Last week, I started my series on fundamental cooking techniques with stovetop methods, including searing, sauteing and frying. This week, we’re moving into the oven and grill, where heat makes its way through the air and via direct waves of energy. (Next week: Boiling, braising and steaming.) These dry settings often make for crisp, browned food. Here’s what to know and how to improve your skills.


Technically speaking, this process is baking. But in terms of options for putting dinner on the table and to avoid the implication that I’m talking about baked goods and sweets, I’m going to lean on the term and concept of roasting. As Harold McGee explains in “On Food and Cooking,” this strategy combines two heating methods. The first is radiation, which is the transfer of heat in “waves of pure energy.” In other words, the food does not need to be in direct contact with the heat source. The other is convection, in which air is the medium that transfers heat to the food. Neither, in the setting of an oven set to bake, is particularly effective at rapid heat transfer, so roasting is rarely the fastest method. McGee gives the example of how much faster a potato can be boiled than roasted, even at a high temperature.

Success in roasting comes down to much more than shoving something in the oven. While one of its strengths is that the dry heat is great for surface browning, you may find yourself with food that is undercooked in the middle. As McGee points out, food is not a particularly good conductor and is slow heat up. Often you must manage a variety of factors — size of the food (smaller pieces can overcook), oven temperature, position of the rack — to get things just right. Generally, roasted food does best when not packed too tightly, to better allow for circulation of the convective heat around it.

For a great example, check out One-Pan Roast Chicken and Potatoes. An initial blast of high heat browns the exterior of the meat and vegetables for the first half of cooking, and then they finish in the residual heat of the turned-off oven. The low sides and roomy nature of the sheet pan assist with the airflow.

Others to try:

Roasted Whole Fish: A simple but impressive technique can help you feel more confident cooking fish.

Crown Roast of Pork: Here’s a showstopper that shows how effective a long cook time in a moderate oven can be.

Roasted Radishes With Green Goddess Butter: Quickly roasting vegetables at a high heat gives you enticing browned edges.

Roasted Cabbage Wedges With Tomatoes and Chickpeas: A very hot oven transforms an underappreciated vegetable into something marvelous.


“Think of broiling as upside-down, indoor grilling. While most grilling is done outdoors, with the heat source below the food, broiling happens inside the oven, with the heat radiating from above,” Samin Nosrat says in “Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.” Both methods rely on infrared radiation, or waves of energy, McGee says, though in broiling there is some convection via the air between the heating element and the food.

Regardless of which one you use, the intense heat means there’s a real risk of burning. On the grill, that might mean moving the food to a cooler spot where it benefits more from indirect heat, McGee says. With the broiler, use it just at the very end as a last touch (such as browning a casserole), choose cuts or smaller items that will cook quickly all the way through (seafood, thin chops) or switch the oven over to bake at a lower temperature to finish larger cuts. Broiled Shrimp With Shaved Zucchini and Pecan Salad get just a few minutes under the broiler. Don’t forget that the grill and broiler can be just as great for vegetables as for meat. See: No-Fry Eggplant Parmesan.

Others to try:

Classic Barbecue Chicken: This is a textbook example of how well a two-zone setup works on the grill.

Grill-Roasted Pork Loin With Blackberry Sauce: Treat your grill more like an oven this summer with this recipe that takes advantage of a closed grill lid to manage the heat.

Classic Grilled Oysters: Get the grill rip-roaring hot so the oysters cook in a few quick minutes.

Grilled Vegetable Salad: Add this part Mediterranean, part French dish to your summer grilling repertoire.

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