You don't have to be Oprah Winfrey's gourmet chef or spend a fortune on expensive cookware to prepare food in healthy ways. You can make your favorite dishes without large amounts of fat or salt using basic cooking techniques.
Baking isn't just for breads and desserts. You can also bake poultry, lean meat, seafood, and vegetables. Baking usually doesn't require adding fat to the food, although you may need to baste the food to keep it from drying out. Simply place your desired food in a pan or dish and cook either covered or uncovered.
Roasting is like baking, but usually at higher temperatures. You can place your food in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet. When roasting meat, poultry or seafood, put a rack inside the roasting pan which will allow the fat in the food to drip away during cooking.
Broiling and grilling are cooking methods which allow the fat to drip away from the food. Both methods expose the food to a direct heat source. To broil, place the food on a broiler rack in the oven below a heat element. To grill, place the food on a rack above either a bed of charcoal or you may want to use a gas grill. A grill basket is very useful when cooking smaller items such as vegetables or seafood.
Braising is a two step technique. The ingredient is first placed in a pan on top of the stove and browned. A small amount of liquid, usually water or broth, is added. Then, the ingredient and the liquid is covered and slowly cooked. The cooking liquid is sometimes used afterward to form a nutrient-rich sauce.
Poaching involves gently simmering ingredients in water until they are cooked through. You may also choose a more flavorful liquid such as broth, juice or vinegar. Be sure to use a covered pan that best fits your food which will enable you to use a minimal amount of liquid.
Steaming is one of the simplest cooking methods. Place the food in a perforated basket and suspend it above simmering liquid. You can use water with seasonings added, or you may choose a more flavorful liquid. Flavor the food as it cooks.
Stir-frying is a traditional Asian cooking method which requires only a small amount of oil or nonstick cooking spray. The food is cut into small, uniform-sized pieces and then rapidly stirred in a wok or large nonstick frying pan.
You can give your meal more appeal by adding color, aroma and taste to your food. An excellent way is through the use of herbs and spices. You can add dried herbs in the early cooking stages, or fresh herbs toward the end of cooking. Be sure to use fresh herbs that aren't wilted and that have bright color. If you substitute dry herbs for fresh, only use one-third the amount.
Now that you're armed with the proper cooking techniques, you can prepare your meals like the pros, making them healthier and more appealing.