List Image

Cooking 101

Cooking can seem daunting if you are not used to spending much time in the kitchen. But the benefits of learning to cook and preparing light, healthy meals can go a long way toward helping you stay on track with your weight loss goals for good! A little 101 may be just what you need to get started. Here’s a how-to for those of us who are a bit cooking-shy:

1. For Flavor:

Marinate or toss meats or veggies in broth, juice, vinegar or low-fat salad dressing before cooking.

a. Marinate or toss meats or veggies in broth, juice, vinegar or low-fat salad dressing before cooking.

b. Rub meats with spices by spreading the mixture over the meat and rubbing it in.

2. Sauteing/stir-frying: Use a large frying pan. Spray or coat with nonstick cooking spray. Use medium heat to saute and high heat to stir-fry. Once the pan is heated, add your meat or fish. Add/cook sliced vegetables, such as onions, peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and squash, until the color turns bright and the vegetables are easy to spear with a fork.

a. Chicken:

■ Cook cut-up pieces for 3-4 minutes.

■ Cook larger cuts for 6-8 minutes each side.

b. Fish

■ Cook 2-3 minutes each side.

c. Beef/Steak

■ Cook cut-up pieces for 3 minutes (medium rare) or 6-10 minutes (medium-well to well-done).

3. Roasting/baking: Spray a shallow pan with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes to seal in juices, then reduce heat to 350 degrees.

a. Chicken

■ Whole: 1.5-2 hours

■ Bone-in cuts: 30-50 minutes

■ Boneless cuts: 20-40 minute

b. Fish

■ Filets: 8-10 minutes

■ Bone-in: 15-20 minutes

c. Vegetables

■ Whole: 15 min to 1 hour depending on thickness

■ Cut pieces: 4-15 minutes until easy to pierce with fork

4. Broiling/grilling: Spray grill rack or broiler rack with nonstick cooking spray. Turn broiler to medium or high, or set grill to preheat. Add meats or veggies to rack once heated. Turn once or twice throughout the cooking process.

a. Chicken: 6-8 minutes

b. Beef: 3-5 minutes (medium rare); 7-15 minutes (medium well to well done)

c. Fish Filets: 3-5 minutes

d. Veggies: 6-10 minutes

Stay safe. Use a food thermometer to ensure cooked foods reach a safe minimum internal temperature. Refer to the following table for guidance:

Food Temperature (°F)

Ground meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb)160

Ground poultry (chicken, turkey)165

Fresh beef, veal, lamb145

Fresh poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose)165

Pork and ham 145

Egg dishes 160

Seafood 145

Leftovers 165

Source: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Available at Accessed July 5, 2013.

Once you master these healthy cooking techniques, you will be set to master other culinary skills -- and make a friend of your kitchen!