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Types of Cooking
The basic methods of cooking include (1) baking, (2) roasting, (3) broiling and grilling, (4) frying, (5) boiling, (6) simmering, and (7) steaming. Salt, pepper, and other seasonings may be added to improve flavor. Baking. Food is baked by cooking it in an oven. In most cases, the oven temperature ranges from 300 to 450 F (149 to 232 C). The word baking usually refers to the cooking of foods made from a batter or dough. Such foods include breads, cakes, cookies, and pastries. However, casseroles, a few vegetables and fruits, and some cuts of meats can also be baked. Roasting is cooking food uncovered in hot air. The term usually refers to the cooking of meat. For example, a turkey or a leg of lamb is roasted. In roasting, the meat is usually placed on a rack in a shallow pan and cooked uncovered in an oven. The temperature usually ranges from 300 to 350 F (149 to 177 C). Broiling and grilling are cooking by the application of direct heat. In broiling, the food lies directly under a continuous heat source. Meat can be broiled by placing it on a rack in a shallow broiler pan. The surface of the meat lies 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) under the flames in a gas range broiler or below the broiler heating unit in an electric oven. Leave the door open slightly when broiling in an electric oven to prevent the air in the oven from becoming too hot. In grilling, the food lies directly over the heat source. Cooks sometimes grill sandwiches in a skillet on the stove. In barbecuing, highly seasoned meat is grilled over hot coals. In panbroiling, the meat cooks in a skillet over a burner. The fat that melts from the meat is poured out of the pan as it accumulates. Frying is the cooking of food in fat, such as butter or vegetable oil. Frying adds fat and calories to food because the food absorbs some of the fat in the pan. There are three main methods of frying: (1) deep-frying, (2) pan frying, and (3) stir-frying. In deep-frying, a large amount of fat is heated to about 350 F (177 C) in a heavy saucepan or an electric appliance called a deep-fryer. The hot fat completely covers the food. Deep-frying is a popular way of cooking chicken, French fried potatoes, and shrimp. In pan frying, also called sauteing, the food cooks in a small amount of fat, usually in a skillet. Chicken, eggs, fish, and red meat are often pan fried. In stir-frying, meat or vegetables cook in a skillet or in a wok, a large, thin metal pan with a round bottom. The food is cut into small pieces and cooked in an extremely small amount of fat. The cook fries the food at a high temperature for only a few minutes and stirs it constantly with a tossing motion. Boiling is cooking food in boiling water, which has a temperature of about 212 F (100 C). In boiling, air bubbles rise to the surface of the water and break. Potatoes and other vegetables are often boiled in a saucepan over a burner. Simmering is cooking food in water that is just below the boiling point. Such foods as eggs and meats should be simmered rather than boiled. Cooks often use covered saucepans to simmer foods. Slow cookers are electric appliances that simmer foods at low temperatures for 4 to 12 hours. A cook puts the food and some water in a slow cooker and sets the temperature. Health experts recommend caution when using a slow cooker for meat and other foods prone to bacterial growth at warm temperatures. Use sanitary methods in preparing the food and keep it refrigerated until just before cooking. Steaming is cooking food in steam. It is used mostly to cook vegetables. To steam vegetables, place them on a rack or perforated pan in a saucepan and add water to the saucepan. The water collects below the rack or perforated pan, and the vegetables remain above--and out of--the liquid. Cover the saucepan and heat it on a burner until the water boils and forms steam, which surrounds and cooks the vegetables. Steaming takes longer than boiling. However, steamed vegetables retain better color and flavor than boiled vegetables do. They also have more nutrients because certain vitamins, including vitamin C, dissolve easily in water and may be removed by boiling. Other methods. Some foods that require a long time to cook, such as stews and dried beans, may be prepared more quickly in a pressure saucepan. This utensil cooks foods at high temperatures by means of steam under pressure. Pressure saucepans are also called pressure cookers. Another fast method of cooking uses microwaves (short radio waves). Microwave ovens heat small amounts of foods much faster than gas or electric ovens or cooktops do. Microwave ovens are especially useful for thawing frozen foods and heating soups, vegetables, and leftovers.