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A dictionary search for verbs related to cooking pulls up many examples.

  • 炊く
  • 炒める
  • 煮える

etc.

The differences between them seems to be related to the method of cooking (boil, fry, etc), or what you are cooking.

But in Japanese chats, I see the good old workhouse verb 作る mostly being used when referring to making something in the kitchen.

So, what is a natural choice in Japanese conversation? And how often do these other kinds of verbs get used?

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炊く

This is 99% of the time be referring to cooking rice. If you try replace it with 作る and say ご飯{はん}を作る then the meaning becomes completely different, it means you will cook food in general, not rice.

As a side note, in some dialects 炊く can mean to simmer. For example 黒豆の炊いたん would be used in Kansai area.

炒める

You will often hear this as 炒め物, 野菜炒め, etc. because it is so common to take some vegetables and meat and fry them together. For example, there are 466,677 recipes for 炒め物 on cookpad it is so common: http://cookpad.com/search/%E7%82%92%E3%82%81%E7%89%A9

炒める itself you probably will hear on cooking shows or recipe books.

煮える

I don't hear this often as the transitive version 煮る since usually you are doing the simmering/boiling. Also, 煮物 is a very common dish, throw things into a pot and simmer them together.

I guess overall, you don't hear the above words very often in conversations unless you are into cooking (or actually cooking together with someone) and read recipes/watch cooking shows. However, you find the words pop up a lot in other words. For example ゆでる (boil) your hear a lot because of the word ゆで卵 (boiled egg) or 蒸す{むす} (steam) you hear in words like 蒸しパン or 蒸し{むし}野菜{やさい}.

However, 作る is the easiest to use when you aren't referring to a specific dish and say you are going to "make some food".

Also, if you are into cooking, Japanese has an abundant amount of words. Here are some variations on 煮る alone:

・煮からめる
・煮きり
・煮込む
・煮立てる
・煮詰める
・煮びたし
・煮含める
  • "黒豆の炊いたん would be used in Kansai area" <- そうなんです、京都の学校給食では「XXのたいたん」っていうのがいろいろ出ます。大真面目にメニューに載っているのを初めて見たときは、「たいたん」なんてふざけた名前だなあ、と思いましたが。前から気になってたんですが、関東ではそういうメニューは何て呼ばれてるんでしょうね?「XXの煮びたし」とか? – Chocolate Nov 23 '16 at 7:13
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炊く, 炒める, 煮る are the method of cooking like boil and fry. For example, 野菜を炒める(I fry vegetables). Other kind of verbs are 焼く, 蒸す, 揚げる etc.

作る is used when someone cook a meal. For example. 私は夕食を作る(I cook a dinner), 私はラーメンを作った(I cooked a ramen).

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