Cooking techniques for a healthy heart enhance flavor and preserve nutrients. You want to avoid methods that add calories and unhealthy fat, like deep-fat frying. So, don’t use any cooking method that adds fat or allows food to cook in its own fat. Instead, you want to use cooking techniques that retain vitamins and minerals. Dishes made this way are delicious and good for your heart!
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Braising or Stewing
Braising is a great way to cook a pot roast and root vegetables. It is done by slow-cooking, so it tenderizes the tough meat, so that it just falls off the bone. You first brown the meat in a pan coated with a little bit of oil or sprayed with cooking spray. When it’s browned on all sides, pour off any fat, and then add a small amount of liquid and any seasonings. Then cover tightly and simmer. Since fat cooks out of the meat and goes into the liquid while it’s cooking, it’s suggested that you cook the dish a day ahead of time and then refrigerate it. That way you can remove the chilled fat, because it will harden and rise to the surface overnight, before you reheat it for your dinner. Also, while in the refrigerator, the flavors have a longer time to blend together and make for a more flavorful dish.
Stewing is good for cooking stews, chili, and fresh fruits like apples, cherries, and plums. You follow the same directions as braising, but when you add the liquid, you need to add enough to cover the food.
Grilling or Broiling
Grilling is cooking over direct heat and broiling is cooking under direct heat. Both cooking techniques, allow fat from the meat to drip away as it cooks, which makes the outside nicely browned and crisp, and makes the inside nice and tender. Steaks, seafood, poultry and vegetables cook best this way because they can be cooked quickly, using high heat. Before preparing the meat, trim and discard the fat . It’s healthier because you won’t have as much saturated fat in your food, plus it’s safer because the dripping fat often causes flare-ups. If you want to ensure the food stays moist and to add flavor, you should marinate it before cooking, and baste it during cooking. I usually use a different sauce to baste mine with, in order to avoid contaminating the food with bacteria from the marinade. A recipe that uses broiling, often tells you to broil a certain amount of inches from the heat. The inches are measured from the heating element to the top of the food, not to the top of the pan.
Up until last year, we had an old charcoal grill that we used for grilling. We had it since we were first married, which was 21 years ago! We finally broke down and bought a gas grill and it has been really nice. It’s very easy to start, you basically just turn it on, rather than having to use lighter fluid and start the fire. It’s nice because it doesn’t give you that strong charcoal flavor. Our meat just has a nice grilled flavor instead.
Using a microwave as a cooking technique is nice because it’s so fast and easy. The food keeps the moisture as it cooks, so you don’t have to add fats or oils; and it keeps its nutrients because they’re not drained away with the cooking liquid. The best foods to prepare in a microwave are fish, poultry, soups, vegetables, and fruits. You can adapt a conventional recipe for the microwave. It helps to find a similar microwave recipe as a guide. You usually need to cut down the cooking time to 1/4 or 1/3 of the time it takes using the conventional method. If you try that, and the food’s not done, try cooking it some more for just short periods at a time until its done. You also need to reduce the liquid stated in the conventional recipe by 1/3. It helps to cut the food into equal sizes to ensure even cooking. Your manufacturer’s guide for your microwave is a great place to look for more detailed instructions on how to convert the recipes. We use our microwave for making oatmeal, vegetables and even tuna noodle casserole.
I have never tried poaching, but I’ve heard a lot of people say they cook this way. It works well with chicken and seafood. The food is immersed in a pan of almost-simmering seasoned liquid and cooked. You can use water or fat-free, low-sodium broth. After the food is cooked, you take it out of the pan. You can then reduce the remaining liquid by boiling it rapidly. This will make the flavor stronger and you can also thicken it to use as a sauce.
Ever since I learned that nutrients are drained away with the liquid when you boil vegetables, I’ve using steaming as a cooking method much more often. Steaming retains the foods’ vitamins, minerals, natural flavor and color. You can steam vegetables, seafood and chicken. I’ve only ever tried steaming vegetables. You cook the food in a tightly covered saucepan, in a steamer basket, over a small amount of liquid. The liquid shouldn’t touch the food as it steams. You can even add herbs or spices to the liquid to give the food extra flavor. My favorite spice to add to vegetables is dill.
Stir-frying is constantly stirring food while it cooks in a small amount of hot oil over high heat. You have to constantly stir it to keep the food from sticking and burning. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way! The food is cooked quickly so vegetables keep their crispness, color and flavor; and meat and seafood keep their natural juices. Since the cooking goes so fast, it’s best to have your food already cut up in small, uniform pieces, and have your sauce all ready to go. A wok is made for stir-frying, but you can also use a large skillet, which is what I do. If you use a wok, remember that the hottest part is at the base, so as your food cooks, push it up the sides and put the uncooked food in the base.
Roasting or Baking
Both of these methods are very similar and use dry heat, but roasting is usually uncovered foods that cook at a higher temperature and baking is foods that are either uncovered or covered, but cook at a lower temperature.
Roasting is good for meats and vegetables. If you’re cooking an actual roast, make sure you trim off the fat first. Then, season the meat and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. This will make sure the fat drips in the pan, away from the meat. You can use water, fruit juice, or fat-free, low-sodium cooking broth to baste it. You cook the roast uncovered until it’s done. Take the roast out of the oven and insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, making sure it doesn’t rest on the bone. When it shows the desired temperature, push it a little deeper. If it stays the same, it’s done; if it goes down, you need to cook it a little more. A tip for roasting poultry is to leave the skin on when you’re cooking it, and then remove it when it’s cooked.
Baking is used for breads, casseroles, and desserts. You usually just follow a recipe for whatever you’re baking. If you’re baking meat, the recipe will sometimes tell you to check if it’s done using a thermometer. If it doesn’t say, I usually just cut it open and make sure it’s not pink and the juices run clear(although, unfortunately, I often overcook my meat because I want to make sure it’s done). In order to test if breads, muffins or desserts are done, insert a wooden toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, the baked good is done. If you read my weekly posts in the “About My Life” section, you’ll see that I do a lot of baking. It’s much healthier to bake our own foods than buy the packaged ones at the store.
Another cooking technique is slow cooking, which I previously talked about in my post, Heart Healthy Slow Cooker Tips and Tricks.
If you want to learn more about cooking techniques for a healthy heart, you can look at the The New American Heart Association Cookbook, which is where I learned most of what I shared with you.
What cooking technique is your favorite?