Put on your apron and adjust your chef's hat because now this is where things start to get fun! We have a secure internet connection, bought the necessary tools, and stocked our kitchens with the freshest ingredients. It’s time to get to work!
Welcome to a virtual cooking class.
Wait, did you just say you don’t know the difference between boiling and blanching? Or can’t decipher poaching from roasting? No problem! That’s what I’m here for.
There are so many cooking techniques and terminologies - many of which are often used interchangeably, that it’s pretty easy to get confused. I certainly didn’t learn them all overnight. So before we start basting, where we should be broiling or searing when the recipe calls for sautéing (yes, there is a difference), let me summarize a few techniques you will learn in my virtual cooking class.
1. Braising the Bar
In my virtual cooking class, How to Be a Better Cook, I will teach you how to braise. What is braising, and how is it similar to stewing? This is a great question! Brown braising (there are two types, brown and white) consists of cooking protein or veggies by browning them in an uncovered pan until a beautiful and flavorful crust develops. It is then covered and cooked further in the pan with a small amount of liquid (water, stock, broth, wine, etc.), covering about half of what you are braising, not submerging it.
This method differs from stewing because while both start similarly, braising doesn’t require being completely immersed in liquid. In contrast, stewing does, and the latter typically yields the best results with smaller cuts of meat - cubed, diced, or chunked, while braising allows for larger, intact portions.
Braising and stewing times usually range from an hour and a half to 3 hours. When it’s falling apart and tender to the bite, you will know it’s ready.
2. Pardon my French
Sautéing. Sounds fancy, right? Don’t let this elegant French word for “to jump” fool you. It’s similar to pan frying - it involves browning food in a small amount of fat over high heat. The virtual cooking class will teach us about this versatile, easy, and quick cooking method. Home from work and need to cook something fast - this is the go to technique - saute fish and top with sauteed cherry tomatoes with fresh herbs to make a fresh and flavorful dinner in less than 15 minutes. What about the aromatics that need a bit of caramelization before being transferred to a soup base? No problem.
You’ll want to coat your pan with a small amount of fat, let it heat up, and then add your ingredients - but avoid overcrowding. In virtual cooking class, you will learn that when sautéing meats, it is best to select tender cuts that require a short cooking time. With your tongs, you will want to move your ingredients around quickly once you begin to hear that melodious sizzle. Heat burns things. This we know. And the goal here is for whatever you cook to get brown and crispy and stay juicy and moist.
3. A Roast to the Good Life
Question: What is a relatively easy and slow cooking process that uses indirect and circulated heat to cook its ingredients? If you answered roasting, you are correct!
In virtual cooking class, I will show you how roasting, typically done in a simple roaster pan, beautifully caramelizes and browns the outside, forming a flavorful and almost multidimensional crust.
Often associated with meat, such as chicken, pork, and beef, roasting can be a delicious alternative to steaming or stir-frying vegetables. I love roasting vegetables as it is so simple, chop them in uniform pieces, toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and pop them in the oven until golden.
Here’s a virtual cooking class tip - try to resist the urge to sneak a peek at your roast while it’s cooking. Believe it or not, you lose a significant amount of heat each time you open the oven, and this can prevent browning and add time to your cooking.
4. In the (Sauce) Pan
Sauces. They can either make or break a dish. But don’t let that scare you. In my virtual cooking class, I will show you that this does not need to be a complicated or complex process.
Sauces are simply meant to add another layer of flavor and can help an otherwise dry dish. When making sauces during a virtual cooking class, we will be able to break out some of our favorite culinary gadgets, such as an immersion blender which will aid in whipping up sauces and creating emulsions (A mixture of two or more liquids) at a rapid rate.
A whisk and/or wooden spoons are perfect for stirring roux and a variety of other sauces. The blender and food processor classics are virtual cooking class favorites. You will love the convenience of a blender when making a larger batch of sauce, while the food processor is an optimal choice when the goal is a chunkier creation such as pesto.
5. Blanching Out
This may seem an irrelevant step in the cooking process, but let me explain why blanching is essential. You may have heard about this method but never really got around to trying it. Blanching is where we take food; usually a vegetable or fruit, place it in boiling water, remove it after a brief, timed interval, and then plunge it into iced water or under cold running water to stop the cooking process. The blanched vegetables can then be enjoyed as sides, tossed in salads and pasta dishes, or used as appetizers.
This cooking method also halts enzyme actions, which can strip foods' flavor, color, and texture. Blanching retains the fruit and veggies natural color and vibrant color if cooked properly.
6. Stop, Chop & Roll
One of, if not the most beneficial skills I will teach you in a virtual cooking class is how to use a knife confidently. This is usually the first step chefs learn in culinary school. In the virtual cooking class, we will focus on learning how to hold and grip the knife correctly and apply the appropriate technique for your recipe. And even if you’ve julienned and brunoised plenty in your day, are you as efficient as you could be? Together, let’s sharpen our skills (c’mon, that was kind of funny!) and conquer the art of slicing and dicing, chopping and mincing once and for all! Sign up for How to Be a Better Cook on October 6! Also, sign up for my monthly newsletter, Gather, to learn about cooking, gardening, and entertaining. See how to cultivate confidence, calm, creativity, and connection in the kitchen; tips on techniques, flavor profiles, recipes, cooking without recipes, products, tools, and food recommendations.