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The French Cooking Techniques

Part 1 - The Basics

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The French Cooking Techniques (Part 1 - The Basics) When you start learning to cook french you will quickly find that the basic techniques used in other cuisines are also used in traditional French cooking. You can not say that they were invented solely in france, however the French were ahead of many others when it came to perfecting and documenting these techniques. You will find that a french chef uses many different methods of cooking, but there are some basics to begin with:

Blanch Blanching is a method, where the food is quickly released in hot water, taken out after a fairly short time and rinsed with cold water. It is often used to peel of the skin of some vegetables more easily, but also to give them a basic tenderness and fresh color. Blanching is a great method to prepare green beens, spinach leaves and other green veggies that you can eat only slightly cooked. In addition vitamins are better preserved when veggies are blanched. View a video introduction to blanching:

FlambĂŠing FlambĂŠing is a technique, where you add alcohol with more then 40% Vol. at the end of the preparation of a dish and than set fire to it. What sounds like a dangerous and somewhat useless thing to do is actually a great way to add a very specific flavor that derives from the alcoholic beverage used and from the burned residuals and juices as well as a slight burn on the surface of the food. FlambĂŠing meat has also the advantage it closes the pores of the meat after the cooking process and therefore keeps the meat juicy. You can use almost any kind of strong alcohol like brandy or cognac, some whiskeys and more.

When flambéing deserts, you might want to sprinkle the surface with brown sugar before, so that you get a nice caramelized crust. Similarly you might want glaze meat before flambéing to benefit from a weak but distinct caramelization. A short video introduction to flambéing:

Sautéing For sautéing you will use a pan or pot with only a small amount of fat (for instance olive oil or clarified butter) over high heat. The vegetable, meat or fish is often cut in slices or thin stripes to facilitate the cooking. It is cooked quickly on each site until tender with the surface moderately browned. Sautéing differs from pan frying in two ways: 1. It is generally less oil or fat involved. 2. The ingredients ar cut in smaller/thinner pieces. Often the heat during sautéing is higher. A video introduction to sauéing:

Poaching (pochier) Poaching is a method where you carefully simmer food in a liquid other than oil or fat. Thereby the temperature is kept moderate to low (160°-185° F) and the poaching time reduced to a minimal. This technique is usually used to prepare delicate ingredients like eggs, poultry and fish. The poaching liquid can be based on milk, stock or wine. The classic court bouillon however is an acid (wine, lemon juice) and aromatics like bouquet garni (bundle of herbs) and mirepoix (onlions, carrots and celery). Two videos about poaching eggs and fish:

Broiling and grilling Broiling and grilling are often used for the same process. where the food is exposed to dry radiant heat. I most countries grilling refers to the method where the food is placed on a grid and the heat is applied from below meanwhile for broiling the heat source is above the food. However in Britain grilling refers to a heat source on top of the oven. It is important to apply an initially high amount of heat to each side of meat or fish and then move it to a slightly cooler place to finish. Two videos about grilling and broiling:

Searing Searing is a technique where you apply very high heat directly to the surface of the ingredient. It has often been claimed, that searing locks in the juices of meat. Experiments do suggest that this is not the case. It is more likely that the searing caramelizes the juices and surface thereby creating a specific taste. Searing is often done in a pan, pot or other flat surface. The concept can even be applied to certain grilling techniques.

Simmering Simmering refers to a process where food is cooked in hot liquids at temperatures just below the boiling point but over the temperature for poaching. Simmering is clearly gentler than cooking and is often applied to food that might otherwise toughen or break. Simmering in milk or cream is often referred to as creaming. Simmering is a very important technique in many asian cuisines, but also takes an important place in the french cuisine.

Braising (braiser) Braising is a cooking method that combines searing with simmering, although often less liquid is added than for simmering. The food is first seared at high temperatures and than finished in a closed pot with the addition of liquid (water, wine, stock), spices and herbs. Many stews and pot-dishes in Northern France are braised. It is a great way to prepare meat that would otherwise be to strong in taste or not tender enough. Braising also allows you to combine the fine browning and caramelization effect of searing with the possibility to add flavor by simmering in a court bouillon with the herbs of choice. A video introduction o braising:

Baking Baking is the application of dry heat over long time by convection (as opposed to radiation) in an oven or less often in ashes or hot stones. It is mostly used for bread, cake, quiche, pies, tarts and similar dishes. A video introduction to baking:

The French Cooking Techniques

Part 1 - The Basics

brought to you by Jean Moore of

French Cooking Techniques - Part 1 (Basics)  
French Cooking Techniques - Part 1 (Basics)  

Description of the major cooking methods used in the french culinary tradition with links to video tutorials.