4 Classic French Culinary Techniques

Classic culinary techniques from France have been the cornerstone of modern cooking for ages.  Even those of us who have not studied the culinary arts or worked in a professional kitchen have likely become quite skilled at basic French techniques in our home kitchens.  Of course, you can also appreciate these techniques when you enjoy a meal at a modern eatery like Restaurant Sinclair.

BRAISING

Braising is a method which uses dry and moist heat, involving searing food at very high temperatures in order to seal in natural juices.  Once the meat reaches its optimum quality, it is finished in a covered pot.  This process requires proper moisture levels, appropriate temperatures, and enough time to break down the collagen content of the meat.

While you might be familiar with the process of braising, you may not be aware that this method likely came out of the desire to take advantage of less favorable cuts of meat.  Most of the less-desirable—and, thus, less expensive—cuts are tough and need to be softened.  In poorer regions of France, then, this technique would have been very popular.

Today, braising is much easier thanks to technology. If you have ever used a slow-cooker (or a stew pot), you have used this technique.

FLAMBEING

While braising is now quite common to kitchens all over the world—to amateur chefs and basic cooks, alike—flambéing is another popular French technique that is probably less common.  Still, you probably know what this technique involves:  adding alcohol to a pan in order to produce flames that will burn away immediately.  This leaves behind the unique aroma and flavor of iconic dishes such as:

  • Bananas foster
  • cherries jubilee
  • coq au vin

POACHING

Poaching is a French culinary tradition which involve simmering foods, slowly, in liquid. This liquid could be water (as in poached eggs) but could also be milk, stock, or wine.  Fish, poultry, eggs, and fruits are ingredients common to French poaching recipes.

SAUTEING

The basic idea of a saute is a quick cook over high heat, releasing its sugars and turning the ingredients brown while retaining (and even enhancing) natural flavor, texture, and moisture.  Typically you would saute with butter, wine, or oil in a skillet (frying pan), stirring or tossing the ingredients quite regularly.  You must monitor the food constantly, as the high heat can quickly result in burning the dish.   Perhaps it is the “tossing” of the ingredients that gave the technique its name, as “saute” means “to jump” in French.