icon - food

Can different cooking methods affect your food?

Did you know that the way we cook or prepare meals alters its composition both in terms of nutrients and flavor? This is not just because we combine different ingredients together, but more importantly because of the way different cooking methods can affect our food.
Cooking is based on heat, and more precisely, heat transmission and dates back to the early years of humanity, when people used fire in order to prepare and eat their food. Throughout the centuries more tools were invented, such as frying pans, sauce pans, ovens etc., in order to facilitate the cooking process and avoid burning the ingredients.
But, although the way we prepare meals or the tools we use has evolved with time, one thing has remained the same: the use of heat and its impact of food; and that’s exactly what defines each cooking technique. 
But what are the different cooking methods and their key characteristics?
different cooking methods - grilled vegetables
Different cooking methods
There are many different cooking methods that combine different tools and different ways of using heat. For example there are techniques that are based on direct food contact with the source of heat like grilling or cooking on a griddle. Then there are methods that mainly use convection, a method of heat transfer through hot air or liquids such as boiling or frying. And there are also methods that rely on electromagnetic radiation to heat food such as microwave cooking.
  • Cooking methods using dry heat: baking, grilling, broiling, roasting, spit roasting.
  • Moist heat cooking methods: boiling, poaching, blanching.
  • Cooking methods using steam: pressure cooking, steaming.
  • Cooking methods using fats or oils: deep frying, pan frying.
  • Mixed cooking methods using multiple techniques at the same time: braising, stewing, casserole cooking.
  • Innovative cooking methods: sous-vide cooking, ‘low and slow’ cooking which cooks food at low temperatures for a prolonged time, induction cooking.
Different cooking methods - boiing
What should you avoid?

Overall, cooking helps us digest raw foods that otherwise would be harmful. For example raw eggplants, raw potatoes or raw legumes can be toxic as they can contain solanine or similar substances that can cause gastric distress and other serious health issues. Therefore they need to be thoroughly cooked. Also cooking makes meat, poultry and fish safer from a microbiological point of view, as well as easier to chew or digest.
However, sometimes following the wrong cooking method can damage food quality or our health. Here are some cooking mistakes that pose a risk to our health and should be avoided: 
  • When frying, make sure the oil you use is not overheated. When oil starts to smoke it releases acrolein which can be toxic. 
  • Acrylamide is a harmful substance produced when starchy foods, such as potatoes and bread, are cooked for long periods. So, avoid cooking or baking potatoes for too long. Take them out of the oven before they start turning too crispy or brown and avoid eating too many crisps. 
  • When grilling or cooking meat avoid parts that are burnt or overcooked as overcooking food can also result in the production of dangerous chemicals such as acrylamide. 
  • Overall, cooking at high temperatures leads to loss of nutrients and food damage. That’s why a lot of recognized chefs prefer innovative long-cooking or low temperature techniques such as sous-vide. So although it might be faster avoid preparing food using high heat.
different cooking methods - oven baking
Cooking tips
If you are wondering which cooking method is the right one for your meal, here are some practical tips: 
  • Fresh vegetables: steam
  • Sea bream or fish: bake
  • Mixed boiled meat: pressure cook at high heat
  • Pasta and sauce: transfer the pasta to the sauce pan when almost cooked
  • Rice and carrots: Boil
  • Pork: Barbeque
  • Potatoes: Bake in the oven
  • Eggs: pan-fry or boil