Cooking Foods with Dry Heat

man looking into his oven

Looking for ways to keep food flavourful without adding a lot of fat? Cooking foods with ‘dry heat’ is an excellent way to prepare your favourite dishes. Read on to learn about ways to cook healthy using dry heat.

Cooking foods with dry heat is healthy

Cooking with ‘dry heat’ is a process where food is exposed to a source of high heat either from below or above (and usually in an oven). This form of heat brings foods to a much higher temperature than cooking with ‘wet heat’. It also gives foods a brown crust or surface, which adds flavour. You can use less fat (like oil or butter) when cooking with dry heat and still get lots of great tasting food. Meats, poultry, fish, tofu and vegetables are excellent when prepared with dry heat.

What is browning and why do you want it?

Browning is more than just colour in your cooking. Browning adds flavour, savory crusts, and appealing aromas. Just be careful not to over brown (burn) your food as that will leave an unpleasant taste and could be a health risk.

There are many ways to cook with dry heat

Grilling, broiling, baking, roasting, sautéing or stir-frying, and searing are the different ways to cook using dry heat:


Grilling uses heat from underneath to cook the food. Barbequing is a common grilling technique. Use a hot grill to make sure that food doesn’t stick and use a lid to cook foods quickly. Grill ground beef burgers or beef steaks, marinated chicken breasts and fish like salmon. Kebobs with vegetables and meat or vegetables and tofu are also prepared well using the grill. Try these healthy and delicious recipe ideas that use the grill. If you don’t have a barbeque, you can still grill foods using a griddle or grill pan on your stovetop, or an indoor grill (like a sandwich maker).


Broiling is very similar to grilling, but uses oven heat from above (instead of below). Broiled food cooks quickly and evenly because it is exposed to very high heat for a short amount of time. To broil, place your food on the top rack of your oven and set it to broil. You can also broil foods in a toaster oven. Just watch your food carefully as it will heat up quickly. Like grilling, broiling is an excellent technique for different cuts of meat like the loin or chops of beef, lamb or pork. Try chicken pieces like the thighs, breasts or legs, or fish like this tasty Tandoori haddock. Vegetables can also be prepared by broiling, like this mushrooms broiled with thyme.


Baking uses the oven just like broiling, except food is surrounded with heat. Air moves around inside the oven, which bakes the food.   Baking is the slowest cooking method with dry heat. If you have a convection oven you may notice food bakes faster. This is because there are more fans to circulate the warm air inside the oven. Baking works well for meat dishes, like these Green Meatballs. Fish also bakes well topped with fresh vegetables and herbs like this Mediterranean baked fish.


Roasting is usually done in the oven, which allows the dry heat to circulate and evenly cook the food. Roasting is different than baking because it usually requires a high temperature at the start of cooking so that you get a crisp, brown surface. After a brown surface is formed, lower the temperature until the food cooked reaches a safe internal temperature that you measure with a food thermometer. Roasting is often used for roast beef like prime rib, whole or cut up chicken pieces and pork like this Pork Tenderloin and Glazed Carrots, and vegetables like these Parmesan Carrot Fries.


Sautéing and stir-frying are forms of frying, but use smaller amounts of oil and higher temperature than pan-frying and deep-frying. To stir-fry or sauté, cook foods directly on high heat on your stove top and stir frequently. This results in a crisp food product. Sautéing is great for vegetables like in Teriyaki Rice Noodles with Veggies, tofu in a sweet chili tofu stir fry or chicken or beef tenders.


Searing is a way to brown meat or fish quickly. To sear, place the food in a hot skillet, under a broiler or in a very hot oven. The high heat keeps the food moist inside but creates a nice brown crust on the outside. Use a little oil to help create this crust. After searing for a minute or two, lower the temperature so the food can cook all the way through. Searing is excellent for fish such as salmon, pork and chicken like Blackened Chicken and Creole Lentils.

Make cooking easy with dry heat

  • Keep temperatures high. When grilling, make sure the grill grates are hot before placing food on the grill. When sautéing or stir-frying, make sure the oil is near the smoking point. The smoking point is when the fat or oil you are using starts to produce smoke or a bitter smell. Try not to heat a fat higher than its smoke point since that can change the flavour and nutrition of the fat.
  • Keep temperatures accurate. The temperature you set your oven to and the actual temperature inside are often two different things. Use an oven thermometer in the centre of the oven to know the real temperature.
  • Keep air moving. When roasting, place your beef roast or whole chicken on top of a roasting rack or a bed of vegetables to encourage air to circulate and cook the food properly, inside and out.
  • Make sure you are roasting and not steaming your food! Use a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet and do not cover the food with a lid. This helps air circulate without creating steam.
  • Cook with a better oil.  Choose healthy unsaturated fats like canola oil or safflower oil because they do not burn as easily as naturally solid fats such as butter.

You may also be interested in:

Cooking Foods with Wet Heat 

How to Cook with Spices

How to Cook with Herbs

Last Update – June 13, 2018

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