Types of cooking also depend on the skill levels and training of cooks. Cooking is done both by people in their own dwellings and by professional cooks and chefs in restaurants and other food establishments. Cooking can also occur through chemical reactions without the presence of heat, such as in ceviche, a traditional South American dish where fish is cooked with the acids in lemon or lime juice or orange juice.
Preparing food with heat or fire is an activity unique to humans. It may have started around 2 million years ago, though archaeological evidence for it reaches no more than 1 million years ago.
The expansion of agriculture, commerce, trade, and transportation between civilizations in different regions offered cooks many new ingredients. New inventions and technologies, such as the invention of pottery for holding and boiling water, expanded cooking techniques. Some modern cooks apply advanced scientific techniques to food preparation to further enhance the flavor of the dish served.
There are very many methods of cooking, most of which have been known since antiquity. These include baking, roasting, frying, grilling, barbecuing, smoking, boiling, steaming and braising. A more recent innovation is microwaving. Various methods use differing levels of heat and moisture and vary in cooking time.
The method chosen greatly affects the end result because some foods are more appropriate to some methods than others. Some major hot cooking techniques include:
A cook sautees onions and green peppers in a skillet.
Roasting – Barbecuing – Grilling/Broiling – Rotisserie – Searing
Baking – Baking Blind – Flashbaking
Boiling – Blanching – Braising – Coddling – Double steaming – Infusion – Poaching – Pressure cooking – Simmering – Smothering – Steaming – Steeping – Stewing – Stone boiling – Vacuum flask cooking
Fry – Air frying — Deep frying – Gentle frying - Hot salt frying – Hot sand frying – Pan frying – Pressure frying – Sautéing – Shallow frying – Stir frying — Vacuum frying
Steaming works by boiling water continuously, causing it to vaporise into steam; the steam then carries heat to the nearby food, thus cooking the food. By many it is considered a healthy form of cooking, holding nutrients within the vegetable or meat being cooked.
En papillote – The food is put into a pouch and then baked, allowing its own moisture to steam the food.
Smoking is the process of flavoring, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood.