#1 Heat: Your Friend and Foe

Basics of cooking. Unit 1: An introduction to heat.

This is a part of the Basics series, intended to help novice cooks with what I consider to be the building blocks of food and cooking. It would be nice if you started from the top and worked your way to the bottom.

This started with trying to help novice cooks in my Facebook group, Chef at Large and I thought of copying the same content here too.

Your best friend and worst enemy while cooking, is usually heat. Too little and your food is raw, too much and it’s burnt. Other unwanted effects include being cooked just right on the outside and raw/chilled on the inside.

Heat also removes harmful bacteria from food, may increase or reduce nutritional elements within different foods and so on.

Understanding how heat works, how it’s conducted and how it effects different foods is one of the keys to making your time in the kitchen a little easier and more productive.

There are three types of heat transfer:

  • Conduction: via direct
  • Convection: via a medium like air or
  • Radiation: via direct heat/MW waves from a source

I’m not a trainer in this subject, and might skip steps that are important for a structured lesson. If you think I’m doing so, please ask for more details.

These methods of heat transfer translate into different types of cooking techniques, such as grilling, roasting, boiling, stewing etc. Even within the context of a pot, one can have different methods such as stewing, braising, jugging, boiling etc.

At the end of the day, you’ll find it’s all about the heat and how it’s transferred, using what medium and for how long.

The easiest way to understand heat better, is eggs. I’m sorry, but I don’t know of any vegetarian food that behaves in the same manner.

Eggs can be cooked with many different kinds of heat and heat transmission, and they’re so sensitive to heat that they become the ideal foods to begin with, and end with.

Why do I say ‘end with’? Because trained chefs also need quite a bit of practice before they’re able to master eggs. If I were to use one ingredient to test how good a cook is, that would be eggs.

Would you like to try answering these? Your answers will help others.

  • How many ways do you think eggs can be cooked
  • How many types of heat conduction have you used in your
  • Can you share a method of cooking that doesn’t use heat? (excluding salads and fruit)
  • What do you think happens when we introduce too much heat too fast?