Whether you’re trying to eat healthier or just looking for a challenge, cooking without oil is easier than you might think.
One of the greatest ways to eat healthier and better is to cook without oil. And whether you’re interested in doing it for health reasons like reducing fat intake, or just up for a challenge, Chef Yara Herrera of Xilonen, a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, says it’s easier to do than you might think.
Chef Yara began cooking this way around a year ago, when her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “It really affected the way she ate, and it really made me go crazy over how much oil was in certain things in the store.”
“It’s interesting,” she says, “because I’m not really sure why all of the recipes you see online or in books include so much oil.” Chef Yara mentioned that cooking with oil is traditional, but perhaps not necessarily correct.
“It’s the same way of thinking that every French Chef has to be a white male and wear the white toque,” she laughs. “Cooking without oil is a challenge, it’s exciting, and it’s delicious if you know how to do it correctly.”
Sautéing & Stir Frying
“People think that when you sauté something, you have to have oil,” Chef Yara says, “but this isn’t necessarily true.” Instead, Chef Yara recommends using a really great Non Stick Saute Pan, and substituting the oil for either stock or water.
Because you need some sort of liquid agent, the stock or water are a fine substitute when using a Non Stick Pan, as you don’t have to worry about your food sticking to the pan. Just add a tablespoon or two of stock or water to your Saute Pan to add flavor and moisture for the veggies to cook in.
Similarly, the same technique applies for a stir fry. “If you’re making fried rice,” Chef Yara says, “you can add stock instead of oil, and get a nice crisp on your rice and add a ton of flavor without oil.”
“Caramelizing can happen without oil,” Chef Yara says, “it’ll just take a little longer.” For example, if you're cooking an onion on a Non Stick, it will naturally start to sweat, and release it’s moisture into the pan.
The vegetables will start to brown on their own if you keep turning them, and there will be brown bits you can deglaze from the pan that will add a ton of flavor.
“It requires you watch it a little more, but you’ll end up with a better result and better culinary instincts, too,” she says.
“When you’re browning something without oil, the star of the show is one-hundred percent the pan,” Chef Yara says. “You need a really good Non Stick Pan if you want to accomplish this.”
“For example, if you wanted to pan fry something breaded, most of the time, people use oil,” Chef Yara says. “But instead, we’ll use a Non Stick Frying Pan and end up with a similar result.”
In order to achieve a good browning, Chef Yara uses a wetter breading and different binding agents like eggs or an egg substitute (if you’re vegan).
Use the Right Tools
If you have a larger pan, like the 10-inch Non Stick Frying Pan, Chef Yara says “it’s really helpful because you can move whatever you’re trying to brown around the pan in order to apply consistent and high heat.” The result will be a healthier, but just as delicious meal.
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