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Techniques - Essential Recipe Techniques

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Essential Recipe Techniques

Slow cooking provides a convenient one-pot cooking method, but with most dishes there are a few stages of cooking that are needed first, such as marinating, browning the meat, or sautéing vegetables. Each of these techniques adds depth of flavor to the finished dish. Deglazing during cooking is vital for enhancing the taste of your sauce, while reducing and thickening are great troubleshooting techniques for thin sauces.


A marinade is a mixture that meat or fish is steeped in before cooking, and should be made up of acidic ingredients such as wine, citrus juice or vinegar, and salt. Soaking the meat is called marinating, a process that tenderizes and enhances flavor in tougher, cheaper cuts. Trim the meat before marinating and cut it to the required size. Natural yogurt can also be used as a marinade and is a common tenderizer for chicken, turkey, or seafood, although it can be used for red meat as well. Spices, herbs, and aromatic vegetables such as garlic, onion, and ginger are often included in marinades to add extra flavor. Make sure the meat is immersed in the marinade, then leave it in the refrigerator to marinate for 4–12 hours.


This technique caramelizes the natural sugars that are in meat and turns it a rich golden color. Browning adds flavor and depth to your dish, so it is well worth doing at the beginning of the recipe before adding the meat to the other ingredients. Season the meat and add it to a little hot oil or butter in a pan and cook at a medium-high heat. Leave the meat to cook undisturbed for a few minutes. You will know it is ready when it comes away from the bottom of the pan easily. When the underside is golden, turn and cook the other side. Remove the meat and set it aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. You could dust the meat in seasoned flour before browning, as it is a good way to help thicken the consistency of the sauce.


This requires high heat and a good heavy-based saucepan. Sautéing vegetables enables their natural water content to evaporate, thus concentrating their flavor. Heat some oil or butter, add the vegetables to the pan, and cook until they start to caramelize and soften. This takes no longer than around 5–8 minutes, depending on the vegetables you are cooking. Move them around the pan to prevent burning. Always cook the hardest vegetables first as these will take longer. Don’t overcrowd the pan or the vegetables will sweat rather than sauté.


The sauce is all-important as it can make or break the finished dish. Pan sauces and gravies are made from deglazed caramelized juices released from roasted or fried meat, poultry, and vegetables. In slow cooking, this technique is used often after browning and sautéing. Remove the food from the pan and spoon off excess fat, then deglaze the caramelized juices by adding stock, water, or wine. Stir to loosen the particles and incorporate them into the liquid. Reduce and finish as required. Making a sauce like this gives a richness and depth of flavor that cannot be achieved just by simmering ingredients.

Reducing and thickening

When a sauce is too thin, it can be either reduced or thickened to improve its flavor and texture. Reducing decreases the sauce’s volume through evaporation and intensifies its flavor. To reduce, cook in an uncovered pan over high heat, stirring occasionally. Add stock and bring back to boil, then boil, uncovered, for about 20 minutes to reduce again by half, regularly skimming off any impurities. Thickening gives sauces extra body and consistency. There are different ways to do this. A simple method is to dissolve cornstarch in water and add the mixture to the simmering dish. You could also add a roux—a mixture of flour and water—stirring it into the simmering sauce and cooking to prevent it from turning the sauce lumpy.

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