Salutations, gentles, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes’ ongoing series, The Culinary Compendium of Cooking Cant, an exercise in excess from local author and incipient asylum inhabitant, Jon O’Guin. Last time, we talked about the different meals that one may eat over the course of a day. Today, we delve into a topic nearer to Jon’s blackened heart (this is not to insinuate he is evil, but rather that it is coated in a layer of burnt milk solids and charred spices, like a Louisiana catfish): Cooking Methods.
You’ve seen a more drawn out version of this discourse in his Barbecue More series, where he went into detail on the difference between barbecuing and grilling. And he’s just realized he’s talking in the third person. That’s not worrying at all.
So, for today, we’re going to inspected cooking methods. Except, well, Wikipedia acknowledges 53 distinct cooking methods. So we’re naturally going to have to pare this down unless we want an epic poem of joking summaries of cooking styles. Going as brief as 70 words a technique, also known as the length of this paragraph, would still be enough to almost match the length of Rime of The Ancient Mariner.
With roughly the same number of murdered albatrosses.
So I’m going to naturally pare out the ones that don’t use heat (Goodbye Pickling!) as well as ones that are exceedingly precise ( Goodbye, Bao-style Stir-fry!) and just do what I consider the “greatest hits”, the methods that, even if you don’t know the names, you’ll likely recognize. (With a few thrown in because I like them. I’ll probably come back to some I’m leaving out, because, seriously, the Wikipedia entry for Bao stir fry makes it sound AWESOME. They heat the pan until it GLOWS! The name literally translates as “Pop” or “explosion”!)
SO LET’S DO THIS
A METHOD TO THE MADNESS
BAKING (n) - 1. The Science to Cooking’s Art, as many say.
- Stupid Voodoo Witchcraft, as Jon says.
- A method of cooking that relies on prolonged dry heat (or mostly dry, at least) to cook food from the outside inward, forming a firmer outer crust and a softer interior. Notable in cooking circles for being very reliant on proper ingredient ratios and precise processes. This leads to the first quote’s meaning: Accidents or missteps that would be forgivable on a roast lead to catastrophe in some baked goods. (Using butter of the wrong temperature, for example, leads to an inferior biscuit.)
- (v) Smoking marijuana. Included because I can’t find any explanation for where this term CAME from. The only hint to this etymology I could find was that it may have been originally used to be “smoking marijuana in an enclosed space”, which makes some symbolic sense, making the imbibers like cookies in an oven.
“But, man, hold up. What if, to God, we’re the hash brownies?”
BLACKENING (V) -1. A Southern United States cooking method where a protein is coated in melted butter, dredged in spices, and cooked in a very hot pan, leading to a heavily darkened exterior from the burning of the exterior covering. Used to imbue foods with smoke and char flavor quickly in an interior kitchen.
BOILING (V) – 1. A uniquely British way to ruin Beef.
- Cooking food by submerging it in boiling liquid. Boiling is a good method to create soups and broths. However, it should be noted that vitamins from your food enter the water, and so if you don’t serve the food in the liquid, there’s likely some nutrition loss. (For instance, steamed broccoli is healthier than boiled. As long as equal volumes of cheese sauce are dumped on them to make them palatable.)
BRAISING (V) – 1. A cooking method where food is seared at high, dry temps, and then cooked low and slow in some kind of liquid.
- Also called “Pot roasting” in some areas, because pot roast is among the most common braised foods; like how “Fried Chicken” is treated as almost another animal to normal Chicken.
- What slow cookers do to make food taste great with no effort.
FRYING (N) - 1. A class of cooking methods wherein food is cooked using high heat and (typically) oil. And seemingly every possible variation of oil amount has a different name. (A brief list: pan frying, stir frying, shallow frying, Deep Frying) However, there’s also gentle frying, which is with low heat, air frying (cooked using high heat circulated air) and salt frying (whereyou use hot sand or salt has the cooking surface) So, realistically:
- A word almost functionally interchangeable with “cooking”.
I… um… what?
ROASTING (V) - 1. Cooking that relies on prolonged dry heat (or mostly dry, at least) to cook food from the outside inward, forming…This is baking. This is the same definition as baking. That can’t be right. Hold on, let me look this up.
- A cooking method that relies on prolonged dry heat to cook food from the outside inward. DISTINCT FROM BAKING based on 4 criteria: 1, Whether or not the food is solid at the start. (you don’t “roast” cake dough); 2, the temperature (Roasting typically sits at 400-450, baking rarely passes 375, and almost never past 400); 3, fat. (if the outside of your food is covered in a fat before cooking, you’re likely roasting); and 4, if you cover the pan.
- A great way to make veggies actually interesting. (Seriously, roasted X is one of the best ways to serve vegetables. Toss them in some oil, throw some salt, lemon juice, and parmesan. BOOM. Instant solid side dish.)
SAUTÉING (V) – 1. Honestly, the entire reason I started the Culinary Compendium series. See 2.
- Cooking food in a small amount of oil over high heat. Distinct from frying because of a single act: sauté is the past form of the French form meaning “jump”, because the food is briefly tossed during cooking. Technically, if you’ve never done that cool wrist-flip toss to a pan, you’ve never actually sautéed.
This guy knows what I’m talking about. Despite having a terrifying crepe-face.
SOUS VIDE (N) - 1. A hoity toity new way of cooking things (despite being invented in 1799). You put the food in a plastic bag, suck out the air, and drop it in hot water (like, 150 degrees). It’s popular among chefs because it creates foods with functionally 0 moisture loss, and it’s an incredibly gentle way to cook.
STEAMING (N) - 1. Cooking foods in steam, duh.
- Boiling, without the commitment.
NEXT TIME: ALAN STARTS TO BULK UP. BECAUSE WINTER IS COMING.