Chinese stir-frying cooking technique at a street food joint in Kerala, India.

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 predominant class of cooking techniques in Chinese cuisine and are usually referred to as zhǔ (). In fact, this class of techniques is so common and important that the term zhǔ is commonly used to denote cooking in general.[2]

Quick immersion

Quick wet-heat based immersion cooking methods include:

English Equivalent Chinese Pinyin Description
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 hóngshāo (红燒, lit. red cooking) when the sauce or broth is soy sauce based.
Quick Boiling or Cuān 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.
Blanching 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 immersion

Prolonged wet-heat based immersion cooking methods include:

English Equivalent Chinese Pinyin Description
Bake stewing Wēi Slowly cooking a ceramic vessel of broth and other ingredients by placing it in or close to hot embers.
Steam stewing Mèn Cooking with liquid (water or soup), covering in a tight-fitting lid until absorbed
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 is different from, but in English synonymous with, Hóng shāo (红燒).
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.


Silkie cooked by steaming using a specialized steam-pot.

Steaming food is a wet cooking technique that has a long history in Chinese cuisine dating back to neolithic times, where additional food was cooked by steaming over a vessel of food being cooked by other wet cooking techniques.[2]

English Equivalent Chinese Pinyin Description
Steaming or Zhēng or Xún Steaming food to completion over boiling water and its rising water vapour.
Distillation simmering Chún A cooking technique requiring the using of a unique lidded vessel, known as the steam-pot (Chinese: 汽鍋) with a chimney rising from inside the bowl that is covered also by lid. Food ingredients are placed without cooking liquid in the vessel and the entire lidded vessel is seated on top of a pot of boiling water. Steam rising from the pot distills as hot water in the lidded vessel and cooks the ingredients while immersing it in soup. Used to prepare "pure" restorative foods such as steam-pot chicken.



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

English Equivalent Chinese Pinyin Description
Baking or Roasting Kǎo Cooking by hot air through convection or broiling in an enclosed space
Grilling 炙[烤] zhì [kǎo] Cooking by direct radiant heat typically on skewers over charcoal.
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 Equivalent Chinese Pinyin Description
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:[3]

English Equivalent Chinese Pinyin Description
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.[4]
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)[5]
Moist stir-fry 滑炒 huáchǎo To stir-fry a combination of protein and vegetable ingredients (with a gravy-like sauce)[6]
Dry-fry or Extreme-heat stir-fry 干煸 gānbiān To scorch in oil before stir-frying (with no addition of water)[5]
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 Equivalent Chinese Pinyin Description
Dressing Bàn Mixing raw or unflavoured cooked ingredients with seasonings and served immediately. Similar to tossing a dressing into salad.
Marinating or pickling or Yān or Jiàng 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
Velveting 上浆 Shàng Jiāng This technique involves marinating meat in corn starch and other ingredients before cooking. This produces a velvety texture.


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. ^ 傅, 培梅 (2008), Péi Méi Shípǔ 培梅食譜 [Pei Mei Recipes], vol. 1, 旗林文化, ISBN 978-986-6655-25-8
  2. ^ a b Huang, H. T. Needham, Joseph (ed.). SCIENCE AND CIVILISATION IN CHINA. Vol. 6: BIOLOGY AND BIOLOGICAL TECHNOLOGY. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Kho, Kian Lam. Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking.
  4. ^ Kho, Kian Lam (2008-03-12). "Stir-fry Fortnight III – Plain Veggie Stir-fry". Red Cook. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b Kho, Kian Lam (2008-03-21). "Stir-fry Fortnight V – Dry Wok Stir-fry". Red Cook. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  6. ^ Kho, Kian Lam (2008-03-18). "Stir-fry Fortnight IV – Moist Stir-fry". Red Cook. Retrieved 31 December 2015.