Oil-Free Cooking

Why are we cooking oil-free?  We already eat plant-based and have been removing most processed foods from meals.  Do we really need to cut out oil too?  Is it that harmful and doesn’t this all seem a bit much?  When we think about the foods we eat, our goal is to squeeze the most nutrition-y goodness out of every item.  It’s  pretty fascinating that all of those plants contain what we think of as magical properties.  Why not reserve our fat intake for foods that are also nutritious?  Bonus.

There are some contradictory articles and research on the topic of oils being harmful, but from what we’ve researched, processed oils have no nutritional benefits and actually cause harm to your heart and overall heath.  Studies show that yes, this even includes coconut oil.  We’d rather save our fats for whole plant foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds that not only help your digestion and your heart, but are also delicious.

If you research oil-free cooking, there are many resources available.  We’ve been checking them out and experimenting to see which methods work the best.  The results…ya don’t need oil!  Over the past month we have not missed it at all, which really surprised us.  We rarely go out to eat, but when we do the oil now seems  overwhelming and unnecessary.

Below are a few tips and tricks from our experience so far.  This pertains to cooking with plant-based ingredients only.  

1. Check Your Cookware

Skillet/ Saute Pan

  • For sauteeing without oil, our preferred type of pan is either a cast-iron skillet or safe, non-stick cookware that doesn’t use teflon.  Some people say ceramic is great but it’s a bit expensive for us right now, therefore we haven’t tried it so can’t speak to it.  Please let me know your experience with this if you’ve had success!
  • If using non-stick, you want your cookware to be in good condition, meaning no scratches or flaking of the material, and read the cleaning/ heating instructions carefully.
  • There are many good articles like this one about scratched surfaces which cause chemicals to release and chipped pieces of to get into your food
  • When starting this experiment, we realized that we took some of our non-stick skillets past their ‘no longer effective’ date.  Cooking with oil allowed us to avoid noticing this and take much longer to switch out our pans.  Which, along with potential chemicals in our food, it also meant we was adding even more oil than necessary to make them work.  With the no-oil method we realized we needed to upgrade, so we got rid of the old ones and replaced them with new non-stick pans.  Perhaps ceramic will take care of this issue over the long-term by not flaking?

Cookie Sheets

  • Used for baking and roasting.  We have been able to use the same pans, but we place parchment paper on the pan before we put the food on it, and we make sure to reuse the parchment paper.

2. Cooking Temperature

  • High heat can be harmful when cooking with certain pans, such a non-stick skillets, so when sauteeing or frying with these cook on medium to low to be safe.
    There are a few articles on the subject that I refer to as I’ve been learning, here and here.

3.  Cooking Methods (*this is for plant-based ingredients):

  • Baking and Roasting : Low heat and slow is what we’ve found works best.  It probably depends on individual ovens, but about 250-275 is a good temperature.  We’ve also been experimenting with broiling or turning the heat up high, to around 500 degrees feirenheight, at the end for crisper foods which works great.
  • Sauteeing : Now that we have the correct pans, we only have to use a little water, broth, soy sauce or white wine  in place of the oil, depending on the flavor we are going for.  
  • Baked Goods : We haven’t found a recipe where we can’t replace the oil with items such as applesauce, bananas, flaxseed/ water mix, black beans, avocado, tofu.  There are a lot of ideas here.

Do you cook oil-free?  We would love to hear about your experiences, and any tips or tricks of your own that you’ve found to be helpful in the kitchen.  Let us know in the comments!