There are many of us, young, old and in-between, who know that cooking at home is the better option as far as eating healthy is concerned. But, their hearts quail at the thought of doing so. Either they don’t like cooking. They think it’s boring and tedious. Or, they claim to be ignorant about the various methods of cooking that they need to know. So, they do a take-out or order in! Perhaps, you belong in this group?
Do you know anything about sautéing a cake or grilling French fries? Steaming a leg of lamb or simmering cookies? Most people don’t. And they aren’t alone. If these processes sound a little odd it’s because certain cooking methods need to match with specific foods, to achieve the desired outcome. Before you start out on your culinary journey to eating healthy, you have to choose healthier foods, and learn how to cook them.
The many cooking methods for eating healthy
Choosing the appropriate cooking method impacts the final result, and also affects its texture, appearance, and flavour. For instance, slow-cooking ribs to makes them fall-off-the-bone tender. Deep-frying donuts to give them the crispy, golden brown exterior and soft, doughy centers.
Cooking methods/processes can be broken down into three sub-categories:
- Dry heat method: A relatively quick process, adds crispness and flavour but doesn’t tenderize. Food cooked this way are small, thinly sliced, and already tender – such as sautéing ground meat or roasting vegetables
- Moist heat method: This involves cooking with water or stock, like poaching fish and steaming broccoli and other vegetables
- Combination of the two: This often uses long, slow-cooking periods to tenderize and break down tough cuts of meat, such as braising pork shoulder
Once you’ve learnt these basic cooking methods, you will find it easy to pair ingredients with the appropriate cooking methods.
Commonly used cooking processes for eating healthy include:
- Boiling: This is cooking prepared foods in a liquid (water, bouillon, stock, milk) at boiling point. There are two ways to boil food: a) food is placed into boiling liquid, re-boiled, then the heat is reduced, so that the liquid gently simmers; b) food is covered with cold liquid, and then brought to a boil. Foods which can be cooked by boiling are: stock (beef, mutton, chicken, fish); sauces (brown, white, curry); glazes (fish, meat); soups (tomato, lentil); farinaceous (pasta); fish (cod, salmon); meat (beef, leg of mutton); vegetables (carrots, cabbage, potatoes).
- Poaching: this method involves cooking food in the required amount of liquid at just below boiling point. Foods which can be cooked by poaching: farinaceous (gnocchi), eggs, fish (sole), fruits (fresh and dried). poultry (chicken).
- Stewing: This is a long, slow cooking method where food is cut into pieces and cooked in the minimum amount of liquid, water, stock or sauce, All stews have a thick consistency. Stewed foods may be cooked in a covered pan on the stove; or in a covered pan in the oven. Foods which can be cooked by stewing: fish (bouillabaisse – French fish soup/stew); meat (goulash, minced beef, Irish stew, white stew of veal); poultry (chicken fricassee, curried chicken); vegetables (ratatouille).
- Braising: This is a method of cooking in the oven. The food is cooked in liquid in a covered pan or casserole. It is a combination of stewing and pot roasting. Foods that can be braised are farinaceous (rice), meats (lamb, beef), poultry (duck) and vegetables (celery, onions).
- Baking: This is cooking food in an enclosed space with dry heat – with the action modified by steam. During the baking process steam rises from the water in the food and combines with the dry heat of the oven to cook the food. Foods which can be cooked by baking: eggs, meat (steak, Cornish pastries), chicken, vegetables (potatoes), apples, fruit flans, cakes and bread.
- Roasting: This is cooking in dry heat in an oven, or on a spit – with the help of fat or oil. Prepared food is placed on a roosting spit over, or in front of, radiating heat. Foods which can be cooked by roasting are meat (lamb, beef, pork, veal), poultry and game (duck, chicken, pheasant) and vegetables (potatoes, parsnips).
- Grilling: This is a quick method of cooking by radiant heat, also called broiling. Foods can be grilled over heat (charcoal, barbecues, gas or electric grills); under heat (gas or electric grills, gas or electric salamanders over fired grills) and between heat (electrically heated grill bars or plates). Foods that can be grilled are fish (cod, herring, mackerel, plaice), meat (chops, steak), vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes), savouries and snacks, as well as toasted items such as bread, muffins, tea cakes, etc.
- Frying: There are two types of frying – deep and shallow.
- Shallow frying is cooking food in a small quantity of pre-heated fat or oil in a shallow pan or on a flat surface. Foods which are shallow fried include eggs (omelets), fish (sole, plaice, trout, cod, herring), meat (lamb, kidneys, beef Stroganoff), poultry (chicken), vegetables (potatoes, onions, cauliflower, chicory), sweets and pastries (pancakes), and savouries.
- Deep frying is cooking food in a large quantity of pre-heated deep oil or fat.
Foods which are normally deep fried are eggs (Scotch eggs), fish (haddock) chicken (cutlets), savouries (fritters), potatoes (croquettes, chips), vegetables (onions) and pastry and sweets (pineapple fritters, doughnuts).
Smart tips for eating healthy
Use smart fats
Choose unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, over saturated fats such as butter. But always in moderation because all fats are calorie heavy.
Unrefined does the trick
Choose whole grains over refined grains because whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa, have more fibre, more bran, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients.
Check recipe here…
For eating healthy: more fruits, more vegetables
Try for 4 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, with a serving size of 1/2 to 1 cup, depending on the fruit or vegetable. Go for a selection of colours to give you the full range of antioxidants and vitamins.
Check recipe here…
There’s such a thing as too much meat
A wonderful source of protein, yes, but meat is also a huge source of saturated fat. So eat small amounts of lean meat, fish and poultry. The rest of your plate should be occupied by healthy vegetables and whole grains.
Check recipe here…
Cut down on sugars
Sugars of any kind, whether corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup, add significant and very empty calories – without any nutritive value.
Check recipe here…