The Cooks ABC – Cookery Processes Part Two

Last time we looked at food that is cooked using wet cookery processes. In this final part I will take you through the cookery processes that rely on dry heat as the main source of cooking food – with the exception of microwaving which is in a category all of its own.

 

 

 

As before, each cookery process is specific and has its advantages and disadvantages for your meal – some will be apparent and some more discreet.

  1. Baking
  2. Roasting
  3. Pot Roasting
  4. Braising
  5. Grilling
  6. Microwaving

 

Baking

Baking is cooking food by dry heat in an oven. In some cases steam can be added to produce a softer bake.

When dry baking, steam rises from the water content of the food and combines with the dry heat of the oven to cook the food (cakes, pastry and baked jacket potatoes).

Adding steam during the baking process with some foods, such as bread, increases the humidityof the oven and can improve eating quality making a softer or more moist outcome. You can do this at home by adding a basin of water at the base of your oven prior to, and during cooking. 

Advantages:

  • A wide range of savoury and sweet foods can be produced
  • Baking produces a very desirable aroma, texture and appearance

Disadvantages:

  • Baking is very susceptible to changes in heat by opening the oven door
  • Requires practice to achieve the desired results

Examples of foods which might be cooked by baking:

  • Eggs
  • Meat 
  • Chicken
  • Vegetables (potatoes)
  • Apples
  • Fruit flans
  • Cakes
  • Bread 

Roasting

Roasting is cooking in dry heat in an oven or on a spit with the aid of fat or oil. Food is placed into hot oil in a pan to coat or sear the outside before placing in a high heat oven. Searing creates a sealed coating on the outside which helps retain moisture and juices to stop food drying out.

Advantages:

  • Good quality meat and poultry is tender when roasted
  • Meat juices from the joint are used for gravy
  • Root veg and potatoes have desirable texture and colour

Disadvantages:

  • Requires regular attention
  • Cooking too much together can produce excessive moisture which reduces crisping

Examples of foods which might be cooked by roasting:

  • Meat (lamb, beef or pork)
  • Poultry and game 
  • Vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beetroot, parsnips)

Pot Roasting

Pot roasting is cooking on a bed of root vegetables in a covered pan. This method retains maximum flavour of all ingredients. It differs from a stew as a pot roast is usually a larger or whole joint of meat rather than cut up chunks. The pot also retains any steam or liquid giving a more gentle cook. 

Advantages:

  • Maximum flavour is retained
  • Nutrients are retained
  • Cheaper and tougher cuts of meat can be used
  • Vegetables used in pot roasting can be served as an accompaniment

Disadvantages:

  • Pot roasting is a slow cooking method


Braising

Braising is the method of cooking in the oven where the food is cooked in a liquid in a covered pan or casserole. Although very similar to stewing and pot roasting the method has a couple of different approaches.

Brown braising is where joints and portion cuts of meat are marinated and  then sealed quickly by browning on all sides in a hot oven or in a pan on the stove. Sealing the joints helps retain flavour and nutritive value and gives a nice brown colour. Joints are then placed on a bed of root vegetables in a braising pan, with the liquid and other flavourings, covered with a lid and cooked slowly in the oven.

White braising is where foods are blanched, refreshed and cooked on a bed of root vegetables with white stock in a covered container in the oven.

Advantages:

  • Older, tougher joints of meat and poultry can be used
  • Maximum flavour and nutritive value are retained
  • Variety of presentation and flavour is given to the menu

Examples of foods which might be cooked by braising:

  • Meat (lamb, beef)
  • Poultry (duck)
  • Vegetables (celery, onions)

Grilling

Grilling is a fast method of cooking by radiant heat either from above or below or both. Broiling is a type of grilling where an angled heated solid plate is used to sear the food and allow any grease or fat to drip away - typically a George Foreman Grill is a type of broiler.

Grilled foods can be cooked:

  • over heat (charcoal, barbecues, gas or electric grills)
  • under heat (gas or electric grills, gas or over fired grills)
  • between heat (electrically heated grill bars or plates)

Advantages:

  • Food can be quickly cooked to order
  • Charring foods gives them a pleasing appearance and better flavour
  • Better control as food is visible during cooking

Disadvantages:

  • More suitable for expensive cuts of meat
  • Can dry out meats quickly if heat is not controlled
  • Requires skill

Examples of foods which might be cooked by grilling:

  • Fish 
  • Meat 
  • Vegetables 
  • Savouries
  • Toasted items (bread, muffins, tea cakes)

Microwaving

All foods are cooked by the conductivity of heat in one way or another; microwaves cook or reheat food using electromagnetic waves powered by electricity that activate the water molecules or particles of food. This causes the particles to vibrate and heat the food through friction. Microwaves can be very useful and versatile if used properly for the food being cooked.

Advantages:

  • Very fast method of cooking
  • Fast method of defrosting
  • Economical on electricity and labour
  • Food is cooked in its own juices, so its flavour is retained
  • Minimises food shrinkage and drying-out

Disadvantages:

  • Not suitable for all foods
  • Limited cooking space
  • Hot spots and cold spots likely
  • Speed of cooking means mistakes can happen quickly
  • Need regular supervision

Examples of foods which might be cooked by microwave:

  • Pre cooked pasta
  • Fish 
  • Vegetables 
  • Pre-cooked meals

Final Words

As you can see there are more than enough ways to cook your food and in most cases the best way to cook your recipes will be apparent. However don't be afraid to try one of the more subtle methods of cooking and give yourself a bit more time to enjoy the experience. Play with your flavours and try some more uncommon ingredients or cuts of meats, you may be pleasantly surprised.