to do it here.
Basic Cooking Techniques for Sauces
A vinaigrette is an emulsion of oil and acid. The standard ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, but you can vary it, depending on your tastes. Use your favorite oil (canola, sunflower, vegetable, olive, etc) and some acid (vinegars, wines, citrus). Salt and pepper is all you really need, but you can add other herbs, spices, mustards, etc.
To make, dump all the ingredients in a bowl and stir with a fork or small whisk. Or put it all in a lidded jar and shake! Or use a blender.
The basis for thickening sauces, gravies, stews, things like that. Easy peasy. Use equal weights butter and flour. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the flour and start stirring with a spoon. 3-5 minutes you have roux. To make a darker roux, just cook it longer. Let it cool a bit before adding your liquid.
Use the pan that has all the meat juice drippings and crusty bits. #BestFlavorEver! Add wine to ‘deglaze’ the pan, which unsticks the food bits. Then you add stock or broth to full body the pan sauce. Don’t forget to add some salt and pepper! If if you need a thickening agent, use the Roux! Look, combining techniques!
Basic Cooking Techniques for Dessert
This is a take on a pie crust; the same rules apply. Use very cold water and butter. Using a food processor is the easiest way. Pulse the flour and butter until it’s pea-sized. That way the butter will melt when the crust is cooking. When baking the shell without a filling, poke holes with a fork, and use beans in aluminum foil to keep it from bubbling.
This one was hard. I am not sure why every cook should know this one. This has to be constantly watched. The longer you cook it, the darker it gets and more pronounced the caramel flavor will be. Swirl the pan to hydrate the sugar on the sides, don’t stir it in.
Now we are talking my diyhomegoddess’s! Chocolate and cream in equal volume amounts. Chop up the chocolate. Pour warmed cream over and let it sit for a few minutes. Then stir until melted. Use for tart fillings, glaze or ice a cake, or cool it and roll into truffles (with other flavors added!).
Basic Cooking Techniques Miscellaneous
This is the only starch technique we learned. Risotto is so heavenly, much better than Uncle Ben’s Minute Rice. It takes time, but worth it. You see contestants in competitions trying all the time to get this done fast. It doesn’t work. Use Arborio rice (found in any supermarket). Brown the rice in a skillet. Then slowly add your favorite heated stock a bit at a time, replenishing the stock as it gets absorbed into the rice.
Now you know the basic cooking skills every diyhomegoddess should have in her repertoire. Check out my recipes here to look for some of these techniques.
What techniques do you know, or want to learn?