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Cooking Geek Product Review

July 5, 2019

Cooking meals at home is an important component of a healthy eating plan. But making healthy meals that actually taste good can be time-consuming and overwhelming— especially for cooks who don’t know a whisk from a spatula! But there’s good news for home cooks. Kitchen gadgets can help! 

Learn more about multi-cookers (like the Instant Pot), air fryers, and sous vide. All three tools have some great advantages over traditional stovetop and oven cooking and make healthy meal prep very easy. Here are just a few of their benefits:

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Advantages of multi-cookers, air fryers, and sous vide: 
  • Healthier recipes—by nature of their individual cooking methods, you can make delicious meals with less fat and fewer calories
  • Easy-to-use—All three cooking methods are user-friendly even for novices and people who don’t like to cook
  • Set it and forget it— you may need to do some prep beforehand, like chopping vegetables, but these cooking gadgets do all of the hard work of cooking.  They all have pre-programmed features and making dinner can be as simple as pressing a button.
  • Super-fast meals—Hot and fast multi-cookers  make tasty meals in a fraction of the time of conventional oven or stovetop-based recipes
  • Easy cleanup—all three cookers are designed for easy cleanup. That means there’s no scrubbing multiple pots and pans after dinner!

Want to know more? Scroll below to learn more about each cooking method:

  • Multi-cooker: The multi-tasker that anyone can use
  • Sous Vide: The Michelin restaurant technique that is easy for everyone
  • Air Fryers: Are they worth the hype?

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Multi-Cooker: The Multi-Tasker that Anyone can Use 

Many multi-cookers have fancy features that include sautéing, rice-cooking, and yogurt-making, but the best features of multi-cookers are their slow cooker and pressure cooker functions. 

“Low and Slow” slow-cooker feature: very tender and flavorful stews, beans, meats, and vegetables. 

This is the perfect method for hands-off, easy cooking. Just throw ingredients into the cooker in the morning and it does all of the work to make a delicious dish for dinner. This option is great for healthy dinners since “low and slow” cooking gently cooks food to develop complex, rich flavors without the need for added fat. It also tenderizes lean cuts of meat like flank steak that are inexpensive and flavorful but would normally be tough and chewy. If you think of only “cream of mushroom soup plus beef brisket” when you think of “crockpot” recipes, you have been missing out! Expert chefs have embraced the slow cooker and there are many modern, elegant recipes for slow cookers.

“Hot and Fast” Pressure-cooker feature: very tender foods in a fraction of the regular cooking time.

Multi-cookers, like the popular Instant Pot, have a pressure cooker feature that is just as easy to use as the slow cooker. If pressure cooking sounds intimidating, multi-cookers are a great choice. This new generation of pressure cookers delivers tender meat, vegetables, and beans without the potential risks of stove-top pressure cookers. The secret to its effectiveness is that the temperature in a multi-cooker can get much higher than the normal boiling point of water. This high temperature cooks and tenderizes food in a fraction of the time of conventional cooking. The results are impressive. Home cooks can turn lean cuts of meat, like flank steak, into tender shredded beef in less than 30 minutes. Cooks can also transform a simple bag of dried black beans into a pot of flavorful tender black beans in about 25 minutes. The featured chili recipe below cooks in only 15 minutes!

Resources: 

• The New York Times has an excellent, comprehensive website on the multi-cooker

EatingWell.com has a great collection of healthy multi-cooker recipes including this Pressure Cooker Chili 

• Go to America’s Test Kitchen for a review of multi-cookers and recommendations. They crafted a delicious recipe for Mussels with White Wine and Garlic featured on the Splendid Table. 

Sous Vide: The Michelin Restaurant Technique that is Easy for Everyone 

The sous vide technique, which is French for “under vacuum,” works by slowly and gently cooking foods in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag submerged in a water bath. This high-end cooking method was popularized in fine dining establishments such as Michelin Star restaurants, but advancements in technology have now made sous vide cooking more affordable and easy to use at home.

There is a lot of science behind why sous vide makes foods taste delicious, but all home cooks really need to know is that it can consistently produce perfectly cooked foods. The sous vide cooks foods “low and slow” in a precise way that is unique to the sous vide. This cooking method does require a little advance planning since it takes food several hours to cook, but the sous vide is programmed to do all the cooking and end results are worth the wait.

Here are some reasons to consider sous vide at home:
  • Easy clean-up—Just toss the marinated food in its self-contained cooking bag into the water bath. There is nothing to clean up since the food is in a convenient, disposable cooking bag
  • Guaranteed to never overcook—Sous vide brings food up to an exact final temperature
  • Flavorful food engineered into the cooking method:
  • Foods marinate while cooking. Foods like steak and fish are infused with flavor throughout the cooking process
  • Food in the cooking packet stays very moist and doesn’t dry out
  • Perfect for vegetables—Sous vide is well known for perfect steaks, but it also produces wonderful vegetables that have a tender inside and toothsome exterior.
  • Perfectly poached eggs—Make perfect poached eggs by using their shells as little cooking vessels
Resources: 

America’s Test Kitchen has very comprehensive information on sous vide cooking that includes helpful tips, product reviews, and delicious recipes.  

Since sous vide is intrinsically a lighter way to cook, there is no need to look for a “healthy recipe,” because all the recipes are healthy! For example, this Bon Appetit recipe for Sous Vide Salmon with Lemon and Dill is amazingly delicious. CookingLight.com has great ideas for healthy sous vide recipes such as Perfect Eggs Benedict.

Air Fryers: Are They Worth the Hype? 

Air “frying,” or air convection cooking, has exploded in popularity in the past few years. Successful air frying can sometimes require more finesse and trial-and-error compared to the multi-pot or sous vide, but there is a good reason for some of the hype behind this "hot and fast” cooking technique. These little cookers use air convection instead of deep-fried oil convection to cook foods. Most air fryer cooking baskets are small, so you cannot easily cook for a crowd. But this small-batch cooking approach is part of the reason foods get really crispy or perfectly roasted in a fraction of the time of a conventional oven.  Some advantages of using air fryers include: 

  • Lower-fat cooking versus oil frying— Recipes don’t require large amounts of oil to crisp foods and they won’t be greasy
  • Easy cleanup— After the air fryer has cooled, all a home cook needs to do is rinse the basket and wipe out the interior
  • Faster and more energy-efficient than using an oven— There’s no need to wait for a large oven to preheat and it won’t heat up the house on a hot summer day
  • Makes smaller portions— Ideal for meals for one or two people
  • Frees up the oven for other uses— Make another dish at the same time using the oven
  • Consistent results— Once you find recipes that work for you, you can make them over and over again while getting the same great results
Resources: 

America’s Test Kitchen has very comprehensive information on air fryer cooking that includes helpful tips, product reviews, and delicious recipes.  

You can cook everything from meats to baked dishes with air fryers, but it is worth re-discovering how delicious vegetables can be when they are prepared in special ways. Some featured recipes from CookingLight.com that are worth trying out are Air-Fried "Everything Bagel" Kale Chips and Air-Fried Buffalo Cauliflower Bites.

You May Also Be Interested In:

Ancient Grains: What are They and Why Should We Eat Them?

What's the Evidence Behind Residential Weight Loss Programs?

Hacking through the Hype about Yogurt

The Duke Diet and Fitness Center Duke Diet and Fitness Center offers an unmatched healthy dining experience for guests. Each meal plan is designed with you in mind, offering only the best quality nutrition, color, and presentation. In addition, our nutrition team will work with you on how to menu plan and will help you set you up for success, long-term. In addition, to further encourage your success after the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, we offer Dietician on Demand (DOD), our at-home, remote nutrition support program. To learn more about how the Duke Diet and Fitness Center can help you, visit dukedietandfitness.org or call 800-235-3853.

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