During the process of cooking, heat is applied to food in some way or other. The amount of heat and the form of heat depends upon the food to be cooked.
Methods which may be used are….
The majority of cooking in India is done over an open fire or some modification such as Chula stove and so baking and roasting which need an oven.
Methods of Cooking
To boil food is to cook it in water, which is maintained at a temperature of 1000 C. For this the water must be bubbling free, but steadily, all over the surface. Violent bubbling does not give any higher temperature, nor cooked food more quickly, and it tends to break up the food placed in it, besides being a waste of fuel. The temperature may be regulated by varying the amount of firewood.
Boiling is satisfactory for cereals, pulses, dhal and vegetables. It is not a good cooking method for meat and fish because it hardens the fibres of flesh foods.
Simmering is a modification of boiling, being to cook food in water just under boiling point. The temperature should be about 840C and this is indicated when an occasional bubble comes to the surface of the water, but if the bubbles rise continually the temperature is too high.
Simmering is useful for meat and fish because the temperature is high enough to coagulate the protein but not high enough to harden the fibres.
Poaching is similar to simmering, using water or other liquid in an open pan. This method is used particularly for eggs and fish.
Stewing is to simmer food very slowly with only a little liquid in a covered pan on top of the stove. The addition of onions, tomatoes or diced(cut into small cubes), root vegetables, and some condiments (spices) and herbs can make a meat stew very appetizing.
Steaming is cooking food in the vapour which rises from boiling water. This may be done by placing the food container in a steamer above a pan containing boiling water coming only partway up its sides. It is rather slower process than boiling, but flesh food can be made very tender by this method. Care must be taken to see that the pan of water does not boil dry.
Steamed food tends to be tasteless and therefore needs a good sauce to make it taste better.
Frying is cooking food in a very hot fat or oil. It is one of the quickest methods of cooking and should be done in an open pan. The fat to be used for frying must be free from moisture and must have a high melting point so that it can be heated to a high temperature before it smokes and burns. A good frying oil is one that does not smoke at ordinary cooking temperature. To test when the oil is ready for frying, fry piece of bread in oil. If it takes more than a minute to brown, the oil is too cold. For foods that have been pre-cooked, the pieces of bread should brown in a half minute.
For shallow frying, the fat in the pan needs to be only about 5cm deep. The fat should be hot and quite smooth on the surface when the food is put into it. When browned on one side, the food should be turned and browned on the other side. This method is satisfactory for fish cakes, cutlets and thin cuts of meat, fish and bacon.
Deep Fat Frying
For deep fat frying a deep heavy pan is needed. The pan should be not more than half full or fat should be heated until its stops bubbling, and its quite smooth, and has a faint blue smoke rising from the surface. The food should be lowered gently into the fat, and several pieces may be fried at one time. If too many pieces are put in together, the fat will get too cool and will soak into the food and make it greasy and oily. When cooked, the food must be lifted out and the extra fat allowed draining off. The food should not be greasy when served.
Baking is to cook food with hot air all around it. This method can be used for almost any food but particularly for bread, biscuits, cakes and pastry. An oven is needed for baking. This is really a metal box with a door on one side, which can be heated by placing over a fire, or oil, gas, or electricity. Food is placed on shelves inside and is cooked by the dry heat of the hot air inside the oven. The type of oven used for this method of cooking is not common in Indians homes, but when purchased an instruction book giving details for use is usually given. However a simple oven can be made from a kerosene tin. Live coals of fire placed on top help to make the heat inside the tin more even.
Roasting is similar to baking, but the food is placed in hot fat in a baking tin in the oven so that it cooks partly in the hot fat and partly in the hot air. This method is very good for cooking large joints of meat, and for root vegetables.
Grilling is cooking food by exposing it directly to very great heat either in front of a bright, hot fire or with a special grilling plate. Stoves heated by gas and electricity are usually fitted with plates which can be heated for grilling. This method can be used for making toast and for cooking thin cuts of meat and fish.