A great deal of mastering cooking is understanding the basics. A solid foundation will set you up for success in your culinary career, whether that’s in a fast casual chain, a hotel kitchen, or a fine dining restaurant.
And once you know those core techniques, it may be time to branch out. By expanding your culinary horizons and trying new techniques, you can make yourself more valuable to current and future employers — and have some fun along the way.
If you’re a culinary daredevil, read on to learn about a few advanced cooking techniques that may help you throughout your career.
Anti-Griddle — For Flash Freezing
Almost every chef is familiar with the griddle. This flat, metal surface generates even, controlled heat, which is perfect for cooking everything from pancakes to grilled cheese to seafood.
Unlike the hot griddle, the anti-griddle pumps refrigerant to generate an extremely cold surface – as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit – which flash freezes sauces, foams, and purees into a semi-solid state. In less than 90 seconds, liquids can become semi-solid with crunchy outer shells covering cool, creamy centers.
Used in molecular gastronomy, the anti-griddle was dreamt up by the team at the famous Chicago restaurant Alinea. They collaborated with innovators at PolyScience to come up with a brand new piece of cooking equipment.
It takes a certain level of skill to use the anti-griddle without ruining your desserts or sauces, but it’s a unique technique to bring with you throughout your culinary career.
Chaunk — For Blooming Spices
Blooming spices by toasting them in a warm pan is a common method of bringing out the richness of their flavors.
Another way of getting a similar effect is to fry those spices in a hot source of fat, like oil or ghee. Blooming spices in fat is called chaunk. Also referred to as baghar or tadka, this cooking method has origins across India and parts of the Middle East.
Different regions have their own preferred fat sources and combinations of spices. Cumin, mustard seeds, coriander, fennel, turmeric, and cinnamon are common, along with fresh ingredients like onion, ginger, chiles, and garlic.
At Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, students will explore techniques and global flavors in the World Cuisines course, where they take a culinary “road trip” through the food traditions of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas.
Making chaunk is a straightforward process, but the balance of your flavors is important. For example, a flavorful oil like coconut may work well for a chaunk served alongside a chutney. But it might compete with the flavors of saag paneer — a spinach and cheese dish.
Escoffier students explore the balance of taste, aroma, and texture as part of their curriculum. This focus on the flavor profile helps them to see a dish as a whole, so they can anticipate how the chaunk will impact the final product!
Engastration — For Creative Layering
Over the last 30 years or so, a new holiday meal trend has emerged: The turducken, or a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. Yet this trend of placing food inside other food, officially called engastration, has existed for hundreds of years, all the way back to the Middle Ages.
Another savory engastration creation is Pandora’s cushion—a goose stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a quail — which was popular in the 19th century. And on the sweet side is the Cherpumple, which contains three pies (cherry, pumpkin, and apple), all stacked and cooked inside a cake.
Engastration leads to impressive entrees and desserts, but it can be complicated. These creations can take several days to complete, since the individual parts may have to be cooked separately. And chefs must be extra careful that each component is cooked to a safe temperature before eating.
Food safety is an important part of a culinary school education. At Escoffier, culinary arts students start their programs with Culinary Foundations, which covers basic techniques like food safety and sanitation.
Double Boiling — For Perfect Sauces and Tempered Chocolate
A double boiler is a simple concept. A pot full of water sits on a burner, while a smaller pot or bowl sits inside. As the water in the first pot boils, the steam sends gentle heat to whatever is cooking in the pot above.
This method lets chefs make egg-based sauces without scrambling the eggs, or temper chocolate to give it a smooth finish and a nice snap when you bite into it.
The trick to most double boiler recipes is to keep stirring and prevent whatever you’re cooking from getting too hot. That’s how you get lumpy hollandaise or seized chocolate! But when you’ve perfected this technique, you’ll be a master of these finicky recipes.
Start with the Basics
Learning is a lifelong process for every successful chef. If you are looking to enhance your culinary chops with new skills and techniques, contact us to learn more about an education in the culinary or pastry arts!
Looking for more tips and techniques in the culinary arts?
- 5 Culinary Skills You Can Take With You Wherever You Go
- The Best Chef Knives To Have in the Kitchen
- Making a Classic Risotto with Chef Curtis Duffy
This article was originally published on December 28, 2015, and has since been updated.