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Cooking method-Moist heat cooking
Description

Generally, moist-heat cooking methods use a liquid for cooking – usually water, stock or steam. The advantage of steam is that it transfers more heat at the same temperature. As a result, the food cooks faster and fewer nutrients are lost. The cooking temperature may vary from 70° – 120° C (158° – 212° F). These methods are particularly suitable for preparing pasta, rice, pulses and vegetables. The methods referenced below, though not exhaustive, are the more common techniques.

Boiling:
Cooking in a lot of liquid at a temperature of about 100° C (212° F).

  • Generally use as little water as possible to minimize the loss of vitamins and minerals.
  • When practical, save the cooking liquid for use in stocks, sauces and casseroles.
  • To add vitamins, sprinkle some fresh herbs onto the cooked food.

Poaching:
Cooking in liquid at a temperature under the boiling point (75°– 95° C/ 167°– 203° F)

  • Not ideal for nutrient retention in vegetables and potatoes, because a long cooking time results in additional nutrient loss through osmosis (nutrients boiled out into the liquid).
  • Use a pot with a large diameter.
  • If possible, add herbs or spices to the poaching liquid rather than salt or sugar.

Steaming:
Cooking at a temperature of about 100°C (212° F) in steam, with the food and cooking liquid completely separated. You can use a commercial steamer or a pot with a rack that suspends the food above a small amount of simmering liquid.

  • Use a flavoured liquid like stock, wine, water infused with herbs, lemon, etc.

Stewing / Braising:
Meat is often browned before liquid is added. Meats and vegetables can be cooked or steamed in their own juice. A particular way of stewing is to glaze: vegetables (carrots, small onions) become covered with the stew stock, which is reduced and enriched with a little sugar.

  • Use leftover water for the sauce or as stock for soups.
  • Use a pot with a tight-fitting lid (as wide and flat as possible).

Pressure cooking:
Cooking in an airtight pressure cooker at about 105° – 120° C (221° – 248° F).
Higher temperature equals shorter cooking time. The steamer is also suitable for blanching, poaching and reheating.

  • It is important to keep to the exact cooking time, as the food overcooks very quickly.
  • Suitable for producing large batches (portion by portion) of food (vegetables, potatoes, fish), or for producing a smaller amount of food (e.g. for diet recipes).

Microwave cooking:
Cooking with electromagnetic waves, either with or without a small amount of added liquid. The food can be browned or given a crust only if combined with a dry-heat method such as grilling. It is ideally suited for reheating food.

  • The food may cook unevenly and have hot and cold spots.  
    • For liquids: stir about halfway through the cooking time to distribute heat more evenly.
    • For solid food: let sit for several minutes after cooking or reheating, before serving.
  • If the thickness of food (e.g. piece of meat) is more than the penetration of the microwaves, there is a risk of the core remaining raw. As a result, any existing microorganisms (e.g. salmonellae in poultry) may not be killed.
  • Frozen products do not conduct heat well, so there is a risk of the outside area overheating while the inside remains raw.  Defrost on low heat and cook immediately.
  • Suitable dishes: glass, porcelain, and microwave-safe plastic dishes.
GOOD TO KNOW

How does a microwave work?
In other cooking methods food warms up from the outside in. But with the microwave, the heat comes from inside the food, from its water molecules. The electromagnetic waves of the microwave cause these water molecules to vibrate and the resulting heat cooks the food. Deciding factors for determining the required cooking time of certain products can be water content, molecular density, the starting temperature of the food, as well as the penetration or strength of the rays (normally 2 – 4 cm). According to current findings there is no risk of radiation exposure if microwave ovens are used properly.

GOOD TO KNOW

Blanching
Purpose:

  • Deactivation of enzymes
  • Preservation of the colour
  • Killing of microorganisms that may be present

Loss of about 20 – 30% of vitamin C, but vitamin retention improves during subsequent storage (chill-freeze process).

  • Drain and refresh in cold or iced water immediately to prevent further vitamin loss through cooking.
  • Do not leave the food in the water as this will cause further loss of nutrients through osmosis and will soften the texture of the food.

Osmosis: Nutrients in food leak or diffuse to liquid with lower concentration. Therefore, it is important to use this liquid for the sauce or as stock for soups because it is rich in vitamins and minerals.

GOOD TO KNOW

Phytochemicals

The term phytochemicals refers to a class of substances (at the moment 60 000 – 100 000 are known), which exist only in plants. They are classified into several groups (e.g. carotenoids, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, glucosinolates) and rated as health-supporting substances. They have, for example, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory effects and may also reduce blood cholesterol. These effects can only be verified when the phytochemicals are obtained from whole foods in fruits and vegetables. Their effect when taken as supplements cannot currently be verified. Their loss during cooking varies greatly. Some are soluble and sensitive to heat and air; others are better obtained from well-done foods (lycopene in cooked tomatoes). Tip: The best way to serve a variety of phytochemicals is to create a diet that includes every colour of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/violet).

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