One of the concerns I hear often from both colleagues and friends when talking about healthy eating is that many feel they just don’t know how to cook healthier. Unfortunately, many of us were raised on foods cooked with lots of oil and butter and aren’t familiar with the many ways that you can cook without these added fats.
As a chef and culinary educator for our Health Starts Here™ initiative, I am excited to share with you several upcoming blog posts on the many ways that you can prepare foods that not only taste delicious but also help to maintain the nutrients and vitamins in the foods you are cooking.
We’ll start with a simple technique that can reduce the amount of unhealthy fat in your diet: No Oil Sauté or Steam Frying. Cooking without oil allows us to focus on more nutrient-dense foods without having the added calories. As we move into eating healthier fats from whole plant sources, we can reduce the amount of extracted oils and processed fats by using liquids such as vegetable stocks, wine, beer, coconut water, etc. to cook our foods.
Step 1: To sauté without oil, follow three principles: High heat, no fat and rapid motion. Using caramelized onions as an example, you’ll first heat the pan until it’s hot. I use the water drop method to tell if my pan is hot enough. When you drop a water droplet into the pan, it should bounce like a super ball on the basketball court.
Step 2: Add julienne onions to the hot pan. You should hear them sizzle. Stir rapidly.
Step 3: Cook the onions continuing to stir and allow the color to form as the onions heat up and stick slightly to the pan. No need to add oil. By caramelizing the onions we are pulling the sugars and semi burning them to create that nice browning effect which creates deeper flavor.
Step 4: Add small amounts of vegetable stock to deglaze the pan and loosen up the onions from the pan.
Step 5: Stir until the onions are tender. Now the onions are ready to use in your favorite dishes.
Wherever recipes call to sauté vegetables in oil, you can use this technique. I know it’s hard to set down that bottle of olive oil but trust me on this – this is an easy technique and it can work in all of your dishes. To start out, try this technique when making your next batch of soup and start off with sautéing your vegetables such as onion, celery and green pepper. Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you. Enjoy!