Cooking is the preparation of food in readiness for eating, using heat to render tissues palatable, digestible attractive and safe for consumption.
Reasons Why do we need to cook our food
- To aid digestion and make it easier to swallow.
- To provide variety of food to be eaten.
- To sterilize the food item and making it safe for consumption.
- It makes the food attractive and appetizing
- It prolongs the shelf life by preserving it for later use.
Methods of Cooking
Cooking methods refers to the specific ways of cooking some dishes or various ways of cooking some dishes. The various methods of cooking depend on the nature of food to be prepared, size of the cut number of people etc.
Generally, all cooking methods depend on one of the following principles:
- Radiation: is the process of transferring heat from one source to another in direct rays on the object e.g. microwaving.
- Conduction: Here heat transfers through solid objects by contact. Metal objects transfer heat more quickly than wood used for wooden spoons etc. Conduction is the principle involved in the solid electric ranges used as hot plates, etc.
- Convection: This is the transfer of heat particles of gasses or liquid on heating. They become lighter and less dense, rising to the top while the colder particles take their place at the bottom thus causing convention current which distributes heat e.g. Boiling.
Types of Cooking Method
- Boiling (conduction)
- Poaching (convection)
- Steaming (convection)
- Braising (convection)
- Pot roasting (convection)
- Stewing (convection)
- Roasting (convection)
- Baking (convection)
- Grilling (radiation)
- Frying (deep and shallow) (convection)
- Paper bag (en papillotte) cooking
- Microwave (radiation)
1. Boiling Method
This is a moist type of cooking method. The food are cooked in a covered water or stock. It is the most common method of cooking and also the simplest. With this method of cooking, the water is added to the food and it is then cooked on the fire. The reactions of the heated water or liquid starts to bubble vigorously and makes the food to get cooked. Examples of foods that can be cooked using this method are: yam, rice , maize etc.
The equipment used for boiling include: Stockpots, saucepans, boiling pans, bratt pans.
Purpose Of Boiling Foods
- The food will be pleasant to eat with an agreeable flavour
- Boiling gives food a suitable texture eg. it becomes tender or slightly firm according to the food.
- Boiling renders the food safe to eat and preserves the nutrient in the food, if served with the water.
- It makes food digest easily.
Effect Of Boiling
Gentle boiling helps break down the tough (high) fibre structure of certain foods that would be less tender if cooked by other methods. When meat is boiled for long, the soluble meat extracts dissolve in the cooking liquid. Boiling should be slow to give time for the connective tissues in tough meat to change to soluble gelatine.
This reduces the fibres making the meat tender. If the connective tissue gelatinizes too quickly the fibres fall apart becoming tough and stringly. Gentle heat will ensure coagulation of the protein without hardening. Sufficient liquid should cover the article to be cooked.
Advantages Of Boiling
- It is a safe, quick and simple procedure.
- Older, tougher and cheaper joints of meat and poultry can be made palatable and digestible.
- It is good for large scale cookery and it economises fuel.
- Nutritious well flavoured stock is produced.
- It reduces labour as boiling needs little attention.
Disadvantages of Boiling
- Vitamin B and C are destroyed by prolonged heat.
- Valuable mineral salts and flavours dissolve in the boiling water which is usually thrown away.
- The flavour of food is not always developed e.g. soups, etc.
2. Stewing Method
Stewing is the slow cooking of foods cut into pieces in a minimum amount of liquid (water, sauce or stock) in a covered pot over low heat. The food is served with the liquid. This method has economical and nutritional advantage as it will render tender and palatable older, tougher and bigger cuts of meat or poultry unsuitable for grilling or roasting.
The success of cooking such foods depends on not allowing the liquid to get to very high temperature (boiling). Slow cooking by gentle heat (simmering) converts the connective tissue to gelatine so that the meat fibres fall apart easily and become digestible. The protein gets coagulated without over hardening and the soluble nutrients and flavours dissolve into the liquid all of which is served. Cheaper cuts of meat and certain fish dishes, poultry and vegetables are cooked by this method.
Equipment Used For Stewing
- Sauce pan
- Boiling pan
- Bratt pans or oven proof dishes (in case of stewing in the oven)
Purpose Of Stewing
- To produce an acceptable flavour, texture and quality offood.
- It conserves the nutrients in foods.
Methods Of Stewing
All stewing have a thickened consistency achieved by:
a. Cooking in the sauce e.g. Brown stew.
b. Thickening the cooking liquid e.g. white stew
c. Encompassing ingredients in the stew e.g. fish stew. Stewed foods can be cooked in a covered pan on a . stove or moderate oven, the heat is lowered and the food allowed to simmer.
Advantages Of Stewing
a. The meat juice that escapes from the meat during cooking are retained in the liquid which is part of the stew.
b. Correct slow cooking results in very little evaporation.
c. Nutrients are conserved.
d. Tough foods are tenderized.
e. lt economizes labour since food can be cooked in bulk.
Disadvantages Of Stewing
It is a slow method of cooking.
The long cooking period destroys some valuable nutrients in the food e.g. Vitamin C present in fruits and vegetables.
3. Steaming Method
This is the cooking of prepared foods by steam (moist heat) arising from boiling water under varying degrees of pressure. Foods cooked by this method are mostly African dishes, like Beans pudding (moinmoin), Ukpo Oka in lbo orAfrican corn cake (shapala), others are egg custard, steamed pudding, fish and some vegetables.
Methods of Steaming
Atmospheric or low pressure steaming. Direct cooking in a steamer or pot of boiling water e.g. steak and kidney pudding. Indirect method in a colander (between two plates) over a pan of boiling water.
High pressure steaming in a purpose built equipment which does not allow the steam to escape.
Purpose of Steaming
- Food will be easy to digest.
- Food will have edible texture, pleasant and safe to eat.
- Food will be as nutritious as possible since nutritive loss is minimized because food does not come in direct contact with water. The pot of water is put on the tire with sticks or leaves arranged at the platform. The food must be wrapped neatly in clean leaves or nylon. Banana leaves can be used.Arrange wrapped food on the platform and cover the pot tightly to prevent steam from escaping.
Effect Of Steaming
When food is steamed, the structure and texture is changed by chemical action, making it edible. The texture will vary according to the type of food, type of steamer and degree of heat. Sponges and puddings are lighter in texture if steamed rather than when baked.
Advantages Of Steaming
- Retention of nutrients. It is a conservative method of cooking that prevents loss of nutrients.
- Steamed foods are lighter and more digestible making them suitable for invalids.
- Low pressure steaming reduces the risk of over cooking protein.
- High pressure steaming enables foods to be cooked or reheated quickly because the steam forced through the food cooks it rapidly.
- It is labour saving and suitable for large scale cooking.
- It is economical as regards fuel because low heat is needed and multitiered steamer can be used.
Disadvantages Of Steaming
- A slow method of cooking.
- Only suitable for smaller cuts or pieces of food.
- It wastes (consumes) fuel if multitiered steamer is not used.
- If not well seasoned steamed foods seem tasteless.
4. Frying Method
This is cooking in fat or hot oil (moist heat). It requires constant and careful attention. Though not an easy method, it is quick but very unsuitable for tough meat.
Types Of Frying
1. Shallow Frying: This is when food is cooked in small quantity of preheated fat or oil in a shallow pan, on a flat surface or sauté pan. in the case of shallow frying, any fat or oil may be used (butter, margarine, vegetable oil, groundnut oil or palm oil) and as a general rule the side to be presented should be fried first. The food is turned and cooked on the other side e.g. Beef, fish, pancakes etc. but in certain cases. eg. Potatoes, they are tossed in the pan and the French term saute is here used in one of its forms.
Purpose Of Shallow Frying
a. It gives variety to the menu and diet by making the food palatable and safe to eat.
b. It gives food an attractive brown colour and interesting flavour.
Advantages of Shallow Frying
Shallow frying is a quick method of cooking prime cut of meat and poultry in suitable fat or oil, heated to higher temperature without burning. As the food is in direct contact with the fat. it cooks rapidly.
2. Deep Frying
This is cooking of food in pre heated deep oil or clarified fat. The selected fat should be raised to a high temperature without burning. The best oil for frying is olive oil but it is vegetable oil like cotton seed, palm oil, groundnut oil or a first class dripping or vegetable fat that is generally used. Food to be deep fried includes dodo, akara, puff-puff, burns, yam, doughnut etc.
Advantages Of Deep Frying
- Blanching or partial cooking enables certain foods to be kept for cooking later e.g. during busy service penods.
- Coating foods enables a wide variety to be fried at the same time.
- Food can be cooked quickly and easily handled for service.
- Coated foods are quickly sealed, hence preventing the enclosed food from becoming greasy.
- The nutrients are sealed in and conserved.