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It doesn’t matter how fresh your ingredients are if you bread them and drop them in a deep fryer—the result may taste great, but no one’s going to stamp it with a “healthy” label. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to eating salads for the rest of your days! There are lots of cooking methods that keep meats, fish, and vegetables at their most wholesome—and bring out their best flavor. Here are five techniques to keep in your arsenal:
Method #1: Poaching
Simmering chicken or fish slowly in broth or wine is healthy, flavorful, and gives the dish super tender texture. Add garlic, spices, fresh herbs or even sliced jalapeno peppers to the poaching liquid and your family will think you took a gourmet cooking class! Try these recipes for poached chicken in a soy broth or poached chicken in tarragon white wine sauce. And you can never go wrong with poaching salmon in white wine—for some people, it’s a weekly staple.
Method #2: Stir-Frying
Heat a large skillet on high, add a little bit of olive oil, and quickly sauté any assortment of meat and vegetables together. The key here is making sure all of the ingredients are cut into similarly sized pieces so they cook evenly. Brown your meat first so it seals in juices and has time to cook through once you add the veggies; heat them just a few minutes, so they’re cooked but still have some crunch. Try this stir-fried beef and broccoli recipe and your kids will ask if you ordered from their favorite Chinese restaurant.
Method #3: Broiling
Instead of frying, get that delicious crispy flavor more healthfully by using your oven’s broil feature. Place the food about one inch under the heat source to sear it; check regularly and turn off the broiler as soon as it’s browned to your liking. (If you walk away for even a minute, food can burn—broilers work quickly!). Try broiling chicken, shrimp, casseroles, pizza, crab cakes, and more. For foolproof broiling, some oven ranges now come with a broiling drawer under the oven—the tray inside is the perfect distance from the heat source. One that boasts this feature is the Frigidaire Gallery Smudge-Proof Stainless Steel Gas Range ($649; homedepot.com).
Method #4: Roasting
What’s the difference between baking and roasting anyway? Essentially, roasting happens at a higher temperature (usually around 400 degrees), while baking is at about 350 degrees. The higher temperature is what creates that nicely browned (think caramelized), crispy flavor that makes everyone salivate when they walk in your door and smell something roasting in the oven! But besides meat, roasting is also a great cooking method for veggies like Brussels sprouts, carrots, or asparagus. Try this recipe for roasted asparagus with a lemon dressing and you can thank us later.
Method #5: Baking in Parchment Paper
The actual term for this cooking method is “en papillote.” Sounds fancy, but it just means wrapping food in parchment paper and baking it. Place fish and vegetables on top of a large circle of parchment paper, fold the paper in half to cover, then fold the edges in a few times towards the center to seal it. Once it’s placed in the oven, steam builds up inside the packet, cooking the food quickly and sealing in flavor, so you get perfectly cooked fish and vegetables every time. Paper packets are best for tender fish like halibut and shrimp, and veggies like bell peppers, zucchini, and onions. Try your hand cooking en papillote with this recipe for prawns and pasta.