The Basic Methods of French Cooking

woman-cooking
French Cooking Methods - Baking. Emma Innocenti/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Without a doubt, French cooking is considered the basic method of so much of the cooking in the Western world. The great chefs of the classic French kitchen, Escoffier, Larousse et al are to be held responsible for the promotion and acceptance of French being the accepted method. However, it is the validity and success of these techniques which have made them so loved and respected and how we ever managed without them is a wonder.

 

In the States, thanks must go to Julia Child for the bringing of the wonders of French cooking to such widespread adoration; her tomes on Mastering the Art of French Cooking are still considered classics. 

So what exactly are these basic methods used not just in France but in many other forms of cuisine? 

What are the Basic Methods of French Cooking?

French chefs use many numerous intricate cooking methods also used elsewhere, but there are a few basic techniques at the heart of every French kitchen which once mastered will take your cooking to another level, whichever cuisine you are following. 

  • Flambéing is a somewhat dangerous technique as it involves raising the temperature of the ingredients involved (often meat juices and the basis for sauces) to very, very hot and adding some form of alcohol (Brandy is a favorite with sauces). At such a high temperature, the alcohol burns away quickly and it is the flavors left behind which are imparted to the food.  
  • Sautéing (the word comes from the French Sauter - to jump) This is essentially shallow frying where a minimum amount of hot fat is used to cook foods, the most famous being sauteed potatoes. The foods are cooked very quickly, literally jumping in the hot food. This method is used in range-top cooking only. 
  • Poaching is a gentle way to cook food by simmering in boiling water to create a tender texture and retain maximum flavor. Eggs are the most common, however, fish, chicken and often vegetables can also be poached but not always in water, milk and or stock can also be used this will again impart flavor the food. 
  • Broiling and Grilling are nearly identical because they both cook an oiled piece of food over (or under if using a stove grill, not a barbecue) direct, moderately high heat. Using too high a heat will burn, rather than cook the food, so should be approached with caution. 
  • Braising where (usually meat) is seared on a high heat then cooked using a small amount of flavorful liquid to cook food. This is a great method for cooking cheaper cuts of meat. 
  • Baking is a dry heat method using an oven to cook food.

Updated by Elaine Lemm