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A Basic Overview of Cooking With Leaves 06:43

Josh Drew

Cooking with leaves is an ancient technique that protects delicate food from direct heat, locks in moisture, and imparts additional flavor.

A Basic Overview of Cooking With Leaves 06:43

Josh Drew

Cooking with leaves is an ancient technique that protects delicate food from direct heat, locks in moisture, and imparts additional flavor.

Intermediate
Prep Time Cook Time Total Time Serving Size

The Steps

  1. 1. Leaves can be used for grilling or roasting many different kinds of proteins and vegetables. This is a particularly practical method for delicate proteins that would benefit from extra protection over direct heat. Commonly used edible leaves include hoja santa leaves, shiso leaves, cabbage leaves, and kombu. Dried corn husks and salted bamboo leaves are also common, but not edible. 00:14

  2. 2. Leaves do not always have to be wrapped entirely around the food they’re being cooked with. Thicker leaves such as corn husks, bamboo, and kombu can be used as a protective “platform” when cooking over direct heat. This helps prevents food items from burning or being overwhelmed by too much smokiness. 02:55

  3. 3. Leaves can also be cut down and rolled around food. Pressing a skewer through the wrapped food item allows for easy grilling. Inedible leaves should be removed before serving. 03:58

  4. 4. Some edible leaves, such as shiso, are delicate and should be used with low heat to prevent unpalatable burning. Hoja santa can handle slightly higher temperatures than shiso, but is still delicate. 04:12

  5. 5. A useful trick for wrapping leaves all the way around food is brushing a thin coating of sauce, such as flavored mayonnaise, on the inside of the leaf. This helps the leaf adhere to the item being cooked. 04:50

  6. 6. A useful trick for wrapping leaves all the way around food is brushing a thin coating of sauce, such as flavored mayonnaise, on the inside of the leaf. This helps the leaf adhere to the item being cooked. 05:06

  7. 7. There are many different kinds of leaves that are used for cooking in addition to the ones previously discussed. Chef Josh mentions large leaf basil, banana leaves, and larger bamboo leaves. Other leaves include grape leaves, large chard leaves, avocado leaves, and fig leaves. 05:56

What You'll Need

Ingredients

- Hoja santa leaves
- Shiso leaves
- Cabbage leaves
- Kombu sheets
- Dried corn husks
- Salted bamboo leaves

Chef Notes

Wrapping food in leaves before cooking is an ancient technique that helps the food retain moisture, adds flavor, and prevents it from burning or falling apart, especially while cooking over a live fire. For two delicious recipes that employ this technique, visit Chef Josh’s “Grilled Scallops Wrapped In Hoja Santa With Chili Mayo” tutorial, and “Corn Husk Grilled Fluke With Ponzu Sauce” tutorial, both located at the bottom of the page.

Hoja santa is a large-leafed aromatic herb that grows naturally in tropic Mesoamerica. Its name translates to "sacred leaf" in Spanish. It is also sometimes referred to as “root beer plant” because of its similarity in flavor to that of sassafras bark, a main flavoring ingredient in root beer. Hoja santa leaves can be found in many Mexican grocery stores and farmers markets. If hoja santa is not available, another kind of grilling leaf can be used instead.

Shiso is a Japanese herb in the mint family, commonly used in fish, pork, noodle, and rice dishes. To learn more about this ingredient, visit Chef Gregory Gourdet’s “A Basic Overview of Shiso” tutorial located at the bottom of the page.

Corn husks are popularly used in Southwestern cuisine to keep food or fillings in place, retain moisture during the cooking process, and impart a sublte corn flavor and fragrance. Corn husks are not edible and must be removed before consumption. Corn husks can be purchased in most grocery stores. For a recipe that uses corn husks, visit Chef Geraldine Gillilan’s “How to Make A Classic Green Corn Tamale” tutorial located at the bottom of the page.

Kombu is an edible variety of kelp that is commonly used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines. It is sold in large, dry sheets. Kombu is high in iodine as well as glutamate, which gives it its umami properties. Kombu is also key ingredient in the Japanese essential stock, dashi. To make dashi, kombu is boiled with fermented bonito flakes. Dashi is used to make miso soup. Kombu can be purchased at most grocery stores and at specialty stores.

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Taught by

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Chef Josh Drew

Los Angeles

Josh Drew is a James Beard Award “Rising Star Chef” nominee, has worked at the world-famous French Laundry, a... read more