What are the Basic Methods of French Cooking?

French cooking has been the most popular and practiced style of European cooking since Julia Child brought it to the attention of chefs and foodies all over the world. Today, French cooking techniques are used worldwide in restaurants and home kitchens to create a variety of multi-layered, flavorful dishes. Whether you’re cooking for a crowded restaurant or whipping up a romantic dinner for two, there are a few basic methods of French cooking every chef should master.



Flambéing is a technique that involves raising the temperature of meat juices or a base sauce in a pan before adding alcohol to it for flavor. Rum, cognac, and brandy are popular liquors often used in flambéing. At such a high temperature, the alcohol burns away quickly but the flavors of the liquor remain in the food. Flambéing is also an exciting and popular tableside presentation where certain liqueur-drenched foods are ignited to create a magnificent blue flame. Examples of popular Flambé dishes include Bananas Foster, Crêpes Suzette, and Steak Diane.


Sautéing can be done with vegetables, meat, fish, or tofu. It involves using a small amount of butter, oil, or another fat to cook food quickly on the stovetop over high heat.  The word sauté comes from the French verb “sauter,” which means jump. Sauté describes how the food reacts when it is placed in a hot pan as well as the method of tossing food in the pan while cooking. With sautéing, the inside of the food is cooked through while the outside is browned or caramelized.   


If you’ve ever made a batch of cookies, you’ve employed the French cooking method of baking. Baking involves exposing food to prolonged dry heat. In other words, cooking food in the oven. Baking is also called roasting and is often combined with other cooking methods like grilling or boiling.  


While vegetables like cabbage and eggplant can be braised, meat is the most commonly braised food. The method involves browning meat in a pan over high heat and then simmering it in flavorful liquid, though not enough to cover the meat. The pot is usually covered so the liquid condensates on the underside of the lid. Braising is a great method for cooking tougher cuts of meat because the slow cook time helps develop the flavor and make the meat more tender.


Poaching is a moist heat culinary technique that involves delicately cooking food in liquid. Traditionally, eggs, fish, chicken, and vegetables are poached in water, but often the water will be flavored with stock or wine. Milk is also commonly used in poaching. The method is accomplished with low heat; the liquid should barely simmer. Poaching is often done in a covered pan, making it a more gradual cooking process. This gentle French cooking technique helps retain moisture in the food.


Blanching is a cooking technique that makes vegetables easier to peel and removes bitterness from leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens. The method involves dropping food in boiling water for a short period of time, about 30 seconds, and then plunging it in ice water. Vegetables on a crudité platter are often blanched to achieve the perfect flavor and crispness.

Learn popular French cooking methods and more at National Culinary!

Looking for hands-on instruction in French cooking methods? You’ll get this and a whole lot more at National Culinary School in San Diego. We offer unique diploma programs in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and advanced confectionary and sugar arts. With small class sizes and plenty of hands-on learning, our goal is to prepare you for a successful culinary career in a restaurant, hotel kitchen, bakery, or cruise ship.

Start living your culinary dream and give us a call at (619) 431-3942 to find out more about our classes, financing options, and job placement.