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    three common mistakes when cooking vegetables main

    3 Common vegetable preparation mistakes – and how to solve them!

    They’re packed with nutrients and flavor, and they make an appearance in almost every meal. If we’re asked to describe what’s required in a balanced diet, our minds will probably go straight to vegetables. But do you know how to cook vegetables in a way that preserves their nutritional value?


    Here are the common mistakes to avoid when you’re cooking vegetables and, more importantly, how to solve them.

    Vegetable preparation mistake #1: Cooking different vegetables at the same time


    It’s important to know how to cook vegetables for the right time, otherwise you’ll lose some of their nutrients.


    All types of vegetables have different cooking times. If you put everything into a pot together and cook it for the same amount of time, the softer veggies will end up overcooked, while the harder ones may not be cooked enough. The best way to combat this is to use different cooking methods for different types of vegetables:


    1. Boiling

    When it comes to vegetable prep, boiling is a quick and easy method of cooking. It’s easy to overboil, leading to a loss of vital nutrients. Often times, you only need to simmer some vegetables in the boiling water. With broccoli, for example, just drop evenly sized pieces into boiling water. Return to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for a few minutes until the broccoli is still a little firm. Root veggies with a higher starch content, such as potatoes, can withstand boiling over a longer period of time. Place the potatoes in cold water and boil gently until soft. 


    2. Steaming

    Steaming is one of the best solutions for how to cook vegetables while preserving as many nutrients as possible. Again, it’s worth understanding the different types of vegetables you’re cooking to know how best to steam them. For harder vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots, you may want to use a steamer. Remember, you only need a few inches of water at most. For more delicate vegetables that are easily overcooked, such as asparagus, use recyclable baking parchment to form a small parcel for the stove and steam them in their own juices.


    3. Stir frying

    The opposite of  steaming, stir frying is a delicious way to cook veggies over a high heat for a short amount of time. Simply heat some oil in a wok and add the vegetables, being careful not to overfill the pan. Continuously stir the vegetables to ensure they’re evenly coated with oil. Add the vegetables that require a longer cooking time first. Knowing how to cut vegetables is crucial for stir frying. To ensure even cooking, cut them into evenly sized pieces.

    4. Air frying


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    5. Roasting

    A great way to cook up a large batch of veggies is to evenly spread them over a large roasting tray. The best way to roast vegetables is to allow for plenty of time and to cook on high heat. Marinade your veggies in a little oil and seasoning before transferring them to the roasting tray. Again, ensure that you cut the vegetable into even pieces for even cooking. For maximum taste, most roasting will take around 40 minutes before veggies turn golden and crispy.

    Vegetable preparation mistake #2: Washing vegetables before you need to


    You’re planning to prepare a meal this evening, but you have a spare moment now. It might be tempting to wash the vegetables in advance. Don’t give in! Once vegetables are washed, they begin to oxidize and lose their nutrients. This is also why you should never wash vegetables before storing them. The exception is leafy greens, which can usually be stored for a day or two before spoiling. 


    However, there are rare instances when a little pre-washing can go a long way:


    In an air fryer: If you’ve just prepped some fries for cooking in an air fryer, soak these in a bowl of cold water for around a half hour. This will draw out any excess starch and result in extra crispy fries when it comes to frying. 


    Roasting or stir frying: Thoroughly washing the veggie gives you the added opportunity of thoroughly drying it before cooking. Drier veggies will give crispier and more delicious results, especially when it comes to vegetable prep before roasting and stir frying. 

    Vegetable preparation mistake #3: Cutting vegetables too soon


    It’s important to know how to cut vegetables at the right time. Just as with washing, vegetables begin to oxidize as soon as you cut them. You’ve probably seen the way apples start to brown as soon as you bite into them, and vegetables behave in a similar way. So it’s best to wash and cut your vegetables shortly before use.


    Whether you’re preparing zucchini or roasting eggplant, if you’re planning to use soft vegetables, don’t cut them until right before cooking or serving, or else they’ll turn brown and lose their juices. If you accidentally cut your eggplant too early, you can use lemon juice or salt to prevent browning until it’s time to use it. This method also helps with other vegetables that brown quickly after cutting, such as parsnips and potatoes.


    Wondering how to cut vegetables? Here are three classic techniques for cutting vegetables when the time is right:


    1. Dice

    Dicing is a valuable skill when it comes to knowing how to cut vegetables into even pieces for cooking. If required, peel the vegetable before beginning. There are different ways to dice different vegetables, but for a shallot:


    1. Slice in half.
    2. Next, with one half of the shallot facing down on the chopping board, slice horizontally, being careful not to go all the way through the shallot. 
    3. Now cut the shallot vertically to create a dice. 


    2. Mince

    A mince is simply a finer dice. Repeat the above steps with a sharp knife to achieve smaller and more finely cut pieces of vegetable.


    3. Julienne

    A julienne is just a thinly sliced stick of vegetable, often referred to as the matchstick cut:


    1. Slice lengthwise to create thick slabs. 
    2. Stack the slabs on top of each other and then slice lengthwise into narrow strips of vegetable.

    Top tips:


    1. Any utensils that are going to come in contact with food you’re preparing, such as knives and chopping boards, should be clean before use and thoroughly washed after each use.


    2. Either wooden or plastic chopping boards are fine, although plastic boards tend to end up covered in scratches, which can trap bacteria. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them, but it does mean you should wash them particularly thoroughly. Avoid glass boards as they can dull your knives. If your board is unsteady, place a damp cloth underneath before preparing your veggie.


    3. Your kitchen knife should always be sharp. While you don’t need a huge knife collection, a good chef’s knife, a vegetable knife and a serrated knife go a long way in vegetable prep. The chef’s knife is best for firm vegetables, such as potatoes or carrots, while the vegetable knife is designed for working with smaller or softer vegetables. The serrated knife can cut vegetables and fruits that have a smooth shell, such as tomatoes.

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