Mexican cooking techniques consists mostly of methods you are familiar with; namely frying, grilling, boiling and baking. You may not be as familiar with steaming, which is used for some Mexican dishes. Frying is perhaps the most predominate cooking method which evolved from the early days because ovens were not available. Meats used in Tacos, Burritos, Enchiladas and many other dishes are generally fried. Tortillas, which are widely used in Mexican recipes, are fried or cooked on a lightly greased skillet.
Today much of the work of Mexican cooking has been simplified by the availability of cast iron and non-stick skillets, blenders and food processors, specialized utensils, ovens, grills and prepared spices.
Ingredients often used in Mexican recipes are:
* Mesa (special processed corn meal)
* Chile peppers - The Ancho chile is the most used - see About Chile Peppers
* Cilantro - A distinctive, flavorful herb. Essential ingredient in salsa.
* Lime - Used extensively
* Cheese, garlic and onion - Seasoning and garnish on many Mexican dishes
* Cumin - Another distinctively flavored seasoning, essential spice in chili.
* Sour Cream - Often used as garnish
* Tomatoes and Tomatillos - Used in many dishes, salsa and sauces.
* Frijoles/Refried Beans - Served as a side or an ingredient in many dishes
Probably the most used cookware is cast iron. The ability to transfer and retain heat makes cast iron well suited for Mexican dishes. Mexican cooking traditionalist will also have a mortar and pestle (used to pulverize or grind herbs, spices and chile peppers). However, most people today prefer the convenience and ease of a food processor.
A steamer of some sort is also desirable for those interested in preparing Mexican cuisine. Everyone should try home made tamales at least once and although they can be made in boiling water, the time-honored method is in a steamer. Steamers come in many forms and prices, but an old fashioned Chinese bamboo steamer is cheap and works just fine.
Techniques for frying, boiling, grilling and baking are little different from cooking any other food. When frying, use a touch of oil to prevent sticking and always pre-heat the oil and skillet. When boiling, take care that the liquid does not boil complete away to avoid burning food. When baking or grilling, always pre-heat the oven and watch closely dishes with cheese to avoid burning. When steaming, take care that the water in the bottom vessel does not boil away and use a fork to test the tenderness of vegetables periodically.
Additional cooking tips are included in some of our Mexican recipes. Be sure to look for them. Now, grab a recipe and head for the kitchen.