Basic Cooking Methods
The Well Stocked Pantry
Basic Cooking Methods
There are a few basic cooking methods for all kinds of meats, poultry and fish, as well as the accompanying vegetables. Everyone should master these basics. Different methods help to provide variety at mealtimes, and keep appetites and attitudes healthy.
The basic methods are:
This cooking method is suitable for small or thin meats, fish and poultry. To pan-fry, first dry the meat pieces with kitchen paper so that they brown properly and to prevent spitting during cooking. If required, the meat can be coated in seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs, or a batter. Heat oil or a mixture of oil and butter in a heavy frying pan (skillet). When the oil is very hot, add the meat pieces, skin-side down for poultry. Fry until deep golden brown all over. Turn the pieces frequently when cooking poultry. For meats, turn only once. Note that poultry breast usually cooks before the drumsticks and thighs. Drain well on kitchen paper before serving.
Pieces of meat or skinless, boneless poultry or fish are cut into small pieces of equal size, either strips, small cubes or thin slices. This ensures that the meat cooks evenly and stays succulent. Preheat a wok or saucepan before adding a small amount of high-smoking point oil (see the The Skinny on Fat article). When the oil starts to smoke, add the meat or poultry pieces and stir-fry with your chosen flavorings for 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Other ingredients can be cooked at the same time, or the meat can be cooked by itself, then removed from the pan while you stir-fry the remaining ingredients. Return the meat to the pan briefly when the other ingredients are cooked.
This method is ideal for smaller, thinner pieces of meat, firm fleshed fish, or small birds such as baby chickens. It can be combined with braising (see below), when the meat is first sauteed then cooked in stock or other liquid. Heat a little oil or a mixture of oil and butter in a heavy frying pan (skillet). Add the meat and fry over a moderate heat until golden brown, turning often during cooking to brown allover. Add stock or other liquid, bring to the boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Cook gently until the meat is
Casseroling (Pot Roasting)
Casseroling is a method that is good for cooking larger pieces of meat or poultry, and is particularly good for "pot roasts". The slow cooking produces tender meat with a good flavor. Brown the meat in butter or hot oil or a mixture of both. Add some stock, wine or a mixture of both with seasonings and herbs. Cover and cook on top of the stove or in the oven at 325 to 350 degrees until the meat is tender (this could take quite a few hours for a large beef blade or shoulder roast). Add a selection of vegetables 40 to 60 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
This method does not require liquid, and is used for tender cuts of meat, firm fleshed fish, or poultry pieces. Heat some oil in an ovenproof, flameproof casserole and gently fry the meat until golden all over. Remove the meat and fry a selection of vegetables until they are almost tender. Replace the meat. Cover tightly and cook very gently on the top of the stove or in a low oven (325 degrees) until the meat and vegetables are tender.
Poaching Is a gentle cooking method that produces tender poultry and fish, and a stock that can be used to make a sauce to serve along with them. Put a large poultry or fish pieces, a bouquet garnis or other spices of your liking, a leek, a carrot, and an onion in a large flameproof casserole. Cover with water, season and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer until tender. Lift the poultry or fish out, discard the bouquet garni if using, and use the stock to make a sauce. The vegetables can be blended to thicken the stock and served with the poultry or fish.
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