Favorite family recipes can be delicious, but also time-consuming and sometimes a little unhealthy. Here are some ways to make these dishes better for you.
By Althea Chang Cook
Flowers and chocolate come and go, but go-to kitchen items for home cooks can make a lasting impression.
That’s true, whether your mom gets a countertop appliance that makes cooking easier for her, or better yet, an appliance you can use to cook. for her, at least on Mother’s Day.
Because family recipes passed down from generation to generation aren’t always on neat little cards—and some aren’t even written out at all—we don’t dwell on ingredient lists.
Instead, we delve into the process: how to make family recipes faster or healthier, and how these methods can be applied to other dishes.
Make fried foods and more in an Airfryer
use one air fryer is a healthier way to cook classic Chinese dishes like salt and pepper chicken wings, says Ruiz Asri, editor at Honest Food Talks, a British site that publishes recipes and cooking hacks. “There’s definitely a charm to cooking classic dishes the way Mom used to make them,” says Asri, but this dish requires several cups of oil if cooked the traditional way. “While I love it, it’s pretty unhealthy because it requires stir-fry the chicken and the ingredients several times in oil.”
Instead of all the frying, Asri bakes wings using just tablespoons of oil versus cups of oil, at about 400°F for 30 to 45 minutes. The same method can be used to cook Korean yangnyeom chicken and Japanese katsu chicken, he says. In reality, any kind of fried chicken can be prepared in the same way.
“I can reduce my oil consumption, produce less oil waste and the air fryer is just easier to clean afterwards,” says Asri. And because airfryers have timers, “I save myself that I don’t have to stand in front of the deep fryer during the entire cooking process. No more danger of red-hot oil!”
Airfryers aren’t just for foods dredged in flour or cornstarch, or any other food that has the word “fried” in their name. Luz Plasencia, a Consumer Reports video producer, adapted her mother’s recipe for mangu — a traditional Dominican breakfast of mashed plantains topped with fried salami, cheese, eggs and pickled red onions — for her air fryer, helping her cut how much fat she can get. . she has to make the dish.
The two air fryers below are the top rated in Consumer Reports’ tests and cost less than $100.
Chefman TurboFry Touch Airfryer
GoWise VS GW22731
Make meat and rice in a multicooker
Tanya Harris, who runs the Charlotte, NC-based recipe site My Forking Life, adapted her mother’s recipe for: Jamaican oxtail stew use a pressure cooker or multicooker to speed up the process.
It would take 2 to 3 hours to cook the oxtails in the conventional way in her mother’s dutchie, a pot that resembles a Dutch oven, says Harris. Using a multicooker such as an Instant Pot in pressure cooker mode will reduce the cooking time by an hour or two.
“I generally grab my pressure cooker for proteins that normally take a while to break down,” Harris says.
You can also use your Instant Pot doing double duty as a rice cooker. Perry Santanachote, a CR writer, does just that when creating a version of the Thai sticky rice she grew up with.
Traditionally, that dish is made in a large bamboo cone steamer basket placed over a pan of boiling water on the stove. Instead, Santanachote wraps her sticky rice in cheesecloth or puts it in a bamboo steamer and then places it in her Instant Pot. She’ll add water to the bottom of the pot, making sure it doesn’t get high enough to actually touch the rice, and cook it under high pressure for 15 minutes and then release quickly for 10 minutes.
Here are two top-rated multicookers from our tests.
Zavor LUX LCD: ZSELL02
Breville Fast Slow Pro 6 qt. BPR700BSS
Save your hands and save time with a food processor
Another CR writer, Mary Farrell, saves time and energy by using her workhorse food processor to make her Bolognese sauce, a hearty and vegetarian version of the spaghetti sauce her mother used to make.
To prepare vegetables, Farrell uses fresh mirepoix, the mix of onions, carrots and celery that is the basis of many delicious sauces, soups and other dishes. She then processes crimini mushrooms into pieces the size of ground meat.
Farrell sauté all those veggies with a mix of ground beef, pork, and veal, but you can just use any ground beef or even plant-based meat you like. And then she adds some milk, white wine and a can of diced tomatoes and let it simmer. An hour or so later, voilà, a hearty sauce, much faster than if she’d hand-cut and minced the carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
The two food processor models below have top scores for chopping and slicing.
Breville Sous Chef BFP800XL/A
Oster Versa Pro Series BLSTVB-104-000 Accessories for food processors
Use a blender for a smoother sauce
Using a blender can also save time and energy when preparing sauces, creating a smoother, more emulsified texture, especially when working from scratch. Juan Chavez, a student at the Culinary Lab, a cooking school in Orange County, California, uses a high-powered blender to make his version of the enchilada sauce he grew up with.
That’s because traditionally, a combination of dried chiles would be heated and reconstituted for the sauce, and there would be bits of pepper peel left after cooking that would have to be strained out, he says. It’s possible sound as a simple step, but straining isn’t a quick task when you have a jar of sauce and lots of little bits sticking to the bottom of a strainer.
When making enchilada sauce, instead of squeezing out the chile skin bits, Chavez blends them in and can see through his blender cup when the sauce is uniform and the chile pieces have pulverized, after about a minute.
“It saves me time and a little product because I don’t have to tax it,” Chavez says. “It also gives me a more consistent and better quality.”
Below is a top-rated blender in CR’s tests, followed by a cheaper option that still performs well.
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