Whole Story

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Learning Healthy Cooking Techniques

By Derek Sarno, January 7, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Derek Sarno

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!




Susie Bee on Maui (Eat Little, Eat Big) says ...
Great tip, thanks. Looking forward to more healthy eating tips!
01/07/2011 10:26:59 AM CST
carter says ...
In trying to eat healthier, including lowering my fat intake, I have found that cooking without oil is by far the easiest way to reduce my daily intake. There are very few dishes in which oil is absolutely necessary. Thanks for the extra tips!
01/09/2011 1:43:17 PM CST
Jocelyn says ...
I tried it and sauteing without oil is easy and it works. Now I make a lot of recipes with no oil at all. Considering that high heat changes the chemistry of oil, and I don't need the extra calories, I've very happy to learn how to do this. Thanks!
01/07/2011 11:07:00 AM CST
OneMoreBite says ...
I disagree, as a chef and a healthy one to that. Fat is needed not only to help develop the flavor of the dish, but also our bodies need fat in order to assimilate vitamins. Otherwise they get washed out of our system with urine. One of the major nutrients our brain uses is fat. If you want to keep it healthy, use healthy oils: organic sunflower or coconut oil for high temperatures, cold pressed olive oil, sesame seed oil, etc. If grapeseed oil, only organic. Even butter is ok in moderation, and a wonderful flavor enhancer. Other great sources of healthy fat are nuts, avocadoes, durian, seeds (like pepitas, sunflower, etc.) No diet based on extremes will work long term. And certainly no extremes are ever healthy. My two cents.
01/07/2011 8:13:23 PM CST
Stacy says ...
Great tip!!! Thank you.
01/07/2011 8:48:46 PM CST
Stephen says ...
Reducing unhealthy fat is good, but high temperature cooking not only changes the chemical composition of fats but most foods. Some healthy foods develop carcinogens when heated to extremes. Also there are healthy oils that allow lower temperature cooking while keeping or adding flavor. Love this web site and store :-)
01/08/2011 4:13:06 AM CST
Joseph says ...
Great information! How would you suggest cooking cruciforus vegetables & whole green beans without oil?
01/18/2011 9:32:20 AM CST
Tia says ...
This is great! Basic, easy to follow instructions for a non-cook like me. Thanks so much!
01/19/2011 11:22:36 AM CST
Teri says ...
Thanks! I'm looking forward to this series of posts!!
01/07/2011 7:55:09 AM CST
Colleen Camp says ...
My son was diagnosed with fatty liver disease so we had to change our diet fast. Whole foods made healthy eating easy.
01/07/2011 7:55:34 AM CST
Melissa says ...
I ususally use olive oil or grape seed oil but I will definitely give this a try. Thanks!
01/07/2011 9:53:07 AM CST
John says ...
Unfortunately, Pacific brand broths have started adding MSG but call it "organic" yeast extract (how exitotoxins are organic is a question unto itself). So, if you want healthy, and you are allergic, like most people, to MSG, don't buy broth with that ingredient. Too bad whole foods gave up on its old reliability of not having MSG on it's shelves.
01/07/2011 7:43:52 PM CST
Tymber says ...
Based on my own extensive nutritional research and personal experiences, I definitely agree. Thank you, OneMoreBite. A good quote to live by is "...all things in moderation."
01/08/2011 2:09:55 PM CST
patp says ...
such a treat to learn a new technique! My diet since my post chole operation requires low fat or no fat diet! Keep the new tips coming. Thanks
01/09/2011 8:50:41 PM CST
Samael says ...
After a years worth of seasoning, my cast iron requires no oil =). Great for cooking, home defense (haha), and my kids will get to enjoy the set when my kimchi addiction finally offs me.
01/12/2011 2:19:59 PM CST
Brad Kuklinski says ...
Does the Tablespoon of oil used to saute really matter? I could go look it up but in a say 4 quarts of tortilla soup with onions peppers garlic and 1 tablespoon of oil to get it goinng and I also don't have to stand over the pot to keep it from scorching ( and it will) without constant motion, what are you saving? Not trying to be negative just practical. Thanks for listening. Brad
01/12/2011 6:06:37 PM CST
Lauren Alexander says ...
darn. I am reading this after cooking my dinner where this would have been totally helpful. Next time will have to try! Thanks :)
01/12/2011 6:48:37 PM CST
Alice says ...
But the vegetable broth has salt and if you are on a salt-free diet which is worse, the added salt or the small amount of olive oil?
01/12/2011 9:40:24 PM CST
Irene says ...
I have a question regarding sauteing without added oil. Although I understood the process for onions, do you do the same thing with a batch of mixed raw vegtables? Lets say I saute the onions on high heat till they carmelize. Can I add raw vegtables to the onions then? And if I didn't have any onions, would I just saute the raw vegtables on high heat with some added broth? Hopefully, some one has done this and can explain how. Thanks.
01/12/2011 11:11:43 PM CST
claudia says ...
I was just listening on the radio about how heating oils makes them unhealthy and was wondering how else to cook. Not a second later I see this in my email. Thank you so much. I had no idea about this technique.
01/13/2011 4:17:43 AM CST
Martha says ...
Here is a link to an informative article that explains why cooking without oil makes sense: http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2010/07/results.html
01/13/2011 9:02:16 AM CST
Debbie says ...
Thanks so much for coming up with this idea! I grew up in an era of boxed food cooked in a microwave so I'm just learning how to cook. You explain things simply but in detail which is great for us beginners. Looking forward to future posts!
01/13/2011 11:34:39 AM CST
Cindy Robinson says ...
I have always used this method. I was a very sick woman and could not eat any added fat whatsoever, only lean meats etc. Broths are a great way to stir fry, add flavor which eliminating the fat took away.
01/13/2011 11:45:27 AM CST
Kat says ...
Aren't healthy fats (olive oil cooked at a lower heat) good for you?? Help to increase your good cholesterol?? Why would you want to eliminate this??
01/14/2011 12:15:13 PM CST
Peggy says ...
I have used this technique for years with broths, since I learned that the olive and coconut oils previously used in cooking continued to add fat back on my body, even though I was eating healthy organic meats, vegetables, and fruits. The food is so much tastier, and it's a wonderful weight loss technique in keeping body fat at a minimum. Thank you for publishing this information since I thought that I came up with the idea myself (chuckle).
01/15/2011 9:07:15 AM CST