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5 Skills Every Health-Conscious Cook Needs

Even if you cook only for yourself and your family, knowing your way around the kitchen makes cooking faster, easier, and more fun. Mastering a few key cooking skills can keep you from succumbing to yet another night of unhealthy takeout. A healthy, home-cooked meal is simple when you add these five techniques to your cooking repertoire.

1. Seasoning a cast-iron skillet: This type of skillet is perfect for searing vegetables, fish, and meats. But first, it’s important to know how to care for the pan properly. Heat it up on top of the stove, and then rub some canola oil all over the interior surface of the pan. Put the pan into a slow oven for about 15 minutes, and then remove it and let it cool. Wipe away the excess oil. This process allows the oil to get into the skillet’s pores and form an excellent nonstick surface. Don’t scour the pan when you wash it, and re-season it occasionally.

2. Skimming stock: You can easily make your own stock by simmering leftover bones with water and vegetables. Once you have your stock, it can be used to add liquid and fantastic flavour to all kinds of foods, including soups, sauces, risottos, and more. But be sure to remove the fat before you use it. It’s best to chill the stock overnight – that way the fat will rise to the top and solidify, where you can easily scoop it off.

3. Giving your grater more jobs. This is one handy tool that can make a big difference in the variety and quality of your meals. Try shredding broccoli stems and adding them to salads or soups; or grate radishes instead of slicing them. A little research will turn up lots of ways to use your grater that you may not have thought of before.

4. Poaching. Poaching isn’t limited to eggs. This is an extremely healthy way to cook which adds lots of flavour but little to no fat. Bring some water, wine, and herbs to a simmer in a sauté pan and add chicken, salmon, or other food and let it cook until done. This results in meat or fish with a wonderfully moist texture and delicious taste.

5. Braising. You can save money on your grocery bill by buying less expensive cuts of meat, but these are often tougher. Braising can help them out. Braising is basically cooking for a longer time at a lower temperature with lots of moisture. Typically, you sear the meat in a Dutch oven or skillet, then add a liquid such as a stock or water and wine, cover the pan, and let it simmer away slowly.

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