Healthy cooking techniques: Boost flavor and cut calories

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Healthy cooking doesn't mean that you have to become a gourmet chef or invest in expensive cookware. You can use basic cooking techniques to prepare food in healthy ways.

By using healthy-cooking techniques, you can cut fat and calories. Consider, for instance, that each tablespoon (about 15 milliliters) of oil you use when frying adds more than 100 calories. To put it in perspective — adults should limit fat calories to no more than 20 to 35 percent of total daily calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that means no more than 400 to 700 calories from fat a day. By switching to roasting, you not only eliminate added fat but also allow any fat in the food to drip away.

The healthy cooking methods described here best capture the flavor and retain the nutrients in foods without adding excessive amounts of fat or salt. Use them often to prepare your favorite dishes. Click the tabs to the left for a description of these healthy cooking methods.

Baking

Besides breads and desserts, you can bake seafood, poultry, lean meat, vegetables and fruits. For baking, place food in a pan or dish surrounded by the hot, dry air of your oven. You may cook the food covered or uncovered. Baking generally doesn't require that you add fat to the food.

Braising

Braising involves browning (searing) the ingredient first in a pan on top of the stove, and then slowly cooking it partially covered with a small quantity of liquid, such as water or broth. In some recipes, the cooking liquid is used afterward to form a flavorful, nutrient-rich sauce.

Broiling and grilling

Both broiling and grilling expose food to direct heat. To grill outdoors, place the food on a grill rack above a bed of charcoal embers or gas-heated rocks. If you have an indoor grill, follow the manufacturer's directions. For smaller items, such as chopped vegetables, use foil or a long-handled grill basket to prevent pieces from slipping through the rack. To broil, place food on a broiler rack below a heat element. Both methods allow fat to drip away from the food.

Poaching

To poach foods, gently simmer ingredients in water or a flavorful liquid, such as broth, vinegar or wine, until they're cooked through and tender. The food retains its shape during cooking. For stove-top poaching, choose a covered pan that best fits the size and shape of the food so that you need a minimal amount of liquid.

Apr. 08, 2014 See more In-depth