culinary 101: dry heat cooking methods.


pan-fried at its' finest. sole meuniere.

pan-fried at its' finest. sole meuniere.

recently  we talked about sauteing. now, let's talk about the rest of the dry heat cooking methods.

firstly, the name is slightly a misnomer. you're not going in completely dry - you're going to have oil be your best friend (remember, we talked about different types of oils as well). the name dry heat simply means that no water is being used in the cooking method. 

pan frying

pan frying is a lot like sauteing, a stovetop method of cooking using oil over direct heat. the difference is in the amount of oil used and the object of the game. with pan-frying, instead of looking to simply cook the item, you're going to dredge it in flour or press breadcrumbs onto it, and you're looking to create a rich, golden-brown exterior. the oil, as opposed to the 1-2 oz used in sauteing, should come halfway up the item being cooked. common pan-fried dishes include sole meuniere and breakfast potatoes.

deep frying

deep frying is a familiar sight. pots filled with oil, thermometers sticking out. baskets dunked in full of potatoes or breaded catfish. deep frying is our next dry heat cooking method, in which the item is entirely submerged within oil at a controlled temperature. it's the oil that's cooking the food here and not that hell-hot pan at all. like pan-frying, you're looking for that beautiful, golden-brown and crisp exterior.

some care must be taken with the temperature here. a recommended frying temperature is between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit in canola, peanut, or grapeseed oil. lower temperatures allow the oil to penetrate the crust, causing it to become oily and greasy instead of perfectly crisp. dropping the food in will lower the oil's temperature, so a recommended starting temp is about 375. always allow the oil to come back up to temp before dropping a new piece. 

common deep fried items include french fries, buttermilk fried chicken, and vegetable tempura.

roasting & baking

grilled tranche of salmon with steamed vegetable medley

grilled tranche of salmon with steamed vegetable medley

roasting and baking are, objectively, the same thing. it's a method of cookery that involves enclosed indirect heat. the warm ambient air cooks the item, instead of contact with oil or a hot pan. for this reason, the indirect heat, items that are baked or roasted take longer to cook than items sauteed or fried. 

commonly roasted items include roast chicken and baked goods are items like bread or cookies.

grilling & broiling

grilling is a method of cooking over a bottom source of radiant heat. most of the liquid is cooked away, as it drops below to the heat source. the truly unique aspect of grilling is that fantastic, charred, slightly smoky flavor evoked by juices dripping directly onto the heat. broiling, while similar, conversely has the heat source located over the food. most grills and broilers, like ovens, have hot and cold zones. to test, i like to layer the grill with several pieces of bread to test how rapidly they char and to identify the hot spots. after cooking an item, always, always, always clean and scrape down the grill to prevent that horrible burnt flavor. many meats are grilled - like grilled skirt steak - or vegetables. french onion soup is often broiled in a salamander, or industrial grade broiler, to get that piping hot melted cheese top.

for any method, all meat or vegetables should be cut evenly - this encourages even cooking and reduces that panicked time later when some bits are cooked and burning and oh god the rest are still raw. got a piece of meat? trim off any extra fat or skin that hangs far over the sides. also, slip your knife under that silvery, whitish film and cut it off. that's called silverskin and it's a bitch to try to bite through and chew. it only, like seaweed and corn kernels, gets stuck in your teeth. always get your pan and oil hot, hot, hot - this is the only way that the oil will cause the food to get crispy and not soggy and horribly greasy. 

have any questions on dry heat methods? let me know! stay tuned for next week when we visit moist heat cookery - like boiling, braising, and steaming.

last week's lesson: knife skills