Best Cooking Techniques By Ingredient

Recently, when posting tips on how to cook without recipes, I suggested learning one or two techniques for each ingredient that you cook most frequently. Just as a guide, here are the techniques I’ve identified for my own personal cooking. These suggestions will give you a place to get started, especially if you’re just learning how to cook. I’ve linked to specific instructions if they were posted previously on my blog.

Please note: These suggestions do not represent every possible way you can cook an ingredient, just the methods that I like best and use most frequently. Also, not all ingredients are listed, because I don’t eat everything. Substitutions are noted when applicable.

Apples: raw in salads or applesauce

Asparagus: pan-roast

Avocados: raw in salads

Bacon: pan-fry or roast

Beans, lentils and peas (dried): simmer in the slow cooker

Berries: puree (especially frozen) to mix in yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies or for sorbets and popsicles

Broccoli: blanch for salads or crudites; otherwise, braise; substitute broccoli rabe or cauliflower

Cabbage: raw in salads or braise; substitute brussels sprouts (cooked)

Carrots: raw in salads, braise or glaze; substitute beets, parsnips or turnips (cooked)

Chicken: grill, pan-fry (cutlets), pan-roast (boneless breasts) or roast (bone-in pieces); substitute shrimp or scallops for boneless breasts

Clams and Mussels: steam

Cucumbers: pickle or raw in salads

Edamame: boil or simmer; substitute fava beans or lima beans

Eggplant: grill or roast

Eggs: bake, boil, fry, poach or scramble

Fish: pan-fry (thin fillets), pan-sear (thick fillets and steaks) or poach (especially salmon)

Garlic: roast

Grains: boil or pilaf

Green beans: simmer

Greens (chard, collards, kale, etc.): boil or wilt in bacon fat

Mushrooms: roast or saute

Onions: caramelize, glaze (pearl onions) or grill

Pasta: boil, pilaf (orzo) or risotto-style

Peas (including sugar snap and snow peas): boil or stir-fry

Peppers: roast

Potatoes: bake (russets), mash (Yukon gold), pan-fry (diced or sliced) or roast (red or new)

Rice: boil, pilaf or stir-fry (leftover cooked rice)

Sausage: grill, roast or saute

Spinach: wilt

Sweet potatoes: bake, hash browns or mash

Tomatoes: raw in salads, roast or saute (cherry tomatoes)

Winter squash: roast or simmer; substitute celeriac, pumpkin or rutabaga

Zucchini: grill or saute; substitute summer squash


3 thoughts on “Best Cooking Techniques By Ingredient

  1. skinny101grly 18 July 2010 at 8:54 am

    This is a great go-to list!

  2. Lelia 17 January 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I love the idea of a favorite-methods-by-ingredient list; yours gave me some fresh ideas for veggies. You’ve also inspired me to start keeping my own list!

  3. Shannon 18 January 2011 at 9:33 am

    That’s great, Lelia!

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