Simply put, cooking means application of heat to food. Marinating falls into chemical cooking.
Cooked food, especially protein, is easy to eat and digest; overcooked protein shrinks and becomes tough, unpleasant in taste, and nutritionally deficient.
Since humans discovered the benefits of heat in cooking, a lot of improvements were made.
They are poaching, steaming, pan-roasting, grilling, baking, pan-frying, sautéing, stewing, braising, boiling, roasting, wok-frying, a combination of two or more.
This article deals with poaching, steaming, pan roasting, and grilling.
Poaching is the technique of cooking in a liquid at 170 – 180 F (85 – 90 C) that simmers. The liquid can be a stock, water, tomato juice, wine, beer, or milk. Poaching is meant for delicate food like eggs, white-fleshed fish, fruits, and breast of chicken.
Poached fish is lean, easier to digest, retinas subtle flavours, and overall is healthier than pan-frying or deep-frying.
Steaming – the food cooks slower than boiling or poaching, because steam is less dense than water. It is a healthy alternative to boiling or poaching, and retains vitamins better. Vegetables, fish and some puddings can be steamed successfully. After partial steaming, you can sauté vegetables to render them more flavourful.
Pan roasting is the preferred technique of modern chefs when cooking meat and poultry.
In a heavy-bottomed, ovenproof skillet, sear the food first, and then pop it into a hot (450F = 230 C) oven for the remaining cooking time.
Thick cuts work better than thin cuts. You can also make a sauce after removing the meat from the skillet by adding a stock, or whipping cream, or tomato sauce, and reduce to desired consistency.
Do not crowd the pan and use “layered method” of salting.
Grilling- dry, intense, direct heat is required for this cooking process. It can be, and usually is, applied from below, but also from above. If heat is applied from above, it is called broiling.
For grilling, high temperatures (260 = 50 F) are required. High temperatures create the Maillard effect (it starts at 155 C = 310 F), and produce carcinogens e.g benzopyrenes, hetrocylic amines, and aromatic hydrocarbons. Marinating before cooking can reduce the level of carcinogens in grilled meat.
For grilling, the meat must contain sufficient amounts of fat to prevent drying out and overcooking. Grilling shrinks the meat or any appropriate food and intensifies flavour.
Regardless of health hazards, grilling is a very popular cooking method in many countries, since it imparts, if done properly, a particularly delicious taste and texture to the food.