Basic Cooking Methods Everyone Should Know

Nobody is born knowing how to cook but it is something that the vast majority of us will have to learn at some point. At first, it can seem a bit overwhelming; you will come across all types of terminology and techniques about which you may have no idea. To help you get started, we have put together a guide to the most common cooking methods.


Baking is a cooking method that uses dry-heat and is often done in the oven. The indirect heat from the oven cooks all sides of the food evenly and leaves the exterior brown while retaining inner moisture. While there are exceptions, baking is usually done at a medium heat. Typical foods that are baked include breads, cake, and pastries, although it can also apply to vegetables such as potatoes and chicken breast.


Not to be confused with baking, roasting is another dry-heat method done in the oven. Usually people will roast meat or vegetables either at low heat, e.g. turkey and prime rib, or at high temperatures, such as Brussels sprouts and other vegetables.


Pan-frying is done with a hot frying pan. Fat is added so that the pan is coated, but it is done at a lower heat than methods such as sautéing or searing. Pan-fried foods tend to be relatively big, such as crab cakes, and they are cooked until brown on one side and then flipped.


This is a cooking method in which the food is completely submerged in hot fat. It results in a crispy exterior and a fully cooked interior. The most famous example is probably fried chicken.


Grilling is one of the easiest methods of cooking. You place the food on a grill that is over a heat source, such as coals or gas. The grill is heated and this then cooks the food (while leaving the charred grill lines). It is easy to grill food such as burgers, steaks and chicken, but you can also grill vegetables and more.


This is almost an inverse version of grilling. It requires a very hot heat source that comes from above. It is perfect for when you want a dish with a brown and crispy top, such as meatloaf, glazed salmon or macaroni cheese. Usually it is done in the oven by changing the settings. Broiling takes very little time, so be sure to watch the food so that it doesn’t burn.


Searing is a very quick way of cooking food that is done with very little fat over a high heat. It gives food a brown, caramelized outside without fully cooking the interior. Many people will sear tuna or steaks, giving them a brown outside and a medium-rare inside.


This involves cooking food in a thin layer of fat over a medium-high to high heat in a frying pan. The foods are cooked until they are tender. Sautéing works well for green vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, as well as fish. It is a very quick process, so be sure to watch the food carefully.


Poaching involves completely submerging food in liquid that is between 160F and 180F. The food stays in the liquid until it is tender and cooked through. It is a good method to use for delicate food such as chicken, fish, fruit like pears, and eggs.


Foods are normally boiled in water in a pot or dep pan once the water reaches boiling point. usually the food is completely submerged until cooked and then drained. Commonly boiled foods include pasta, potatoes, and eggs.


This is a method that relies on moisture and heat, like poaching, but it requires the liquid to be hotter. It shouldn’t be so hot it boils, but there should be tiny bubbles on the surface. Soups and stews are often simmered for long periods, as are sauces such as Bolognese.


If you steam a food, you first need to boil liquid in a pot and then place the food it in a separate vessel, such as a steamer basket, over the boiling liquid. The steam rising from the liquid will cook the food. Many vegetables can be steamed, such as broccoli and carrots, and it can also work for seafood such as salmon.


This is similar to boiling. First, boil a pot of water and then submerge the food and cook it. The difference is that the food is only in the liquid for a few moments, to cook it partially. Then you place the food in an ice bath to prevent it cooking more. People often blanch vegetables such as asparagus, green beans, broccoli and carrots.


This is a two part cooking method that first requires you to sauté or sear an item in a small amount of hot fat to brown the outside and then simmering it in liquid over low heat for a long time. It is typical for foods such as pot roasts, short ribs, and lamb shanks.