Stir-Fry, Broil, Bake or Steam Vegetables?

Nutritional composition of foods isn’t always as good as their taste and look. And even though we all have preferred methods of cooking food, there are some methods that produce healthier outcomes. Depending on the food, cooking methods can be used interchangeably, according to food experts. Here we talk about pros and cons of the most popular cooking methods.

Cooking techniques to add to your repertoire:

  1. Broiling which is a fast method of cooking fish, meat or poultry. The high heat comes from the pan and seals flavors and moisture. When you cook meat, fat drains off naturally. Be carefully with marinades because some ingredients lose their nutritional value during cooking. Fat with sugar produce excess smoke and many unnecessary calories.
  2. Roasting is a high-heat method that produce no moisture. This keeps the moisture locked inside cooked food. Then the temperature is lowered to cook everything though. The flavors are completely retained and even enhanced by spices. Roasting meats and vegetables is done on high heat for around 20 minutes with a bit of olive oil. I personally like to shave Parmesan cheese on top of roasted veggies and I’m done. Check out this breakfast boats recipe that uses quick roasting technique, they are delicious.
  3. Stir-frying is a high-heat method that allows you to cook everything quickly. Vegetables or meats go in wok or a frying pan with almost no oil (just a drop is enough). Cooking is very quick, so vegetables retrain their color, nutrients and flavors. If you don’t have a wok yet, it can be a good idea to get one.
  4. Barbecuing is one of my favorites cooking method. Everything can be grilled. Grilling doesn’t require oil but you can brush foods with marinate or olive oil, lemon juice and mustard if you want more fats. There is almost no clean up required, and barbecuing foods always have their unique flavor.
  5. Baking is the process of cooking a mix in the oven and evenly heating it through. No heat passes through and food retains all juices and flavors. There is no need to add oils and marinades, herbs and spices are perfect for seasoning.
  6. Steaming often required a steamer, which is a vessel with holes. Steaming allows to preserve all minerals and vitamins, but some foods lack their flavor. Adding herbs and spices can solve the problem.

How to stir-fry vegetables

  • Don’t make the pan too crowdy. 4 cups of chopped vegetables or 10 cups of chopped leafy greens in a 14-inch wok is usually enough, otherwise you can crowd the pan. You can use a sauté pan as well, but wok is much deeper and can hold big quantities of food better.
  • Dry the veggies. When you want to cook lettuce or snow peas, you should make sure they are dry. If not, veggies will steam and lose their texture and flavor. Take a salad spinner and give vegetables a whirl or just pat them with kitchen towel.
  • Pay attention to the vegetables. Stir-frying is a quick process, and vegetables cook incredibly quickly. Don’t walk away from the stove. When you drizzle your pan with oil, stir-fry requires attention. It’s just 2 or 3 minutes, not much to handle anyway.

Steaming

Steaming is the complete opposite of stir-frying. Steaming is the healthiest way to cook veggies. It breaks cell walls of foods making the nutrients easier to digest. It can also improve antioxidant properties of many veggies such as spinach, pepper, broccoli and green beans.

Steaming is different from simmering and boiling because you don’t need to put vegetables in water, which usually leads to nutrient loss. Just place veggies in a basket in a bigger pot so that they don’t touch water. The cooking time is around 20 minutes. Don’t overcook or you can burn your pan. You can even make vegetarian noodles by steaming the veggies and adding tofu.

Roasting

Roasting is another easy cooking method. You just need to toss all ingredients with oil, season and put in the oven. With roasting, you create a caramelized layer and add more flavor to your dish.

Roasted veggies is a healthier version of grilled veggies. And you avoid the risks of carcinogens that sometimes form during grilling.

Boiling

Boiling has gotten a bad reputation during the recent years, because you need to cook everything in boiling water and then discard the liquid. Nutrients are leached into the liquid which can sometimes lower the value of foods.

If you boil something, use the liquid in the recipe to keep the nutrients. For example, you can use it as stock for your soup. Boiling veggies is best for people who want to lower their potassium intake.

Boiling is recommended for people who are at risk of developing kidney stones. Most vegetables contain oxalic acid responsible for the stones. Boiling helps lower the acid. Of course, you should always consult your doctor before making a decision.

Fresh or frozen?

Vegetables lose nutrients not only during cooking. Fresh vegetables lose their value while they’re transported to a distribution centre, displayed in a store or stored in a crisper. When possible, choose fresh farmer’s vegetables to reduce time from harvest to your fridge.

When you can’t find fresh vegetables, frozen can be a good alternative. Their nutrient content match the one of fresh vegetables because they’re frozen at peak ripeness. Veggies that are shipped to the produce section are picked before their peak ripeness, so they don’t have enough time to fully develop their potential.

Raw or cooked?

Many people believe raw is better than cooked, but it’s not always the case. Cooked vegetables have weaker cell walls and our bodies digest them better. They also provide more antioxidants such as lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein.

Cooked vegetables provide more minerals as well. Beet greens and spinach are high in calcium which is released during cooking. Cooked veggies deliver more magnesium and iron than their raw counterparts.

Of course, some vegetables are better for you raw than cooked. Cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower and other cruciferous veggies contain enzymes that get destroyed during cooking. Basically, no cooking method can preserve all nutrients. So, don’t limit yourself to only one technique or only one salad. Enjoy your foods grilled, roasted, boiled, raw or steamed!

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