Chinese cooking techniques

Chinese cooking techniques vary widely in form, with stir-frying(炒, 爆) being one of the better known methods in the West

Chinese cooking techniques (Chinese: 中餐烹調法) are a set of methods and techniques traditionally used in Chinese cuisine.[1] The cooking techniques can either be grouped into ones that use a single cooking method or a combination of wet and dry cooking methods.


Many cooking techniques involve a singular type of heated cooking or action.


Steamed sea bass in the Cantonese style

Wet-heat, immersion-based cooking methods are the predominate class of cooking techniques in Chinese cuisine and are usually referred to as zhǔ (). In fact the term zhǔ is commonly used to denote cooking in general.


Fast wet-heat based cooking methods include:

English EquivalentChinesePinyinDescription
Braising Shāo Braising ingredients over medium heat in a small amount of sauce or broth and simmering for a short period of time until completion. Known as hong-shao (红燒, lit. red cooked) when the sauce or broth is soy sauce based.
Quick Boiling or Dǔn or Zhá Adding ingredients and seasonings to boiling water or broth and immediately serving the dish with the cooking liquid when everything has come back to a boil.
Scalding or Chāo or Tàng Par cooking through quick immersion of raw ingredients in boiling water or broth sometimes followed by immersion in cold water.


Prolonged wet-heat based cooking methods include:

English EquivalentChinesePinyinDescription
Bake stewing Wēi Slowly cooking a ceramic vessel of broth and other ingredients by placing it in or close to hot embers.
Gradual simmering Dùn Adding ingredients to cold water along with seasonings and allowing the contents to slowly come to a prolonged simmering boil. This is known in English as double steaming due to the vessels commonly used for this cooking method. The term is also used in Chinese for the Western cooking technique of stewing and brewing herbal remedies of Traditional Chinese medicine.
Slow red cooking Cooking over prolonged and constant heat with the ingredients completely immersed in a strongly flavoured soy sauce based broth. This technique different form, but in English, synonymous with Hóng shāo (红燒).
Steaming or Zhēng or Xún Steaming food to completion over boiling water.
Decoction Áo Cooking slowly to extract nutrients into the simmering liquid, used to describe the brewing process in Chinese herbology with the intention of using only the decocted brew.



Zhangcha duck is a dish whose preparation involves steaming (; zhēng), smoking (), and deep frying ().

Food preparation in hot dry vessels such as an oven or a heated empty wok include:

English EquivalentChinesePinyinDescription
Baking or Roasting Kǎo Cooking by hot air through convection or broiling in an enclosed space
Smoking Xūn Cooking in direct heat with Smoke. The source of the smoke is typically sugar or tea.


Stir frying (; bào) is a Chinese cooking technique involving relatively large amounts of oil.

Oil-based cooking methods are one of the most common in Chinese cuisine and include:

English EquivalentChinesePinyinDescription
Deep frying or Frying Zhá Full or partial immersion cooking in hot oil or fat
Pan frying Jiān Cooking in a pan with a light coating of oil or liquid and allowing the food to brown.
Stir frying or high heat Sautéing Chǎo Cooking ingredients at hot oil and stirring quickly to completion. This technique, as well as bào chǎo and yóu bào (爆炒 and 油爆), is known in English as stir frying. This technique uses higher heat than that of Sautéing.
Flash-frying or High heat Stir frying [油]爆 [Yóu]Bào Cooking with large amounts hot oil, sauces (酱爆; jiàng bào), or broth (汤爆; tāng bào) at very high heat and tossing the ingredients in the wok to completion.
Stir frying

Kian Lam Kho identifies five distinct techniques of stir frying:[2]

English EquivalentChinesePinyinDescription
Plain stir-fry or Simple stir-fry 清炒 qīngchǎo To stir-fry a single ingredient (with aromatics and sauces). A plain stir-fry using garlic is known as 蒜炒, suànchǎo.[3]
Dry stir-fry or Dry wok stir-fry 煸炒 biānchǎo To stir-fry a combination of protein and vegetable ingredients (with a small amount of liquid)[4]
Moist stir-fry 滑炒 huáchǎo To stir-fry a combination of protein and vegetable ingredients (with a gravy-like sauce)[5]
Dry-fry or Extreme-heat stir-fry 干煸 gānbiān To scorch in oil before stir-frying (with no addition of water)[6]
Scramble stir-fry 软炒 ruǎnchǎo A technique for making egg custard.

Without heat

Food preparation techniques not involving the heating of ingredients include:

Raw methods
English EquivalentChinesePinyinDescription
Dressing Bàn Mixing raw or unflavoured cooked ingredients with seasonings and served immediately. Similar to tossing a dressing into salad.
Marinating or pickling Yān To pickle or marinade ingredients in salt, soy sauce or soy pastes. Use for making pickles or preparing ingredients for addition cooking.
Jellifying Dòng To quickly cool a gelatin or agarose containing broth to make aspic or agar jelly


The chicken in General Tso's chicken has been fried and lightly braised in sauce (; liū)

Several techniques in Chinese involve more than one stage of cooking and have their own terms to describe the process. They include:

See also


  1. , 培梅 (2008), Péi Méi Shípǔ 培梅食譜 [Pei Mei Recipes], 1, 旗林文化, ISBN 978-986-6655-25-8
  2. Kho, Kian Lam. Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking.
  3. Kho, Kian Lam. "Stir-fry Fortnight III – Plain Veggie Stir-fry". Red Cook. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  4. Kho, Kian Lam. "Stir-fry Fortnight V – Dry Wok Stir-fry". Red Cook. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  5. Kho, Kian Lam. "Stir-fry Fortnight IV – Moist Stir-fry". Red Cook. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  6. Kho, Kian Lam. "Stir-fry Fortnight V – Dry Wok Stir-fry". Red Cook. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
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