Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Use these insights to boost your own skills in the kitchen.

Ann Taylor Pittman
October 12, 2017

After years of creating delicious, nutritious recipes, we've mastered the art of healthy cooking. Use our tips to boost your own skills in the kitchen, along with a few recipes to practice your hand at these techniques. After all, the journey to healthy starts in the kitchen—we'll help you become a smarter, more intuitive cook. 

Use Fat Where It Will Have the Biggest Impact

If you’re cutting back on saturated fat, use it where it counts. If you’re making a potpie or dessert bars, put the butter in the crust; the filling can do without. Try out this technique with these Grapefruit-Campari Bars with Shortbread Crust.

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Weigh Meat, Pasta, and Cheese

At least until you’ve done it enough times to accurately eyeball it. You might be surprised at how much you underestimate when winging it: What looks to you like 6-ounce chicken breast might be 11 ounces—which means almost double the calories.

Stock Up on Healthy Convenience Items

Unsalted canned beans and tomatoes, precooked unseasoned brown rice, and unsalted chicken stock are the hardworking convenience heroes of a healthy kitchen because—let’s get real—they allow a healthy meal to happen when you have almost no time to cook. Use fresh ingredients to perk them up: a little citrus, perhaps, or some herbs.

Toast for Flavor

Nuts taste nuttier when toasted, and butter takes on a caramel richness when you brown it—making a small amount taste bigger. Toasting also enhances the flavor of everything from tomato paste to spices.

Master the Technique of Charring

Those deliberately over-browned edges make an enormous flavor impact with zero added calories, sodium, or fat. Charred vegetables—onions, cabbage, Broccolini, Brussels sprouts—are particularly delicious. Try your hand at charring with our Charred Broccolini and Onion Chickpea Bowls.

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Cook More Flora, Less Fauna

Doing so is better for your health and the health of the planet. We’re not saying you need to go vegetarian but do try to eat a more plant-based diet. Maybe that means Meatless Monday and Wednesday or using meat as an accent rather than the center of the plate. When you do eat meat as an entrée, use the 50/25/50 rule to keep portions in check: half the plate devoted to vegetables and fruit and a quarter each to starch and protein

Use a Timer

How many times have you trusted yourself to take the nuts out of the oven after 10 or so minutes, but then you forget and burn them? Life has a way of constantly distracting us—we need the “ding”.

Use Salt Wisely 

Think about where salt goes. Flaked salt, for example, will hit the palate first when sprinkled onto a plated salad—so you can use less and still have a major impact. Cut back on the salt in the marinade or breading (half of which will get tossed), and reserve some to add at the end. Try this technique with our Garlicky New York Strip Steak. 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Learn How to Balance Textures and Flavors

Sometimes, a one-note dish is a good thing. A sloppy joe, for example, is a delightful monotextured combo of squishy filling inside a smushy bun. More often, though, dishes need balance. A creamy pureed soup might be A-OK as is, but it turns into a phenomenal experience when topped with crunchy croutons. And consider salted caramel, arguably the superior caramel. It’s delicious precisely because the sweetness is balanced by the contrasting taste and crunch of the salt; without it, the flavor might simply be cloying. Sautéed greens too bitter? Balance with a splash of acid from vinegar or lemon juice. Embrace the idea of culinary yin and yang.

Bake with Precision

Making a cake successfully depends on exact measurements. Lighter baking requires even more precision; there’s a smaller margin of error when you’re using less fat and sugar. So weigh your flour: It’s the most accurate way to measure. Use a spouted liquid measuring cup for milk, oil, and other liquids, and check the amount at eye level. Your cakes (and your family) will thank you. 

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