Healthy Cooking Techniques 101
Discovering and sharing a good recipe is one of my favorite things to do. It’s like research, but with a delicious payoff.
Now, knowing some good recipes is great, but it occurred to me recently that one of the best ways to eat well is to know the fundamentals of cooking techniques.
Often the right method for cooking is just as important as the right ingredients.
I was lucky enough to grow up cooking, and I am grateful for the knowledge I have (thanks, mom), but I know that not everyone feels comfortable in the kitchen.
With that in mind, here are some of the best techniques for creating great flavor while keeping away from unwanted extra calories…
Baking uses the dry heat of the oven and is a great way to cook a number of food items. We may generally think of it for things like cakes and cookies, but it is a terrific way to make low maintenance meals. You can bake just about anything, including seafood, chicken, veggies, and fruits. The reason that this technique is extra healthy is that it doesn’t generally require you to add any fat.
This is essentially the same as baking, but typically at a higher temperature. Roasting is great way to develop flavor and carmelization.
This is my personal favorite way to cook a whole variety of vegetables. In this case the food is exposed closely to direct heat, and it is a great way to bring out extra flavor. As with baking, no fat is required for cooking meat this way (just keep a close eye on it to avoid burning). I do often use a small amount of healthy oil when it comes to broiling veggies, but it’s well worth it for the delicious result.
Grilling is another way to impart great flavor into your food without needing lots of fat or salt. It can completely change the flavor of bland veggies into something great, and cooking meat on the grill allows the fat to drip away from the food. Also, if you have never tried grilling fruit, I highly recommend it. Grilled peaches, plums, and pineapple are delicious and extra sweet.
Poaching is the process of simmering foods in a liquid until they are cooked through. This can be a good way to cook meat or seafood healthfully, by using broth rather than oil or butter. It is also a method commonly used for eggs.
This is one of the most familiar methods when it comes to healthy food preparation. In this case the food is suspended in a perforated basket above simmering liquid. This technique is most often used for vegetables. Food cooked this way can be made more flavorful by using seasoned liquid to steam with.
Sautéing is the process of cooking in a shallow pan over medium or high heat. There is often the use of some fat when sautéing, but a high-quality non-stick pan can eliminate the need for it. It is a good technique for quickly developing browning and/or carmelization while keeping food moist and flavorful.
Okay, so this one is not a cooking technique per se, but I feel that it is incredibly important. People often want to avoid healthy eating because they are convinced that it has to be bland and boring, but that is anything but the case (I hate bland). Herbs and spices are an amazing way to punch up flavor in place of salt or fat. Spices are also a great way to experiment and change up old recipes. Note: The rule of thumb with herbs is to use dried herbs early in your cooking, but if you are using fresh herbs, add them toward the end so that they retain some freshness and color.
Check out this link for a visual cheat sheet and more in-depth info about cooking techniques: