Contributed by Sam Smith
Cooking is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening that there is. Not only is it simply fun to do and a great way to unwind after a long day, but you even get to enjoy a healthy, delicious meal at the end of it. But for a lot of people, there are aspects of cooking that can be a little intimidating. This usually happens when you’re flicking through a recipe book, and you find yourself coming across a phrase or technique that you’re unfamiliar with. The worst thing is when this happens halfway through a recipe that you’re already cooking! However, you don’t need to worry. Many of the complicated sounding techniques that you find in many cookbooks are a lot easier and simpler than you might initially expect. Here are three simple, yet effective, cooking techniques that every wannabe chef should have under their belt.
This is something that a lot of people struggle with because they assume that it’s basically the same as just frying something. While searing is similar to frying, it’s not exactly the same. Searing whatever you’re cooking means that you’re cooking the outside first and locking in all of that delicious flavor. If you’ve ever been served a piece of fish or chicken with that gorgeous golden brown crispness on the outside, it was probably seared. Searing is much easier if you’re using the best stainless steel pots and pans, but it is possible with other materials too. Heat some oil in the pan until it’s shimmering, then place your ingredient into the pan and leave it. Don’t touch it until it’s started to achieve that golden brown color on the outside, then when you can easily lift it from the pan, flip it over and do the same on the other side. Some things can cook entirely in the pan whereas thicker cuts like steak may need to be transferred to the oven.
The cornerstone of just about any holiday dinner is the roast, so it’s worth being able to do it right. Luckily, roasting is actually a pretty simple, hands-off technique. The most important thing to remember is that you should never, ever rush it. While it might be frustrating to have to wait around for things to cook, slow roasting is the best possible way to get the maximum amount of flavor out of something. Plus, if you set something to roast for a few hours then, other than occasionally basting it, you can pretty much leave it and do something else for a while.
The important thing to know is that poaching is not the same thing as boiling, though it might be similar. When poaching something you usually cook it in a flavored liquid on a relatively low heat so that it only bubbles slightly. This is one of the best ways to cook something if you’re ever worried about overcooking it. Poaching gives you a lot of control and since you can flavor the water with plenty of herbs and spices, can often produce some truly delicious dishes.