A guide to: Healthy cooking techniques
There are many ways to cook food and keep that fat content healthily low. Here are all the methods you need.
Many traditional methods such as roasting and stewing are perfectly healthy ways of cooking.
For healthy roasts and stews, you may need to adjust the ratio of ingredients to fit in with current advice on balanced eating.
You can do this very easily by simply increasing the amount of starch and vegetables included in the meal, for example, and by limiting the use of saturated fats and trimming any visible fat from the meat.
Searing and dry frying
You can fry food and still enjoy a low-fat diet. For searing or frying, a good quality non-stick pan is ideal but not essential: more importantly the pan should have a heavy base.
If adding any oil or fat, apply only a very light mist of it to the pan or the foods to be cooked. A bottle of vegetable oil spray is useful for this.
Heat the pan until it is very hot before putting food in it, and then leave the food, without moving or turning it, until a light crust has formed. This will prevent it from sticking, while only using the minimum of fat or oil for greasing.
Stir-frying and sautéing
These are similarly speedy cooking methods that help to preserve nutrients, especially in vegetables, and require little or no added oil or fat.
Again, a non-stick pan would be helpful but the essential thing is to keep the food moving in the pan, so that it does not get a chance to stick or burn.
Both work best if the meat, fish or vegetables are cut into ready to cook, bite-sized pieces before you start, so they can be added to the pan at the right time and also to ensure that they cook quickly and evenly.
It is important to use a pan or wok that is quite a bit bigger than the volume of food you are cooking. If the pan is filled to the brim, the food will stew rather than stir-fry. This will make any meat tough and produce soggy overdone vegetables.
For no-fat cooking, the oil can be replaced with stock, soy sauce, vegetable juice, wine or any other tasty liquid that goes well with the mix of ingredients being prepared.
To make sure that food does not sit in fat as it cooks under an overhead grill, lay it on a rack so that the fat can drip away, or use a ridged grill pan or griddle.
Marinating food before grilling adds flavour and helps to tenderise and moisten meat. Barbecuing is a form of grilling that also imparts a delicious smoky flavour.
Roasting and baking
Roasting or baking are suitable for meat, poultry, game, fish, vegetables or fruit.
A joint of meat or a whole bird may need no extra fat, and using a trivet in the base of the pan will allow fat to drain away during cooking. If roasting vegetables, brush first with a little oil mixed with a sweet balsamic or sherry vinegar for extra flavour.
Stewing and braising
These two methods involve food being cooked slowly in a small quantity of flavoured liquid, such as stock or wine, in a sealed pot or casserole.
Both are slow cooking methods, but they produce tender, succulent meals and help to maximise the health benefits of the foods being prepared, as nutrients that leach into the cooking liquid can be eaten as part of a tasty sauce.
To add extra flavour, meat and poultry are often lightly seared before being placed in the casserole dish.
A highly underrated form of cooking, poaching can be used to produce an entire meal or meat or fish and vegetables, without the need for any additional fat.
The food is cooked very gently, at just below simmering point until tender, in water or a liquid flavoured with herbs and spices, lemon juice, vinegar or wine. For best results, do not let the liquid boil as the food may become tough and lose flavour.
By cooking food in the hot vapour given off by boiling water rather than in the water itself, its nutrients, colour and texture are better preserved.
Add herbs, spices or citrus zest to the liquid to impart a subtle flavouring.
Cooking en papillote
A form of steaming where the food, plus a little liquid such as stock, wine or lemon juice, is wrapped in well-sealed parcels of paper or foil.
These are then cooked in the oven.