What is the Healthiest Way to Prepare Meat?

A good butcher can only do so much. They can source the finest quality meat and provide you with the freshest and best cuts. But when it comes to doing the cooking, you’re on your own. For the best results, it’s helpful to understand which cooking methods are best suited to which types of meat. How you cook the meat is just as important as the quality of the meat.

So, let’s have a look at four different ways to prepare meat. To help out those who are trying to improve their diet, we will also discuss the potential health advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Roasting

Meat Roasting

This is perhaps the first method that comes to mind when you think of healthy cooking. Roasting involves using diffused dry heat (as opposed to a direct flame) to evenly cook the meat on all sides. When roasting, the food can be placed on a rack, a pan or on a rotisserie. Through browning and caramelisation, roasting can add texture and flavour to your meats.

It is a slower method of cooking, allowing you to manage the temperature easily. Some roasting methods even use a combination of both low and high temperatures to achieve the right texture and tenderness.

Roasting is considered healthy as it eliminates the need for added saturated fats. Such fats are found in common pan-cooking ingredients like butter and lard. Additionally, during the roasting process, the fat in the food tends to drip away, leaving you with the lean, healthier parts of the meat.

This cooking method is mostly used with poultry. However, it can be used to prepare red meat, fish and various vegetables. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, roasting methods typically result in a minimal loss of vitamin C in the meat.

Baking

Meat Baking

Baking is quite similar to roasting. Both use dry-heat to cook meat evenly and both add flavour and texture through browning. In fact, they are so similar that they are sometimes used interchangeably. Despite this, there are a few key differences.

First, since baking is reserved for delicate foods like bread and smaller cuts of meat, it typically involves a lower oven temperature. For this reason, baking a whole chicken or turkey would not work very well. Conversely, roasting bread in high temperatures will not work either.

This method of cooking is perfect for casseroles, fish, quiches and chicken breasts. It is a healthy method of cooking as it doesn’t require butter or lard. Just like roasting, baking also reduces vitamin C losses.

Grilling

Meat Grilling

Due to the amazing flavours that it provides, grilling is a popular cooking method. This process involves exposing food to direct heat (via charcoal) while it sits on a grill rack. Typically, it involves very high heat, resulting in a crispy surface and those chargrilled marks. This method can be used with steaks, burgers and even fish.

Unfortunately, grilling isn’t as healthy as one might think. Just like baking and roasting, grilling melts the fat in the meat. However, it also releases chemical compounds like heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds are mutagenic and have the potential to increase the risk of cancer. Such chemicals are also formed when meat is cooked via other direct, high-temperature cooking methods like pan-frying.

Stewing

Meat Stewing

Stewing, along with poaching and simmering, are slow cooking methods that use liquids to cook the meat. You can also add vegetables and other ingredients in the liquid while you’re cooking. This enables a variety of possibilities in terms of adding different flavours to your dishes.

The differences between these three processes are in the temperature levels as well as in the serving method. Stewed foods, for example, are usually served with the liquid that it was cooked in. Poached dishes, on the other hand, only serve the cooked meat and vegetables.

Liquid-based cooking is generally considered to be healthy as it minimises the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These are compounds that can increase the risk of heart disease and kidney disease. Additionally, the vitamin B that is lost through the stewing process can be regained by consuming the liquid that the meat was cooked in.

So there you go. Those were just a few cooking methods that you can experiment with. It’s important to be mindful of the health implications of each one. If you aren’t confident with your cooking skills, some of these methods might intimidate some of you. However, you won’t get to gain new experiences if you don’t take risks.

If you’re getting tired of the same old way of preparing your dinner, try some of these cooking methods yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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Grant Booth

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