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14 techniques for cooking in high-altitude locations

Straight to it, here are 14 cooking techniques you should learn as a vegetarian cooking in high altitudes.

1. PARBOILING OR BLANCHING

For this technique, start by briefly blanching or parboiling the vegetables in a pot of boiling water to make them softer, get rid of any bitterness, or make peeling easier. Once the vegetables are blanched, you can either wrap them in a towel, give them a quick rinse under cold running water, or shock them by submerging them in ice water to stop the cooking process.

2. BOILING

Boiling is a quick and effective way to cook a variety of foods. The secret is to use lots of water so that cooking happens quickly without significantly losing nutrients. It is ideal to have a vigorous boil, as indicated by large bubbles surfacing and breaking. To keep the boil from overcooking, add salt right before adding your food (about 1 teaspoon for every 4 cups of water) and add vegetables little by little. Covering the pot keeps the vivid colours of the green vegetables intact and helps the sulphurous smells associated with the cabbage family to fade. It is crucial to taste-test the vegetables while they are cooking and to drain them before they are completely cooked. Remember that because of the lower boiling point of water at higher elevations, food preparation takes longer.

3. BRAISING

Braising is an uncommon tehchnique which is a slow-cooked method of cooking vegetables in a small amount of water or vegetable stock. You can add aromatic ingredients, and occasionally, a little wine, vinegar, or lemon zest adds extra flavour and keeps the tender vegetables from becoming too soft. Larger vegetables are frequently cooked with a base of diced carrots, onions, and celery. Though it’s usually thrown out, it can also add flavour to your food as a garnish or be pureed to thicken sauces. You can braise in the oven or on a hob. If there’s still too much liquid, cover the pot and simmer until it thickens into a rich sauce or glaze. Adding butter and fresh herbs towards the end of cooking can enhance the flavour even more.

4. BROILING

Use broiling to apply direct heat to food and get that alluring browning effect. Some foods that cook quickly, like sliced eggplant, tofu or croutons, can be finished cooking under the grill, but other foods that take longer to cook only need to be finished. To get the best results, keep the food 4 to 6 inches away from the heat source.

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5. COOKING WITH ACIDULATED WATER

 Water that has been acidulated (made by adding vinegar or lemon juice) keeps vegetables like salsify, celery root, Jerusalem artichokes, and artichokes from turning discoloured. Add ¼ cup of vinegar or lemon juice to 8 cups of water to create acidulated water. In order to mitigate the sharpness of the lemon, incorporate one tablespoon of flour and one tablespoon of olive oil into the blend.

6. GRILLING: 

Whether you use charcoal or gas, a grill has the incredible ability to take everyday ingredients and turn them into gourmet masterpieces. Although grilling is most commonly associated with meats like steaks and burgers, it can also be used to great effect when cooking vegetables and many other foods. 

7. PUREEING: 

A number of tools can be employed to prepare soups, vegetable purees, cooked bean blends, or baby food, this includes:

  • Immersion Blender: An easy-to-use stick blender that needs to be submerged in your soup or vegetable pot in order to puree ingredients smoothly. For soups, a regular blender works just fine.
  • Food Mill: A convenient tool that purees soft vegetables, pushing them through the opening in the base of the mill to remove seeds, strings, peels, and other coarse particles. It makes sure purees don’t lose their light, raw consistency.
  • Potato masher: An antiquated but useful implement with a wire coil or perforated disc on a handle. It effectively turns potatoes into a smooth puree without making them sticky.
  • Food processor: While its high-speed operation may make potatoes excessively sticky, it works great for quickly creating smooth purees with other veggies, such as broccoli and carrots. It might be necessary to pause occasionally to scrape down the sides.

8. GRILLING AND COOKING: 

Rich, concentrated flavours and glazed surfaces are produced when vegetables are roasted at high temperatures in an uncovered pan. Baking, on the other hand, requires a method and frequently uses cookware that is covered or uncovered at lower temperatures. 

9. SAUTÉING:

 Sautéing is the process of cooking vegetables over high heat in a small amount of hot oil. A big skillet with sloping sides that provides plenty of room for vegetables to move around is the ideal cookware for getting the right browning and searing results. Garlic should be added towards the very end to avoid burning. The method is to heat the pan and then add the vegetables and oil. Using one or both hands, grasp the pan’s handle and move it back and forth to shake the vegetables, causing them to spin and reveal fresh surfaces to the heat. If the pan action is difficult for you to master, you can also stir with a wooden spoon or tongs. For the right browning, there must be continuous contact with the pan surface. While some low-fat cookbooks suggest using water for sautéing rather than oil, keep in mind that water doesn’t have the same flavour-enhancing and searing properties as fat.

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10. SIMMERING

Simmering well requires both time and precision. Finding that point where the liquid shimmers lazily, giving off delicate wisps of steam but never reaching the rolling boil typical of more aggressive cooking methods, is the goal. In such a calm setting, ingredients can slowly give off their aromas and flavours, elevating the overall quality of the liquid.

11. STEAMING

 When steaming vegetables, you can preserve their nutrients by cooking them over a small amount of water. Soups and sauces can easily incorporate the vitamin-rich steam condensation. Use a lid whenever you steam something. Green beans and peas might not tolerate the steam condensation, but most other vegetables—big and hearty or small and delicate—do well with this technique. Use a steaming basket made of collapsible stainless steel and add herbs, crushed seeds, and spices to the boiling water to add flavour—this works particularly well for vegetables that take on flavour easily.

12. STIR-FRYING

The essence of stir-frying is its quick cooking method. The searing heat of the wok or pan caramelises the surface of the food, sealing in the natural juices and creating a delightful contrast between the crispy exterior and tender interior. Constant stirring and tossing ensures even cooking and keeps ingredients from sticking to the pan or overcooking.

13. HIGH-ALTITUDE COOKING

Having spent more than 20 years living at an elevation of 7,000 feet, I am well-versed in the particular cooking circumstances that are common at higher elevations. Temperature, leavening, and food behaviour are all impacted by the decrease in atmospheric pressure that occurs with elevation. 

Here are some tips for cooking at high altitudes:

  • Temperature: The boiling point of water drops by 1°F for every 500 feet of elevation gain. Cooking times must be adjusted as a result of this lower boiling point. Finding the exact cooking times may take some trial and error. To get results close to cooking at sea level, try using a pressure cooker to raise the boiling point.
  • Baking in high altitudes: It can be difficult to bake at high altitudes, especially when making air-leavened foods like angel food and sponge cakes. Buttercakes can be more difficult to handle as well. Local extension services can provide advice tailored to your region, but it’s useful to keep track of the changes you make to your go-to recipes so you can figure out what works best. Here are a few useful pointers:
  • Temperature of Oven: Elevations above 3,000 feet should result in a 25°F increase in oven temperature. This tweak keeps quickly rising baked goods from collapsing by helping to set their structure.
  • Moisture: The unusually dry air at high altitudes causes flour to be drier. You might find it difficult to use all of the flour specified when baking bread. Not only does adding oil or an extra egg provide the dough with more liquid to absorb, but it also keeps the finished product from being too dry. 
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14. HIGH-ALTITUDE COOKING WITH SWEETENERS AND LEAVENINGS

While it’s common practice to adjust ingredients based on feel, you might want to consider lowering the baking soda sugar and baking powder as follows:

Reduce sugar by 1 tablespoon per cup and baking powder by ⅛ teaspoon at 3,000 to 5,000 feet.

Reduce sugar by 2 tablespoons per cup and baking powder by ¼ teaspoon at elevations 5,000 feet and above. 

To achieve only soft peaks, place the eggs slightly below sea level when making cakes leavened with beaten egg whites.

Unless you are baking in large quantities, reducing the yeast is not necessary. Bread has a firmer texture when the amount of yeast is reduced by one-quarter to one-half of the standard amount. Using the entire amount could result in an unappealing, fluffy, airy bread. Remember that doughs made with yeast rise faster at higher elevations.

Use these tips to improve your vegetarian cooking skills especially if it’s being done on high-altitudes, whether you’re learning the fundamentals or adjusting to altitude. Your cooking will undoubtedly flourish with enhanced precision and creativity.

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