Steaming and braising are excellent ways to prepare a variety of healthy foods. These gentle moist cooking methods preserve the flavor, and essential nutrients of your food.
Steaming and Braising: All About Moist Heat Cooking
Steaming and braising are two moist cooking methods that preserve the taste and nutrients of food in the best possible way.
Moist cooking methods, including boiling, simmering, poaching, braising (stewing) and steaming, are simply different ways to cook with water. When we cook our food, it can start to lose some heat-sensitive nutrients, such as vitamins. Since many of these nutrients are water-soluble, they run into the cooking liquid, so you can preserve them after you’ve cooked the food.
Preparing food water or a broth therefore serves to transfer important minerals and vitamins into the cooking liquid. The longer you expose food to heat and water, the more the valuable substances are lost. That’s why poaching, steaming and braising food are gentler than other ways of moist cooking.
Since boiling and simmering usually cook food at higher temperatures and for longer periods of time, they’re not quite as gentle or appropriate for more delicate foods like fish or eggs. These more aggressive methods, they don’t preserve nutrients in the same way as steaming and braising.
So where do we start with braising and steaming? First, we’ll give you a basic overview. Then, we’ll give you some tricks of the trade. By using these steaming and braising techniques, you can start preserving valuable nutrients as soon as you start preparing your meal.
Braising is a simple and gentle method of preparation that doesn’t require much cooking experience or kitchen utensils. Simply cover the bottom of a flat pot or a pan with liquid such as stock, broth or wine. Instead of liquids you can also use a good oil, which can complement the taste of the food, or taste neutral. However, you should make sure that the oil used is suitable for heating, even if the temperatures reached during braising are not as high as when frying.
Vegetables taste great when braised with extra virgin olive oil or various nut oils. If the taste is too intense, try refined vegetable oils. Once the liquid or fat has heated up, you can add the food and spices. With the lid closed, cook the food at a low temperature of just over 200°F in the hot steam.
You can braise just about anything like tender meat, fish fillets, chicken breasts, or mushrooms. Fruits and vegetables with low to medium water content, such as potatoes, carrots, kohlrabi, apples are also great. Be careful braising vegetables and fruit with high water content, such as tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers or grapes, since they don’t need any extra liquid for braising. But even here, some aromatic oil can bring out and round off the taste of the food. Keeping cooking time as short as possible is the best way to preserve the taste and vitamins.
Steaming is the cooking of food by hot steam or with its own water content. Vegetables and fish are particularly great candidates for steaming. This gentle cooking method preserves almost all of the nutrients and aroma of the food. Steamed vegetables taste much more robust than vegetables cooked in a lot of water.
Try out various sieve inserts for steaming. There are special pots with matching sieve inserts or inserts that you can use in virtually any pot. Place the food on the sieve insert and fill the bottom of the pot just below the sieve insert with water or broth. The rising steam cooks the food gently. After boiling, reduce the heat when the steam begins to rise.
If sieve inserts aren’t your thing, you can also buy a food steamer, or even make an investment in a steam oven. Steam ovens combine the benefits of steaming with the convenience of a convection oven, and have been increasingly popular in recent years.
Steaming and Braising in Action: Cooking up Fish
Fish is a valuable food and should be on your menu twice a week because of its good nutrients. Fatty fishes such as herring, mackerel or sardines deliver important omega-3 fatty acids and the trace element iodine, which is indispensable for thyroid function.
Steaming and braising are ideal ways to prepare fish. Why? They’re easy cooking methods, and they prevent the fish from becoming too tough and dry.
No matter what kind of fish you’re preparing, from salmon to cod fillet – you can find lots of creative ways to prepare your food. Add a seasonal summer vegetable such as leek, carrots, or fresh spinach and you have a tasty and healthy dish. When steaming, add some olive oil or butter to the fish for some healthy fat.
Whether braising or steaming fish, meat, or vegetables, here are a few tips to prepare your food in a healthy way.
Steaming and Braising Tips:
- Quickly Wash Your Food– so you preserve the nutrients.
- Keep the Pieces Whole- When vegetables and fruit are cut and then washed, their nutrient-rich juices can dissolve in the water, so you don’t get to enjoy them later.
- Go Easy With the Peeling– The peels contain lots of fruit and vegetable nutrients, so keep them intact if you can. Only peel when absolutely necessary.
- Prepare fresh foods, such as vegetables, salads, fruit and potatoes directly before you eat them. This will help retain the nutrients.
- Wash vegetables and fruit under running water before you chop them. This ties into Step 1- you don’t want your food sitting around getting drained of nutrients.
Amp Up the Steaming Process with a Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker combines steam cooking with the pot’s pressure, due to the tightly closed lid. Pressure shortens the cooking time of food, in some cases considerably. Try pressure cooking legumes, potatoes, or stews, in addition to meats and vegetables.
Use a Bag as a Time-Saving Kitchen Aid
Today, you can find more and more vegetables in cooking bags in the freezer department. These special cooking bags are designed for the microwave where they gently cook the food in their own liquid. In this way, preparation is not only particularly gentle, but also very quick and easy. If you are expecting guests, use ready-to-use steaming bags for the vegetable side dish. The steamed vegetables are crunchy, have a fresh color with great taste and are ready to serve in no time at all. You’ll look like a fantastic hostess, and all you had to do was turn on the microwave! If only decluttering your house were so quick and easy.
Time to Get Cooking!
Braising and steaming improve your nutrient supply and at the same time yield tasty and fresh-looking food. So why not try one of these cooking methods out tonight?
How are things at your home? Do you already use smart kitchen gadgets such as a pressure cooker, sieve insert or steam cooker bags? Maybe you swear by your steam oven or steamer? Discuss below, or on FamilyApp.