French cooking techniques


French cooking techniques have long inspired chefs and home cooks in Western countries. From traditional French sauces to French cooking styles, menus in global restaurants and education in culinary schools draw on the skills mastered and developed by world-famous French chefs.


Learning the art of French cooking techniques is a fundamental aspect of becoming a chef, which is why culinary degrees often start with practical training and French cooking basics. But you don’t need to be an aspiring chef to use them as French cooking can be enjoyed at home, too.


Ready to familiarize yourself with techniques that started in the traditional French kitchen? Read on to learn more about French cooking techniques, common terms, and the five ‘mother sauces’ that a French kitchen brigade always rely on.


Introduction to French cooking techniques


The French cuisine that we know today is the accumulation of various techniques and cooking methods originating from France that continue to play a pivotal role in how professional chefs organize, prepare, cook, season, and present dishes.


Brief history of French cuisine


French cuisine and cooking techniques can be traced back to the 14th century. Encompassing a range of methods and ingredients, pioneering chefs, including François Pierre La Varenne, began creating sauces, such as béchamel. La Varenne, in particular, had an influential role in establishing French cuisine and making French food distinct from other cuisines, such as Italian, in the 1600s.


From the 1700s onwards, chefs such as Marie-Antoine Carême, Georges Auguste Escoffier, and Paul Bocuse created recipes for roux – butter and flour cooked together to thicken sauces – and the classic Espagnole sauce. They also paved the way for classical, seasonal, regional, and haute French cuisine.


The work of early French chefs continues to play a vital role in French cuisine, with many of their early recipes and cooking methods still widely used.




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French cooking techniques every chef needs to learn


From searing prime steak to the precise texture of delicate vegetables, French cooking techniques all have an important role in the kitchen.

If you’re looking to establish a career as a chef, these are some of the methods you need to know:


  • Flambéing
  • Searing
  • Sautéing
  • Pan-frying
  • Poaching
  • Broiling
  • Grilling
  • Braising
  • Baking
  • Roasting


Understanding the basics of French cuisine


With so many techniques and terms to learn, understanding the basics of French cuisine may seem overwhelming at first. But over time, mastering these procedures through practical experience will equip you with the skills, knowledge, and insight to create delicious, mouthwatering dishes that customers savor and appreciate.


Some of the concepts you need to understand to master the basics of French cuisine include:


  • Opting for simplicity rather than overcomplicating dishes
  • Choosing techniques, such as poaching or grilling, to enhance the ingredients
  • Using sauces to enrich your dishes
  • Adding herbs for additional flavor
  • Understanding the importance of preparation.


The influence of French cooking on global cuisine


In the modern kitchen, French cooking significantly influences international cuisine. Every day, countries including England and America recreate sauces and dishes that originate from France. Likewise, many cooking and baking styles, such as pastry arts, sautéing, poaching, and flambéing, are popular among professional chefs.



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Traditional French cooking techniques and terms


In the French kitchen, there are numerous terms used to describe cooking and food preparation methods. If you’re an aspiring chef, understanding these terms and techniques before beginning your training and education can come in handy.


Below, we share nine of the most famous French cooking techniques and terms and offer a glimpse into what they involve.


1. Bouquet garni


Translating to garnished bouquet in English, bouquet garni is a traditional French cooking technique to add flavor, in which chefs create and submerge an assortment of herbs tied together in a dish during cooking to enhance dishes such as soups and stews. Bouquet garni can also be used in the base for sauces and stocks.


2. Chiffonade


A popular way to prepare salad greens such as spinach, kale, lettuce, and herbs such as mint, chiffonade is a fine slicing technique. A popular French cooking technique, chiffonade means chefs cut ingredients into fine, long strips that often resemble ribbons.


3. Coulis


In the traditional French kitchen, coulis emerged as a French style that saw home cooks and chefs pour juices from meat and poultry over a plate before serving a meal.


Nowadays, coulis is best known for being a French cooking technique that sees professional chefs and home cooks puree fruits and vegetables into a smooth texture.


When made with fruit, coulis is sweet and can be found drizzled over classic French desserts or a modern French pastry. Vegetable coulis can accompany a range of meat and vegetable dishes.


4. Déglacer


The French culinary technique of déglacer enriches and enhances the flavor of traditional French dishes.

Translating to deglazing, chefs remove leftover juices from the pans that meat, for example, is cooked in, before using them to create a base for sauces with perhaps the addition of wine or stock. You may also use déglacer techniques to season soup, gravies, and stews.


5. Demi-Glace


If you’ve dined at a French restaurant, you’ve likely sampled demi-glace before. A brown sauce or stock formed from meats while cooking, demi-glace enriches the flavor of many dishes featuring steak, duck, pork, and chicken.


6. En papillote


Widely popular and known to others as cooking ingredients in foil or paper, en papillote typically sees chefs place fish in paper before baking it in the oven. Herbs, spices, citrus fruit, vegetables, and butter are often added as well to enhance the fish's taste, delivering a mouth-watering and succulent finish.


7. Julienne


If you’re hoping to become a professional chef, julienne is one of the many French cooking techniques you’ll learn when studying for a Bachelor in culinary arts. A food preparation method, chefs julienne, or slice, fruit, vegetables, and meats into long and thin strips.


8. Mirepoix


Originating from the 1800s, mirepoix refers to a French cooking technique that involves dicing vegetables such as carrots and onions before simmering them to create appetizing stocks and soups.


9. Mise en place


Mise en place is a food preparation technique during which a chef prepares, measures, weighs, and assembles all ingredients they require to make a meal before they start cooking. In addition to easing the cooking process, mise en place guarantees that all components are gathered, reducing the risk of missing elements.



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What are the five ‘mother sauces’ in French cooking?


In addition to introducing numerous traditional French cooking techniques to aspiring chefs or budding home cooks, French cuisine is renowned for its five mother sauces, including béchamel, velouté, and hollandaise. While you may be familiar with these sauces, let’s explore them below.




The first of five mother sauces in French cooking, béchamel sauce is famous for being used in lasagne, baked pasta dishes, and pies. White in color, this creamy sauce is traditionally made by combining butter – or milk – with flour.




A smooth sauce with a creamy texture, velouté is made by mixing béchamel with vegetable or meat stock to create a delicious silky sauce that can be drizzled over meat and vegetables.




A popular type of demi-glace, Espagnole sauce is a flavorful brown sauce that chefs keep aside upon cooking vegetables and meats. Like other mother sauces used in French cooking, Espagnole sauce is usually used with sauces, stews, and soups for additional flavoring.




Hollandaise is a famous sauce often served in Western countries with eggs to create dishes such as eggs benedict and royale. But did you know that hollandaise is one of the five mother sauces in French cooking?

Yellow in color, traditional hollandaise sauce is a mixture of egg yolk, butter, and lemon juice. Nowadays, you may find hollandaise mixed with other ingredients, such as mustard, for additional flavor.




A classic in French cooking, tomato sauce is an all-around sauce that is mixed and served with vegetables, chicken, fish, poultry, and other meats. Created using diced, cooked, or puréed tomatoes, tomato sauce varies in texture depending on how it's prepared. Some chefs like the texture of chopped tomatoes, while others opt for a smooth consistency.


Although tomato sauce can be predominantly made with tomatoes and herbs, it can also be mixed with stock or béchamel for a creamier finish.



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Perfect French cooking techniques at École Ducasse


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