There is more to cooking than just frying or baking. There are many different cooking methods and each does something different to your food. For the best results, you need to choose the right method for what you are cooking. The different cooking methods fall into 3 categories: dry-heat, moist heat and a combination of the two.
Dry-heat cooking methods
Broiling – the food is cooked from a heat source overhead.
Grilling – the food is cooked from a heat source below.
Roasting – the food is surrounded by dry, heated air in a closed environment. Roasting is usually used for meats.
Baking – this method is the same as roasting, but the term is used when working with fish, fruits, pastries, bread, and vegetables.
Sauteing – this method uses conduction and a little bit of fat. This means that heat from a heated pan is transferred to the food. The fat helps with the process.
Pan-frying – this method is similar to sautéing, but it uses more fat and the food is usually covered in breadcrumbs or a coating of something similar.
Deep-frying – as the name suggests, it is frying food in deep fat. The food is submerged.
Moist-heat cooking methods
Poaching – this method has to do with submerging food in a liquid for a short amount of time at a certain temperature. Food that is often poached are eggs, fish, and fruit.
Simmering – this method is used for food that is not tender and needs to be made less tough. It requires slow and long periods of cooking.
Boiling – this method uses convection within the liquid that the food is submerged in. Pasta, rice, and potatoes are usually boiled.
Steaming – the food is cooked through direct contact with the steam. This method is used with tender and delicately flavored foods. Fish and vegetables are often steamed. This method is considered healthier than most other ones.
Braising – this method is usually associated with meat. The meat is cooked in liquid that covers it between a third and a half.
Stewing – this is used for smaller pieces of meat. The meat is submerged in liquid and then simmered.
With these definitions, you should be able to choose what method suits your ingredients best.