33 Cooking Techniques You Need To Know (With Pictures)

Justin Micheal

Food Writer & Editor in Chief For KitchenSanity

Justin Micheal is KitchenSanity's founder, food writer and editor in chief. As an expert home cook with over 30 years of daily cooking experience and food handler certifications, he's a pro at experimenting with recipes and a stickler for food safety. He writes informative and detailed guides about cooking basics such as proper food storage, cutting and cooking methods, and choosing the right products to make cooking easier.

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Step up your cooking game with this detailed guide, where I give straightforward explanations and images for each cooking technique.

You’ll find information about skills you need to cook with confidence, enhance flavors, and bring out the best in every ingredient. Let’s get started and take your cooking to the next level!

Cooking Methods Explained

  • Dry Heat Cooking: Dry heat cooking is all about the heat encircling your food, transforming it without water or steam, perfect for achieving a crispy texture and deep flavors.
  • Moist Heat Cooking: Moist-heat cooking relies on water, broth, or steam to cook food, which can tenderize tougher cuts of meat and delicate vegetables without sacrificing moisture or flavor.
  • Combination Cooking: Combination cooking methods use dry and moist heat, making them versatile for various dishes. These techniques often involve an initial sear or sauté followed by a slower cooking process in liquid, marrying flavors and textures.


Roasting surrounds food with high heat in the oven, creating a caramelized crust with a tender inside, ideal for meats and vegetables. For even cooking, rotate your roasting pan halfway through the cooking time.

roasting mixed vegetables in oven


Baking uses the oven’s ambient heat to produce everything from bread to pastries, relying on precise temperatures. Always preheat your oven for the most consistent results, and don’t open the door too often.

baking banana muffins in oven


Grilling applies direct heat from below, quickly cooking food and imparting a smoky flavor, especially good for meats and vegetables. Let your grill preheat fully to get perfect marks and avoid sticking.

grilling steaks on grill outdoors


Broiling cooks food with high heat from above, great for a quick char or melt on top of dishes. Keep an eye on your food as it broils because it can go from perfectly golden to burnt in seconds.

broiler element inside red hot oven


Searing locks in flavor and adds texture by quickly browning the surface of food at a high temperature. Pat your meat dry before searing to ensure a beautifully browned crust without steaming.

searing steak in pan with butter herbs garlic


Boiling is when water or broth is heated to a rolling bubble, commonly used for pasta, grains, and hardy vegetables. Keep a rapid boil for pasta to prevent sticking and a gentle one for vegetables to maintain their structure.

boiling spaghetti pasta in water


Steaming cooks food with the vapor from boiling water, preserving nutrients and color, especially in vegetables and fish. Ensure the pot is tightly covered so the steam cooks the food evenly.

steaming vegetables in stovetop steamer


Poaching gently cooks food in a barely simmering liquid, ideal for eggs, fish, and fruit. The liquid should shiver rather than bubble to keep delicate foods from falling apart.

poaching eggs in water


Braising slowly cooks food, partially submerged in a flavorful liquid, perfect for transforming tougher cuts of meat into tender morsels. Seal your meat with a quick sear before braising it to develop a depth of flavor.

braised pork in deep cast iron pan


Stewing involves simmering small, uniform pieces of food in a liquid, often leading to a thick sauce suitable for a variety of meats and vegetables. Before adding your liquids, begin with a brief sauté of the main ingredients to build a flavor foundation.

cooking beef stew in pot


Stir-frying is a fast-paced dance with food, where ingredients are quickly cooked in a small amount of very hot oil, often in a wok. Keep ingredients moving constantly to avoid them burning and to cook evenly.

stir frying rice with vegetables and chicken

Slow Cooking

Slow cooking is the set-it-and-forget-it method, where food gently simmers for hours, resulting in deep flavor development. It’s ideal for busy cooks because you can just prep your ingredients, combine them in the slow cooker, and come back to a ready-to-eat meal later.

slower cooker cooking on low

Pressure Cooking

Pressure cooking is a time-saver, cooking food at a high temperature under pressure, drastically reducing cooking times. It’s perfect for legumes, stews, and tough cuts of meat. Make sure not to overfill the pot and to release pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions for safety.

pressure cooking on stove top


Sautéing involves cooking food quickly in minimal oil over medium-high heat. It’s all about that quick toss to keep the food moving and evenly cooked. For best results, preheat the pan so the ingredients sizzle on contact.

sauteing mushrooms with wooden spoon


Pan-frying cooks food in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, allowing for a golden-brown exterior and a fully cooked interior. It works well for medium-sized or thinner pieces of food. Let the oil heat up before adding your food to prevent sticking and ensure a crispy texture.

pan frying salmon steaks in butter


Deep-frying submerges food in hot oil, cooking it quickly and evenly with a satisfying crunch. Maintain the oil’s temperature to ensure food doesn’t absorb too much oil and become greasy.

deep frying french fries at home


Simmering cooks food gently and slowly in liquid just below boiling, which is ideal for soups and stews. It develops flavors without the agitation of a rolling boil.

simmering stock in a pot


Smoking flavors food through exposure to smoke from burning or smoldering materials, usually wood. Low and slow is the mantra here, with patience leading to rich, deep flavors.

smoking food in backyard smoker


Curing preserves food through processes like salting, brining, or smoking, often used for meats and fish. It’s a technique that enhances flavor and extends shelf life.

salt curing meat


Marinating involves soaking food in a seasoned liquid, called a marinade, to infuse it with flavor before cooking. The key is time — the longer they marinate, the more flavorful the dish, but be mindful of delicate proteins that can break down if marinated too long.

marinating meat in homemade marinade


Glazing involves coating food with a glossy mixture during cooking, adding flavor and a shiny appearance. A quick brush with a sweet or savory glaze can turn a simple dish into a stunning one.

brushing egg glaze on twisted bread


Creaming is a technique where ingredients, particularly butter and sugar, are beaten together at room temperature until light and fluffy, used to create a tender texture in baked goods. Room-temperature butter is the secret to perfect creaming.

creamed sugar butter mixer beaters


Seasoning adds flavor to food, often through the use of herbs, spices, salt, and pepper. It’s about finding the right balance to enhance, not overpower, the natural taste of your ingredients.

seasoning raw chicken with spices


Garnishing is the art of adding decorative or flavorful elements to dishes before serving. It’s the final touch that can make your dish visually appealing and add a pop of flavor or texture.

eggs with tomatoes garnished


Plating is the process of arranging and presenting food on a plate. Aim for a clean, uncluttered presentation that highlights the food and makes it inviting.

perfectly clean plate shrimp vegetable dinner


Emulsifying is the process of combining two ingredients together that normally don’t mix, like oil and vinegar. It’s essential for creating stable dressings and sauces. Whisking or blending vigorously can achieve a smooth emulsion.

emulsifying mayonnaise stick blender


Kneading is a technique used in bread making to develop gluten. This gives bread its structure and chew. Use the heels of your hands to work the dough until it’s smooth and elastic.

kneading dough on counter


Folding is a gentle mixing method that combines light ingredients, like whipped cream or egg whites, into heavier mixtures without deflating them. Use a wide spatula and a delicate hand to maintain as much air in the mixture as possible.

folding nuts into dessert cream


Whisking incorporates air into ingredients, making them light and fluffy, and is also used to combine ingredients smoothly. A brisk, circular motion will yield the best results.

whisking eggs and flour


Sifting removes lumps from dry ingredients and aerates them, which is key for fine-textured baked goods. It can also combine dry ingredients for a more uniform mixture.

sifting flour into glass bowl


Chopping is a basic cutting technique where food is cut into more or less square pieces. It’s not about precision but about getting the food to a size suitable for cooking.

chopped vegetables on cutting board


Dicing is a finer cut than chopping, creating uniform cubes of food. This is important for even cooking and is often used for vegetables in soups and sauces.

dicing fresh tomato on cutting board


Mincing is a fine chopping technique that cuts food into smaller pieces than diced or chopped sizes. It’s often used for garlic, herbs, and onions to distribute flavor more evenly in a dish.

minced onion in bowl

Julienne Cutting

Julienne cutting turns ingredients into long, thin strips resembling matchsticks. It’s not just for show; this cut ensures quick, even cooking and is a staple for stir-fries and garnishes.

julienne carrots and sticks


Blanching briefly cooks food in boiling water, then halts the cooking process with cold water. It’s great for preserving color and texture, especially in veggies.

blanching green vegetables in big pot


Shocking immediately stops the cooking process after blanching by plunging food into ice water. It’s the secret to keeping that vibrant color and crisp texture in your blanched foods.

shocking blanched vegetables in ice bath


Reducing is thickening and intensifying a liquid’s flavor, like a sauce or soup, through simmering or boiling. Patience is key. A slow and steady simmer can create rich, deep flavors.

reduced sauce with chicken in pan


Caramelizing slowly cooks sugars in foods until they become browned and flavorful. It’s not just for onions; try it with vegetables like carrots to unlock a natural sweetness.

caramelized onions in bowl


Flambéing involves adding alcohol to a hot pan to create a burst of flames. It adds a rich, complex flavor to dishes. Safety first—keep a lid nearby to smother flames if needed.

flambe in pan with large flames


Gratinating or broiling with a topping of breadcrumbs or cheese until a crispy crust forms transforms dishes with a golden, savory finish. It’s all about that last touch under the broiler for a perfectly crunchy top layer.

baked macaroni gratin casserole


Dehydrating removes moisture from food, concentrating flavors and extending shelf life. It’s a slow process but worth it for homemade dried fruits, jerky, and more.

dehydrated apples sliced in dehydrator


Fermenting allows bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms to convert organic compounds, like sugars, into alcohol or acids. It’s a time-honored technique that yields tangy, complex flavors in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha.

fermenting vegetables in mason jar


Pickling preserves and flavors food by soaking it in a brine or vinegar solution. It’s a fantastic way to extend the life of seasonal produce and add a tangy kick to any dish.

pickling pickles in mason jar


Brining soaks food in a saltwater solution to enhance moisture and flavor, especially in meats. It’s a simple step that can make a difference in juiciness and taste.

brining pork in salt liquid


Macerating softens and flavors food by soaking it in a liquid, typically something sweet like sugar or a liqueur. It’s a no-cook way to bring out the juicy best in fruits, especially berries.

macerated berries in juices


Infusing imparts flavor into a liquid by steeping ingredients in it, often used for oils, vinegar, or syrups. Gentle heat can help coax out those flavors, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.

bottles of oils infused with herbs

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