Adding Color and Flavor with Dry Heat Cooking

 In

Chef Stephanie Michalak 

Turner Farm Culinary Manager

What if I were to tell you that all cooking techniques using high heat can be divided between two categories? It’s really that simple: dry heat and moist heat cookery. It makes a lot of sense, right? Simply put, moist heat cookery uses liquids (think water, stock, juice, wine, etc.) in the process of transferring heat to foods whereas dry heat cookery doesn’t have an extra layer between the item and the heat source. The only really tricky bit is that oil does not count under moist heat cookery, as oil is more a fluid heat conductor – so technically deep-frying is part of dry heat cookery (it helps to think about how water and oil react to one another).

Another way to evaluate the difference between dry heat cookery and moist cookery is that dry heat, due to the lack of moisture, has direct contact to the heat source and will cause a lot more browning on those foods. The browning is obviously not vital to all dishes, but it is an integral factor in creating the acronym GBD (golden, brown, and delicious) that most professional and home cooks love. This color is not only very attractive, but it adds a lot depth to the flavor of the overall food.

Unfortunately, a lot of individuals confuse the browning of foods as caramelization and even though high, dry heat cookery can cause caramelization– the process is something slightly different. Some of you may have heard the term “Maillard reaction” before. If you’re a fan of Alton Brown like I am, then you have heard it at least once or twice before. As background: the term was named after the French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard and describes the process of a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars. This reaction happens when the surface temperature of a food is between the temperatures of 280 to 330֯F; whereas caramelization is the browning of sugars at a slightly higher temperature (above 355֯F). At extremely high temperatures, caramelization can turn your food into carbon, i.e. you’ve burnt it.

A tangible example of both the Maillard reaction and caramelization for most is toast. When you begin to toast your bread, it starts pale in color. The longer and/or higher temperature you toast the bread at will cause your bread to get darker and darker until it is basically a brick. Everyone has their own preference in how far they personally enjoy toast and some even enjoy theirs burnt. While I do not personally recommend eating essentially char in toast, there certainly a few people out in the world who appreciate the taste on some level. So, take note to how you personally enjoy your food!

In my class Dry Heat Cookery on January 30th, I will cover essential cooking techniques like sautéing, grilling, and roasting that highlight the Maillard reaction and GBD foods so that you can get the most flavor out of your cooking. This is a great class for anyone looking to either understand or refine their culinary basics. Plus, I will happily explain how honing these techniques can help you can avoid ever having pale, bland chicken (or mushrooms) at home again.

For ticketing and information for Chef Stephanie’s “Dry Heat Cookery” class, click here.