There are some places in the world where a double-dipped, double-fried donut is considered the pinnacle of food. Sure, this sinfully sensational treat may leave you with a sugary, sinful experience to remember, but it also leaves your health in a state of disrepair if you’re thinking about incorporating fatty foods into your diet.
Okay, so that re-re-fried example might be a bit much. But it’s certainly accurate enough. How many people out there are still cooking almost all of their food in some type of butter or fat? Even oils without trans fats are still unhealthy for you, and there are many better ways you can go about cooking.
First, though, it’s important to understand what it is about fried foods that make us crave them. For this, you have to understand how we “taste” foods to begin with.
The human tongue
Our human tongues are only capable of picking up a few “flavors,” one of which is salty. The rest we actually “taste” from our sense of smell. Most fried foods have an incredibly high level of sodium and literally pop in our mouths. Not to mention that the crunchy texture outside and the creamy inside of most fried foods feel great on our palate. Foods cooked in butter also develop great richness, and along with the sodium used send signals on our tongue that what we taste is delicious.
Using healthier cooking techniques
Nobody quite knows why the seemingly best-tasting foods are so bad for us, but there is a way around it if you know how to use big flavors in your seasoning instead of big flavors in your cooking technique. Most of us wouldn’t be aware of it, but you can make “fried” chicken in the oven, without any skin, and with a very low amount of salt. You just have to follow certain formulas.
For starters, let’s talk about taste and how to prepare foods before the cooking process. Marinades and brines work well for most foods. The flavors you can use here are endless, but there’s a certain formula we want to stick with to make sure our tongues—and not only our noses—pick up the flavor.
Powerful flavors without the extra calories
Tongues taste spicy, sour, salty, sweet – the four S’s. For sour, you can use something acidic in the flavoring, like limes, lemons, vinegars, etc. Spicy could be any type of peppers. Sweet can be natural honey instead of sugar, or even something like roasted garlic or other roasted veggies with natural sugars. Salt – well, you’ll always need a salt. But here’s a great trick: use one third real sodium in any recipe and use substitute salt for the rest. In fact, you can even premix it to make sure you’re always sticking to the formula.
Incorporating big flavors that you’re able to taste with most foods, and then using different cooking methods, like baking or steaming, will give you healthier food without sacrificing a bit of flavor. You’ll have to experiment a little to find out what you like, but the wide world of flavors goes well beyond butter and oil.