Chinese cooking techniques

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.


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
BraisingShāoBraising 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 Cuān or ZháAdding 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 TàngPar 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 stewingWēiSlowly cooking a ceramic vessel of broth and other ingredients by placing it in or close to hot embers.
Gradual simmeringDùnAdding 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 cookingCooking over prolonged and constant heat with the ingredients completely immersed in a strongly flavoured soy sauce based broth. This technique is different from, but in English synonymous with, Hóng shāo (红燒).
Steaming or Zhēng or XúnSteaming food to completion over boiling water.
DecoctionÁoCooking 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.



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

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


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

English EquivalentChinesePinyinDescription
Deep frying or FryingZháFull or partial immersion cooking in hot oil or fat
Pan fryingJiānCooking in a pan with a light coating of oil or liquid and allowing the food to brown.
Stir frying or high heat SautéingChǎoCooking 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]BàoCooking 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qīngchǎoTo 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biānchǎoTo stir-fry a combination of protein and vegetable ingredients (with a small amount of liquid)[4]
Moist stir-fry滑炒huáchǎoTo stir-fry a combination of protein and vegetable ingredients (with a gravy-like sauce)[5]
Dry-fry or Extreme-heat stir-fry干煸gānbiānTo scorch in oil before stir-frying (with no addition of water)[6]
Scramble stir-fry软炒ruǎnchǎoA technique for making egg custard.

Without heat

Food preparation techniques not involving the heating of ingredients include:

Raw methods
English EquivalentChinesePinyinDescription
DressingBànMixing raw or unflavoured cooked ingredients with seasonings and served immediately. Similar to tossing a dressing into salad.
Marinating or picklingYānTo pickle or marinade ingredients in salt, soy sauce or soy pastes. Use for making pickles or preparing ingredients for addition cooking.
JellifyingDòngTo quickly cool a gelatin or agarose containing broth to make aspic or agar jelly
VelvetingThis technique involves marinating meat in corn starch and other ingredients before cooking. This produces a velvety texture.


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

  • Dòng (): The technique is used for making aspic but also used to describe making of various gelatin desserts
    1. Simmering meat for a prolonged period in a broth (; ) or (; dùn)
    2. Chilling the resulting meat and broth until the mixture gels
  • Hùi (): The dishes made using this technique is usually finished by thickening with starch (勾芡; gōuqiàn)
    1. Quick precooking in hot water (; tàng)
    2. Finished by stir-frying (; bào, ; chǎo) and ; shāo)
  • Liū (): This technique is commonly used for meat and fish. Pre-fried tofu is made expressly for this purpose.
    1. Deep frying (; zhá) the ingredients until partially cooked
    2. Finishing the ingredients lightly braising (; shāo) it to acquired a soft "skin"
  • Mēn ():
    1. Stir-frying (; bào or ; chǎo) the ingredients until partially cooked
    2. Cover and simmer (; shāo) with broth until broth is fully reduced and ingredients are fully cooked.

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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