By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large
If every chef cooked the same, the culinary industry wouldn’t be the diverse one it is today.
There are so many different techniques a chef can choose to use in their kitchen and let’s face it, each culinary mastermind has their favorites.
We decided to ask chefs from all over the country the same question to see what methods they rely on the most. Check out what these stellar chefs had to say.
What are three techniques in the kitchen that you couldn't cook without?
James Knappett, head chef of London’s Kitchen Table:
- Cooking over charcoal. We use pure English wood at Kitchen Table, it’s very interesting to see the changes of flavour that charcoal brings, naturally changing the characteristics of vegetables and meat with that flavour.
- Pickling is one of our big techniques – we find that the best part of this method is being able to use vegetables later on in the year when they aren’t naturally in season. Through thinking ahead and clever preparation and organization, this opens up a wider range of vegetables to us all year round. Another element of preservation that we use at Kitchen Table, is the use of high acidity vinegar. If you make the vinegars to a high enough acidity, raw carrots for example, have actually been broken down through fermentation process and been cooked in the vinegar – a taste that most of our guests haven’t experienced before.
- Roasting in the pan. We cook everything we can in the pan. It’s a traditional method, using thyme, garlic, bay leaves and butter and is sometimes seen as an old school way compared to sous-vide cookery. It is one of the first techniques you learn as a chef, and is still very much present in Kitchen Table's method of cooking.
Clark Bowen, executive chef of Miami’s db Bistro:
- Searing - The most common technique used in a kitchen but not to be overlooked. It makes or breaks the dish, from crispy skin on fish to bringing out flavor in meat and sealing in all those juices.
- Braising - A good braise is one of the happiest, comforting, soulful, satisfying things to eat, whether it is chicken legs for Coq au Vin or a Beef Bourgignion or a leg of lamb. The time and attention given to the browning of the protein, the vegetables, the wine used to deglaze the pan, the quality of stock, when to remove direct heat and how long to cool in the braising liquid.... all these are reflected in the final dish in depth of flavor that is created.
- Curing - My personal favorite. One of the most important techniques for the human race dating back thousands of years, it's the preservation of meat and fish by adding salt, sugar and spices to remove moisture so that food wouldn't spoil. This allowed us to survive through hard winters and famine, feed growing populations, explore across continents, and cross oceans. The advancement of science helped us to further understand the chemical reactions that take place and expand on different ways to cure food. Ham, pastrami, pates, sausages, foie gras, duck confit, braseola, smoked salmon, and BACON!!! I don't know what the world would be like if curing food never existed .
Troy Guard, chef and owner of Denver’s TAG Restaurant Group (Guard and Grace)
- Cooking “Low and Slow” – A great dish doesn’t always come quickly and it’s a matter of dedicating the time it needs to properly prepare it. Guard and Grace’s Oak Fired Octopus is a perfect example. Octopus can be baked, steamed, rapid boiled, etc. However, because we slow cook our octopus, we create a tender dish that melts in your mouth. Put in the time!
- Wood Fired Grill – I love the wood fired grill we have at my steakhouse, Guard and Grace. With proper technique, a wood fired grill can add a recognizable “wow factor” to any dish – it imparts such a deep flavor in the food, and is essential to many of the dishes we produce at Guard and Grace.
- Maintaining an Organized Kitchen – Keeping an organized kitchen allows everything to run smoothly and efficiently. Everything should be clean, properly maintained and in its proper place. I like to say that if there was a blackout in the restaurant, our team should still be able to function and move forward with service.
Ryan Shields, executive chef at Austin's Bullfight:
- Braising - Being able to take a large, heavily worked muscle and apply low heat for an extended period of time with moisture gives the meat this wonderful unctuous texture. You can also use the same technique on the stove top to braise vegetables like carrots, endives, cabbage and more, to elevate textures and flavors.
- Searing/Roasting/Basting -These are three techniques, but I group them all together since everything takes place in one pan. Nothing is more satisfying than for example, taking a lamb leg, separating out all the muscle groups individually, then searing at a high heat on all sides to ensure a nice caramelization. Then you reduce the heat and baste with whole butter, garlic cloves, thyme and rosemary sprigs to flavor the meat.
- Curing- I love the transformation of what salt, sugar and spices can do to proteins, given the right ratio and time. In the past we have done lightly cured Branzini with salt, sugar, Spanish vermouth, lemon, Aleppo pepper, saffron, and fennel pollen. The cure created a soft amber ring around the outside of the fillets, yet the flavor of the vermouth, lemon, and fennel pollen was sutble enough to still be able to taste the fish.
Madeline Koch, executive chef at Chicago’s Nellcôte
- Roasting - Roasting vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness.
- Braising - Braising makes anything extremely tender and it soaks up all the flavors of the liquid you are cooking it in for an added flavor boost.
- Grilling - Grilling over an open fire with wood brings out so much flavor, whether it be meat, fish, or vegetables.
Flashback to a Maude classic: scallop crudo, #blacktruffle soil, salsify barigoule & beet gel. Truffles are the only ingredient that we've featured more than once as the hero ingredient at Maude & this year is our third year of truffle menus. Ressies for Dec's #blacktrufflemonth available on Tues 1st Nov.
Justin Hilbert, executive chef of LA’s Maude
- Purees - silky smooth vegetable purees are one of my favorites.
- Juicing - we use a lot of different juices here at Maude. Fruit and vegetable juices for a variety of applications.
- Roasting - as it is one of the core techniques of cooking.
Rachel Yang, chef and owner of Seattle’s Joule
Jesse Knott, Chef at Detroit's Standby
- Reverse Sear
- Anti Griddle
Gabriel Rucker, chef and owner of Portland’s Le Pigeon