Would Another Cooking Method Be Healthier?

The choice of cooking technique is important. If the usual method of cooking uses fat, try grilling, broiling, braising, or roasting the food instead. Instead of deep-fat frying, try oven baking. French “fries” seasoned with chili powder or oregano are both tasty and low in fat when baked.

Although stir “frying” can be a healthful cooking technique, use of generous amounts of oil negates some of the possible benefit. Always measure the oil to be used or, better yet, replace it with wine or a broth that adds flavor but little fat and only a few calories.

Cooking food for the proper time (avoiding overcooking) not only makes it taste better but also preserves nutrients.Many cooking techniques make it possible to prepare more colorful, flavorful, and healthier dishes. These include the following:

  • Braising—Food is browned, then cooked in a tightly covered pan in a small amount of liquid at low heat over a long period.
  • Broiling—Food is placed beneath the heat source; basting may be needed.
  • Grilling—Food is positioned above the heat source; basting may be needed.
  • Microwaving—This is a quick way to cook food with little added liquid or fat.
  • Poaching—Food is cooked in a liquid at the simmering point.
  • Oven roasting—Food is cooked in an uncovered pan by the free circulation of dry air, until the exterior is well browned.
  • Steaming—Food is placed on a rack in a basket above boiling liquid. Food should not touch the liquid.
  • Stir frying—Small pieces of food are cooked over high heat and constantly stirred. Use wine, broth, or fruit juice as the liquid instead of the traditional oil.

Marinating food adds flavor and does not have to add fat. Some tips for successful marinating include piercing large cuts of meat, poultry, or fish with a fork to help the marinade permeate the food. Always marinate food in a glass or ceramic dish in the refrigerator. Never place the food in a metal container.

Most marinades feature an acid base that may react with metal and change the flavor. Finally, a food safety tip: reserve some of the marinade before you put meat in it. Marinade that has been in contact with raw meat should not be used to baste meat, poultry, or fish during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

If you plan to use leftover marinade as a table sauce, it must be boiled for 5 minutes to eliminate bacteria. There is more that can be done once the food is out of the oven or off the stove. Skim the fat off pan juices, stews, and soups. Instead of topping vegetables with butter or margarine, sprinkle them with lemon juice or herbs. Remove any visible fat (and any skin from poultry) before serving.

No special, expensive equipment is needed to cook healthful foods. A good set of non-stick pans, a skillet, a roasting pan, a baking sheet, measuring cups and spoons, and sharp knives are enough to get you started. Quality, durability, ease of use, and cost should be the primary considerations when outfitting a kitchen.