Cookbook | Recipes | Ingredients | Cooking techniques
Frying is the cooking of food in fat. This takes several forms, from deep-frying, where the food is completely immersed in hot oil, to sautéing where food is cooked in a frying pan where there is only a thin coating of oil. Frying is the fastest way to cook, as it is the most efficient way to transfer heat into the food. Despite using liquid oil, frying is considered to be a dry cooking method as water is not used in the cooking process and ideally the cooking oil will not be absorbed by the food, thus no moisture is added by cooking.
Deep frying involves fully immersing food in hot oil. It is an extremely fast cooking method, and, despite the use of liquid oil, is best classified as a dry cooking method because it does not involve liquid water.
Shallow-frying involves partially submerging food in hot oil. Generally, quite a bit less than the bottom third—and occasionally up to half—of the food will be in oil.
The term "pan-frying" is a somewhat ambiguous term that can refer either to shallow-frying or sautéing over lower heat with less agitation. Check your specific recipe for clarifying details when possible.
Sautéing is cooking food in a small quantity of fat or oil. When sautéing, a very small amount of oil is placed in a shallow pan, and when it is sufficiently hot, the food is put into it. Foods that are to be sautéed are usually sliced thin or cut into small pieces, and they are sometimes turned frequently during the process of cooking. The term "sauté" is derived from the French word for "jumping", used to describe the action of the food in the pan. Generally the minimum possible amount of oil is used, which differentiates it from shallow-frying.
Stir-frying involves frying food quickly over very high heat in an oiled pan. While stir-frying, you generally stir continually. A special slope-sided pan called a wok is designed for stir-frying. An open flame heat source such as gas works best when using a wok.
To sweat is to cook moist foods over low heat in a small amount of fat, usually in a covered pan or pot. Often used to describe the way aromatic vegetables such as onions, carrots and celery are cooked prior to adding other ingredients. The objective in sweating vegetables is to soften them and release the moisture in them, not to brown them. This release of moisture is how the term "sweat" gets its name. It is also known as butter-steam. Frequently the fat is provided by rendering fat from some fatty meat, such as bacon, which also adds additional flavor.
- Some frying techniques are accompanied by deglazing, which makes use of the browning that occurs.