The choice of cooking method, far from being the least of the concerns in preparing a dish, greatly modifies its flavor and affects its nutritional benefits. But which and how many cooking methods exist and what are they suitable for?
By now we all know that the bakingof whatever type it is, always involves a food processing. One of the best known effects is certainly the loss of vitamins, but sometimes also water and mineral salts. Equally harmful from a nutritional point of view is the phenomenon of rehydration: just think of the fact that pasta and rice lose about 2/3 of their protein, carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral content during cooking.. Heat, however, can also have the opposite effect: this is the case with meat and some vegetables. Cooked meat, for example, is enriched in proteins and lipids during the process.
Some vegetables, on the other hand, increase their vitamin content if cooked. As Consumer Reports dietitian Amy Keating explains, “Many of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables are bound to cell walls. Cooking breaks down those walls, releasing nutrients so your body can absorb them more easily.”
Vary the cooking processtherefore, it is very important, alternating raw and cooked foods, to take advantage of all the benefits (and all the possible flavours).
The process of boiling involves immersing food in cold water, which is then brought to a boil. Alternatively, you can wait for the water to boil before starting to cook. In both cases, however, it is recommended to salt the water and supervise the cooking. In fact, if overcooked, foods lose not only their colour, but also their texture and flavour. The vitamins are then inactivated by the heat and the mineral salts are dispersed, therefore boiling for a short time is always recommended. When cooking is not too long, the flavors of the food are preserved and it is also possible to season the cooking water with herbs and spices that resist heat well, or to cook elements in broth (meat, fish, vegetables). From a nutritional point of view, longer cooking times correspond to a greater loss of vitamins and minerals, which is why it is preferable to immerse food in already boiling water.
But for which foods is boiling indicated?
Definitely for i starchy foods, legumes (lentils and chickpeas), fish, red and white meats.
An advantage of this method certainly concerns the fact that no potentially carcinogenic substances are produced, nor are fats used.
It’s about a delicate cooking, that keeps the nutrients intact and during which no additional fats are used, nor harmful substances are formed.
There are at least three main ways to use steam cooking:
- use the steamer
- the foil
- use the pressure cooker
Ideal for meat, fish, poultry, fruit, vegetables, potatoes and pastathe steam cooking which better preserves the flavors. And, contrary to popular belief, steaming is by no means synonymous with lack of taste. In fact, it is very easy to season the parcels with spices, herbs, condiments, olive oil or cream.
The nutritional benefits are certainly related to maintenance of vitamins and minerals.
When vegetables are cooked in water, usually boiling to boil them, they tend to color it, giving them a part of their content of vitamins, mineral salts and other substances that are useful to us. Unfortunately, using a steamer certainly lengthens the preparation times of the vegetables, but in this way both the health and sensory aspects are enhanced. Steamed vegetables, unlike boiling, tend to remain more crunchy, giving us a feeling of greater freshness and a greater quantity of healthy substances. Never is the old wise man who said “to be beautiful you have to suffer” truer, in this case to be better and more useful, you have to dedicate a little more of our precious time to vegetables.CopyAMP code.
Virtually possible for all foods, the microwave cooking however, it does not add anything particular in terms of flavor, and it also has the bad effect of destroying vitamins and mineral salts over a long period of time. Therefore ideal for rather short cooking times, for which the nutrients can be preserved, and for foods that are not large in size (they would risk remaining raw inside).
Whether you want to prepare a roasted in the oven or with a rotisseriethis method is suitable for red and white meats. Surely an important effect is the one on the flavour: just think of the golden and crunchy skin of the white meats, or the intense taste of the dishes. The drawback of this method? Destroys vitaminsbut retains the mineral salts.
This cooking method involves using lidded pans or saucepans, often with a non-stick coating. Ideal for cooking meat and fish, stewing can also be used successfully with vegetables. Just cut the food into small pieces, marinate them when necessary, and cook them for a long time with a little water. Stewed foods have the advantage of being particularly digestible, since they are cooked for a long time without ever reaching too high temperatures. Clearly, however, the long cooking process inevitably leads to a loss of heat sensitive nutrients. Another thorny issue: even if it would not be necessary, this type of cooking method leads more than others to the excessive use of seasonings and the addition of ingredients rich in saturated fats.
There grill gives food an unmistakable flavour, ideal for meat, poultry and fish. Whether using a cast iron grill or embers, there is never a need to add fat. A little oil will be sufficient to avoid food sticking. The times, in general, are not long. High flame cooking, however, produce hydrocarbonssubstances that may be carcinogenic. In particular, foods in contact with the high temperature grill surfaces form heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, compounds evaluated in the laboratory as mutagens. For this reason it is advisable to avoid the abuse of this cooking method, and always associate abundant vegetables with the meal to limit the absorption of harmful substances in the digestive tract.
Whether it’s meat, vegetables, fish or potatoes, everyone probably loves the taste of fried dishes. Just immerse the food in very hot oil, from 140 to 180 degrees, and use frying oil. If it is an authentic pleasure for the taste, the frying but it is also a problem with the line. Fried foods are indeed very fat, especially if surrounded by the batter soaked in oil. And similarly to the grill, also frying produces hydrocarbons. In fact, oil heated to high temperatures can oxidize forming toxic substances such ashalocreine.
However, it must be said that, when done correctly, frying can retain nutrients. Some useful tips:
- choose an oil that is resistant to high temperaturessuch as peanut oil, olive oil and high oleic sunflower oil;
- wait until the oil is hot before dipping the food in itso that the external crust forms early (preserving the internal part and the nutrients of the food);
- do not reuse the oil used for frying!
- use a thermometer to make sure the temperature remains constant. If you have a deep fryer, just set it up.
An alternative to traditional frying is through air fryer, which allows the formation of the external crust on the food, leaving it soft inside. This effect is known as Maillard reaction. Unlike traditional frying, hot oil is not used for cooking, but powerful circular currents of high-temperature air. The oil used will be minimal and this will also have an impact in terms of calories, fat and waste. It was dedicated to this type of cooking a laboratory test of the Lifebuoythe results of which you will find in this article.
Ideal for red and white meatsthe slow cooking ensures that the meat is tender and tasty, thanks to the contribution of the cooking liquid. Just sauté the meat in a fat (essential precaution so that it does not lose liquids and form a crust), moisten it with water flavored with herbs, alcoholic beverages, fruit juices or spices and let it cook over low heat. Be careful to avoid cooking for too long: also in this case, vitamins will be destroyed by heat.
Cooking in the oven
There cooking in the oven it occurs thanks to radiation from the walls of the chamber of the appliance and by conduction of the trays and/or saucepans used. In a convection oven there is also the contribution of hot air, to obtain foods with the outside more cooked and crunchy than the inside. In baking, fats can be very limited. And if the temperatures are not excessive, good fats and vitamins do not deteriorate. In addition, the taste of baked foods is particularly inviting, as long as you pay attention not to burn them. Otherwise, in addition to having a bad taste, harmful compounds will be formed.
The main drawback is probably that cooking times are often extended (certainly not ideal for those who are always in a hurry!)