When I started searching for a simple how to cook system, the first thing I discovered, there are a lot of cooking techniques. A WHOLE lot. I nearly gave up. Did I need to know all that? How was I going to use it all? I started a second six pack and was thinking about whether the barbeque would work out in the snow, when the light came on. The important thing out of all those techniques was really pretty simple: cooking is basically putting heat to food. That became my first rule of cooking: don't get confused by the details.
The question we need to answer is, how MUCH heat to cook with. Because if you get that wrong, it doesn't at all matter whether you're doing a fricassee or a flambe. You're just making garbage.
So, let's start with heat. Unless you have a blazing inferno in the kitchen – in which case you should not be worried about dinner – we've got three heat choices. It's going to either be a burner on top of the stove, an oven (regular or microwave), or some kind of appliance, like a toaster, toaster oven, crock pot, slow cooker, or some celebrity endorsed relation.
Now, a toaster is a handy appliance. You will already know how many things you can put in it. And, you are going to be tempted. You're going to be thinking about serving toast and peanut butter, or toaster whatevers. But you will not fool anybody into believing they're getting dinner if you do, so don't go there.
Maybe you're a wizard with the toaster oven, or crock pot type things, and if so, be my guest. My experience is that anything that mixes heat, food, and more than one dial is just a train wreck waiting to happen, so we won't be using it in Basic.
That narrows things down to a tidy two heat choices – stove burner, or oven. Which one to choose depends on what you're going to cook. I'll explain why.
If you put your head over the open flame burner, you'll blacken the skin right off your face, but the back of your head will be relatively unhurt. On the other hand, if you put your head in a hot oven, everything, including your brain, will be roasted right through.
So, if you want to fast cook the outside of something, stove. Bake it through, oven. And, to really get fancy, you can actually fast cook the outside, and then the inside both, by doing these two steps one after the other. Guess what happens if you put a lid on a skillet on the burner? That's right, you've made a little oven right there. Works just like the big one.
Now, there's one big secret about using heat, one that will save you a lot of grief.