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Cooking Methods Part 1 : Dry Heat


Lamb chops by mdid, on Flickr

Pan-frying lamb chops

While there are different kinds of frying, each involves cooking food over a direct heat, in oil or fat of varying amounts. As fat can reach much higher temperatures than water or stock, meat can be seared and browned in similar ways to other dry heat methods.


During cooking, the meat will not only absorb some of the fat it’s cooked in, but any excess fat which is “cooked off” will remain in the pan. While this adds flavour to the dish, it also increases both the fat and calorie content.

Pan-Frying and sautéing

Pan-frying and sautéing both use a very small amount of oil to lubricate the pan and stop food burning on.

Sautéing typically uses a higher heat than pan-frying, meaning the ingredients need to be kept moving to avoid burning.

Pan-fried items, on the other hand, are usually left for longer on each side, often only turned once during cooking. Steak fans, particularly those of us who prefer it on the rare side, will already be well acquainted with this method!


Using a small amount of oil and constant motion, stir-frying is very similar to sautéing, only taking place within the iconic wok.

The term stir-frying actually covers two separate Chinese cooking techniques, Chao – which is the closest to sautéing in execution – and Bao. If you want to find out more about these methods, you can read the Wikipedia page here.


Unlike the thin coating in pan-frying, shallow-fried foods are partially submerged in oil, leading to a greater degree of “browning”. Done correctly, the results are light and crispy, though care must be taken not to overcook as ingredients can quickly become greasy and soggy.

Even when cooked quickly, shallow-frying will absorb fat from its environment. As such, we don’t recommend regularly preparing food in this way, particularly if you have high cholesterol or similar conditions.


Whether its fish-and-chips, pizzas or Mars Bars, we’ve encountered deep-fried foods at some point.

Cooked by entirely submerging in hot fat (usually around 350°F – 375°F), deep fat frying differs from other frying techniques in that is has a uniform, encompassing (rather than a direct) heat source. It also requires a special fryer, rather than a standard pan.

Like shallow-frying, deep-fried foods are light and crunchy when done correctly, though lower temperatures and longer submersion times will lead to a greasier end product (if you want the science behind how deep-frying works, you can read the Wikipedia entry here)

Deep-frying rightly has a bad reputation health-wise – deep frying chicken breast can more than double its calorie value and quadruple its saturated fat levels, even if cooked rapidly. One to save for the occasional treat, then!

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