experience the effect of cooking methods on a product’s flavor

Try the following experiment to more fully understand the way in which cooking methods affect the flavors of any one particular product. Clean and peel some carrots. Cut the carrots into strips of approximately 1⁄2 inch by 3 inches. Set aside a few strips. These will be tasted raw. Divide up the remaining strips into nine piles. Each pile will be cooked separately. One pile will be poached, one simmered, and one boiled. As each batch is finished, set it aside to cool. Sauté one pile with a touch of butter, grill one pile, fry a pile with a light tempura batter, stew another pile, roast another, and braise the final pile with fresh orange juice. Make sure to clearly label each pile as they are being cooked.

You are now ready to taste. Begin with the raw carrot. Notice not only its crunchy texture but also its lightly sweet and crispy clean flavor. Now taste the poached, simmered, and boiled carrots, respectively. While the poached carrot still has some of the clean flavor of its raw counterpart, those notes are lost the longer that it has been cooked. The heavy overly cooked flavor of the boiled carrot bears little resemblance to its raw cousin in both texture and taste.

The sautéed carrot, although cooked, has a bit more sweetness than the first batches, which were prepared with wet cooking methods. The same is true for the grilled carrot. Its slightly caramelized crust serves to intensify its sweet carrot flavor. The flavor of the fried carrot most closely resembles that of the sautéed carrot. It is slightly al dente with a light, crispy coating. The natural carrot flavor is fairly subtle. The roasted carrot is the sweetest thus far. This is a prime example of Maillard browning. The carrot has a deep, rich flavor. Raw carrot flavor times ten! Its strong inherent sweetness does not need any help from outside sources such as sugar or honey. Slow braising or stewing also contributes markedly intense carrot flavor to the end product. The addition of a liquid, in this case some orange juice, serves to somewhat dilute that intensity but it does bring out the carrot’s inherent citrus notes.

Consider cooking techniques as not only a way of transforming a raw product into something more palatable but, more importantly, as a way of developing and expanding the elements of flavor in any one particular dish. Using the proper cooking technique can help to develop a full plate profile. One method of cooking is not necessarily better than another. When deciding which method to employ, the plate profile of the entire dessert must be taken into account.