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Healthy Cooking

Por Lic. Nina Nazor Robles* -
Healthy Cooking

Cooking is an art. If we get organized and learn to enjoy the pleasure of creating a dish, cooking can be easy, creative, and fun.

To overcome your fear of cooking, learn some basics. One of the secrets of a good chef is to cook food using the right techniques. We are now going to look at some basic cooking methods.

There are two methods for cooking food: wet and dry.


Dry cookingconsists of placing food in or on a source of dry heat. The advantage of this is that a crisp layer forms around the food (e.g. meats) locking in its natural juices and nutrients. When using dry cooking methods, the texture, chemical composition, and appearance of the food changes.

Wet cookingconsists of cooking food with moist heat. Water-soluble and heat-sensitive vitamins are lost in the process. To make use of these vitamins, you can use the water or stock in sauces, or in some other dish.

Dry methods


Baking or roasting

This method can be used to cook fish, meat, poultry, cakes, pastries, bread, fruit, and vegetables. The food is subjected to high temperatures inside a preheated oven for a certain amount of time. Microwaves penetrate the food in all directions and make the water molecules in the food vibrate, heating them instantly.

Grilling


Grilled food is cooked by intense heat over a wood or coal-fired grill that allows an outer crust to form preventing the natural juices from escaping. The heat can be generated by electricity, gas, charcoal or wood. All kinds of fish, meat, poultry, and vegetables can be cooked this way.

Spit-roasting
This consists of skewering the food on a spit and holding it over a flame. The spit is turned as the food cooks. Cooking must be started at a very high temperature and then the heat should be lowered when the outside of the food starts turning brown. The best food for spit-roasting is chicken, potatoes, and tender cuts of meat.

Griddling


A shallow metal or earthenware dish is placed over a heat source (coals, flames, or an electric grill). The dish or frying pan must be very hot. Thin cuts of meat, chicken or fish cook well using this method. Tortillas, bread, and vegetables do too.

Frying

There are two ways to fry food:
1. Deep-frying. The food is submerged in very hot oil or fat (360-380 °F) for a sustained period of time. To deep fry well, you need to use very hot oil. This makes the surface proteins coagulate quickly and form a film that prevents the juices of the food from getting out. The best foods for deep-frying are eggs, meats and offal, fish, fruit, vegetables and cereals.
2. Shallow-frying. The food is fried in barely enough fat to stop the food from sticking to the pan. This method can be used for preparing eggs, meats and offal, fish, fruit, vegetables, cereals, and pastas.

Sautéing


Food is normally sautéed in a frying pan containing little fat. For meat, sautéing is intended to seal the pores with a burst of heat at the start. Once cooking has finished, the meat still contains all its natural juices. The meat is browned by turning it frequently in the pan and without pricking it so it keeps its juices. Depending on the dish, the cooking process is then finished in the oven, or a liquid is added to the pan to make a sauce.

Wet methods


Poaching
This consists of wholly or partially submerging food in a liquid that is almost boiling. It is important to use just the right amount of liquid for the food in question. This method is generally used for cooking vegetables, poultry, and eggs.


Double boiler (bain-marie) cooking
Food is cooked in a container that stands inside another container of boiling water. The cooking is done either over direct heat or in the oven. This method is ideal for melting chocolate or cooking flans and puddings in the oven.

Blanching
This consists of submerging food in boiling water for a short time and then putting it in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. This technique helps remove skins, fixes the color of vegetables, and helps prevent nutrients from being lost.

Boiling
This means heating a liquid to 212 °F and keeping it at that temperature. Food is put in the boiling water to cook. Sauces can also be thickened using this method. Syrups and caramel can be made this way. Meat, pasta, vegetables, and some fruits can be cooked using this method.

Steaming
Food is put in a metal basket or on a rack inside a pan with water at the bottom. When the water (which shouldn’t touch the food) is heated, steam forms, rises and cooks the food. This is an ideal method for cooking vegetables and fish.

Learning and using different cooking methods will add variety to your meals. It will also give you many more options for the type and amount of fat you have to use (if any). This will allow you to enjoy delicious meals while sticking to your diet plan.


*Dietitian with the MyDiet™ Team

 

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