13 Cooking methods that will make your life easy ( Part 1) : by Prabhakar Swaroop

It’s bewildering to watch a cooking show where accomplished chefs are preparing long-worded dishes for judges. They dice, they chop, they grate and then they roast, bake, fry, and magically transform raw ingredients into something mouthwatering.

Today, let’s discuss what are the easy ways you can transform the raw food in front of you so something nutritious and tasty.

  1. Boiling: This is a technique where the raw food is boiled in a pot of water. The boiling water transfers the heat into the food in question and cooks it while keeping it moist. The cooking temp will be never above the boiling temp of water at that elevation. You can think of pressure cooking as a combination of steaming and boiling at a higher temperature than boiling water due to the fact that the boiling temperature of the water is related to the pressure it’s at. So if you are a Himalayan climber your water will boil at a much lower temperature. Boiling cooks the food but does very little to enhance the taste.
    1. What are the foods that can be boiled? : Most grains, root vegetables, pasta, and beans would begin the journey to your plate with a boil. I start my rice dishes or lentils by boiling them. You can reduce the boiling time of beans by presoaking them overnight. This also reduces the amount of lectins which apparently has become a big issue in certain circles.
    2. Tips and Tricks:
      1. Pre-boil your water prior to adding the grain or roots.
      2. Boil enough water so that everything is covered.
      3. May add salt to the water to preseason the food.
      4. Keep a timer ready. Rice has a sweet spot at 12-15 minutes, after which it becomes mush.
      5. Drain the boiling water quickly after the cooking time is over so that the food does not keep on cooking, you may also want to give it a quick rinse with cool running water to stop the cooking process.
      6. After the elapsed time is over, poke the vegetable with a fork, it should sink in with mild resistance without any sensation of grittiness or the skin of the vegetable splitting.
  1. Pan frying: The first example when I think of panfrying is that of potatoes or onions. Pan-frying can be a means to get to the final cooked product or it can result in the final food. It’s important to remember to use the right kind of oil and a good non-stick pan. Occasionally, I used butter to pan-fry slices of bread or vegetables but high heat can burn butter easily. Heat is transferred to the food either via convection, radiation, and conduction. Here in panfrying, the heat transfer happens via conduction so it’s important to remember that the cooking times depend upon the initial temperature of the foods, the temperature of the pan, and the contact surface between the pan and the food in question. If the food is cold and the pan is hot, you will get burnt food with an uncooked interior.
    1. What foods can I pan-fry? If you roll a small ball of dough into a tortilla or a roti, this can be easily pan-fried with or without oil. I love cooking Rotis with fenugreek leaves on a cast iron pan. After cooking, I smear a little bit of butter or ghee on top, my kids love to eat this with a little bit of daal. You may pan-fry cubed potatoes, sweet potatoes, slices of bread, and almost all root vegetables including onions, garlic, and carrots. I really think this is the most versatile way to cook.
    2. Tips and Tricks:
      1. You do not need to bring prechopped frozen foods to room temperature before pan-frying. I will frequently pan-fry some chopped onions in a little olive oil with cumin seeds and salt till it becomes translucent then add a bag of frozen chopped vegetables at hand be it beans, bell peppers, or cauliflower to cook. Cauli looks a lot more appealing with some color, so either I brown it which takes a lot longer, or add a pinch of turmeric powder when I add the cauliflower to the pan. If you are up to it, you may add a little bit of smoked paprika. I think turmeric powder and smoked paprika make a wonderful combination. Remember to cook out raw turmeric flavor.
      2. Bring your pan to the proper temperature. It all depends upon the heat output of your cooktop as well as the thickness of the pan’s bottom. After the pan had become hot, I add some oil and move the pan around to coat the surface evenly with a thin layer of oil.
      3. Cast iron pans are fantastic for this job. They retain heat longer, don’t suffer from hot or cold spots and despite needing very little maintenance, they can last generations.
  1. Baking: You can bake either in a small toaster oven if you have a small baking tray or use a full-sized oven. Baking has several advantages. You can premix your ingredients hours in advance and put them in an adequately heated oven when you are ready.
    1. What can I bake? I love to bake broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes, root vegetables, and cauliflower for my lunch. I will chop the vegetables at hand, mix them with a small amount of olive oil, garlic powder, and salt, and off they go into the oven. You can bake bread, cakes, rolls, casseroles, and many other food items. One of our favorite dinners on Sunday evenings is baked root vegetables, Rajma which is red bean curry, and corn tortillas with a topping of fresh lime juice, and chopped coriander leaves.
    2. Tips and Tricks:
      1. Always preheat your oven.
      2. A toaster oven will suffice for most purposes.
      3. Avoid putting your vegetables in the topmost rack of your oven, their edges will burn.
      4. Coating your vegetables with a thin layer of oil will help you not to dry them out completely. I use a tablespoon of olive oil for 2 pounds of chopped broccoli. I will mix them together in a large bowl with some salt and garlic powder before baking them
      5. Use oven mitts and gloves to remove baking trays, pots, and pans from the heated oven, and remember that they will remain hot for a long time
  1. Grilling: This can be done on a proper grill or using a grilling tray or grilling cast iron pan over a stove. The idea is to apply intense heat directly and some indirectly to your food to cook it as well as leave that appealing grill marks. If your life situation does not allow for a proper outdoor grill currently, consider buying a small grilling cast iron pan or a grilling tray.
    1. What can I grill? Almost anything! Grilled vegetables, eggplants, and zucchini are all delicious. Occasionally, we will roll out dough for either rotis, naans, or tortillas and put them out on a grill to cook. It takes only a few minutes for them to cook.
    2. Tips and Tricks:
      1. Preheat and lightly oil the grilling surface to prevent sticking
      2. Buy a grill cleaning brush. It’s metal and will remove the charred pieces which are stuck.
      3. If you are using soft and small pieces of food, e.g paneer use skewers
      4. Soak your skewers in warm water for 30 minutes prior to inserting them and starting the grilling process.
  1. Steaming: In many ways, steaming can be synonymous with boiling esp when it comes to grains like rice or quinoa. I think it sounds more sophisticated than boiling. I have a bamboo steaming basket as well as an idli steamer.
    1. What can I steam? You can steam vegetables, and grains as well as various batters e.g idli or even dhokla. There is a tradition of making ‘ Pithas’ which is very similar in concept to the Mexican corn tamales. Some of the dishes can be sweet as well. You may want to chop vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, zucchini, and broccoli into bite-sized pieces and put them in a bamboo steaming tray, and put them over a shallow pan of boiling water. The rising steam will cook the vegetables in 12-15 minutes. After they are steamed, the vegetables can be seasoned or sauces can be added.
    2. Tips and Tricks:
      1. Keep deeply colored e.g beets separate from the rest of the vegetables
      2. Prepare the sauces or gravy prior to steaming. So when you serve the vegetables, they will still be warm.
      3. Remove the vegetables from the steaming tray when they are al-dente. This means that the vegetable has a slight resistance when you bite into it.


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