Joni Sare, cooking instructor

Using Cooking Methods versus Recipes

I used a combination of “searing” and “sauté” cooking method, not a recipe, to make this Seared Salmon with broccoli and zucchini.

My goal is to help you be autonomous in the kitchen — to make decisions easily and with certainty. And you can do that by using cooking methods (versus recipes), which also enables your creativity.

Once you know a cooking method you will be able to put the cookbooks away and create your own favorite dishes.

What’s your go-to cooking method? Share in the comments, below. When I cook for myself, I generally cook a one-pot meal and use a combination of steam, sear and saute. But I use broiling a lot, too (watch for that blog post). 

Two tips to cooking without a recipe

The secret to being a good cook is to have an understanding of how food reacts to time and temperature. In other words, to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of cooking science. A favorite author on this subject is Alton Brown and Harold McGee. I also enjoy reading the “why this recipe works” in Cook’s Illustrated magazine. 

Tip #1 — be familiar with common cooking methods

Cooking without a recipe is cooking with a process. How is that accomplished? By using a method, such as searing, sauteing, braising, steaming, baking and roasting. Each of these methods have a specific starting point and you’ll need to know the steps to reach the outcome.

Tip #2 — know when to adjust time and heat

A salmon filet versus a salmon steak will react differently even though you’re using the same method. These food will react differently even though you’re using the same cooking method: sliced beets versus a whole beet, or thinly-sliced carrots versus wide-sliced carrots, ground chicken versus a chicken breast, spinach versus collard greens. You can use the same method, however, you’ll need to adjust time and heat.

I used a roasting cooking method (not a recipe) to cook these veggies.

Common cooking methods

Here are the cooking methods that I use most often. You’ll see a comprehensive list here on Wikipedia, and here on RecipeTips — with explanations.

On the stove top:

  1. Blanch
  2. Braise
  3. Fry
  4. Grill/BBQ
  5. Reduce
  6. Saute
  7. Sear
  8. Simmer
  9. Steam
  10. Stir fry
In the oven:
  1. Bake
  2. Braise
  3. Broil
  4. Dehydrate
  5. Microwave
  6. Roast
  7. Steam
On the counter, in the fridge and freezer:
  • Acidulate
  • Blend
  • Ferment
  • Freeze
  • Glaze
  • Juice
  • Marinate

Recipes versus cooking methods

The benefit of using RECIPES

  • Created for you: no need to reinvent the wheel. You can see what other people are doing with specific ingredients, temperatures, length of time, etc.
  • Reliability: you have a safe bet that following their directions is going to work.
  • End goal: you know what the final outcome will look like.

The drawbacks of using RECIPES

  • Limiting: they are limiting because you get one dish. UNLESS you understand the principles of the recipe — the cooking method.
  • Leftover ingredients: that can spoil before using it up
  • Settings vary: the timing and heat settings will be slightly different for you than what is stated in recipes because you are using different equipment (the oven and stovetop, skillets and saucepans).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Scroll to Top