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Often, recipes are designed to be so scrumptious that you can’t wait to share it on social media, but sometimes they include steps that aren’t entirely necessary. In reality, there are often a few recipe steps you can skip — doing so not only will save time, but your food also might even be more nutritious as a result.
Before you start going rogue on a recipe, make sure you have a solid foundation in the kitchen. For instance, if you’re just learning to cook, following a recipe exactly can help you see how cooking techniques and ingredients lead to different flavors and textures.
“However, if you are an experienced cook and are comfortable in the kitchen, then cooking without a recipe or going outside of a recipe and changing ingredients and amounts to personalize a dish is very normal,” says chef and registered dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN. “The more you cook, the more you’ll be able to experiment and play around with ingredients.”
So feel free to go off-script with these seven recipe steps you can skip, and see what works best for your dietary goals.
1. Removing the Vegetable Peels
“I’m all for peeling vegetables when it makes sense, like for carrots or parsnips,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats. “But when the vegetable peel is perfectly edible — as with sweet potatoes — why remove it?”
Leaving the peel on can add a good amount of filling fiber to your meal. Fiber helps with cholesterol levels and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. A large sweet potato with its peel has 8 grams of fiber. When it’s peeled, the sweet potato has 2 grams less fiber.
You also can leave the peel on when prepping fruits like apples or peaches.
2. Removing Seeds
Removing seeds from foods like eggplant or cucumber can be time-consuming and messy. Consider it a recipe step you can skip, if you like. Some people dislike the texture of seeds, find them bitter or that they cause gas — but if the seeds don’t bother you, leave them in. They are a source of fiber and antioxidants.
“I personally leave them in, but others may take them out,” Gellman says. “For eggplant, salting ahead of time and allowing the moisture to leach out before cooking may help if someone tastes bitterness in eggplant.”
3. Adding Salt
Salt is associated with making food delicious, but it is also linked to heart conditions like elevated blood pressure. If you want to cut back on your salt intake, you can reduce the amount you add or leave it out entirely — if your taste buds allow. You might find salting unnecessary if your recipe already calls for herbs, spices or lemon, which can bring brightness to a dish.
“Herbs and spices are a great way to cut back on salt while amping up the flavor of a dish,” Gellman says. “There are many spice blends available in stores or online or you can make your own. For example, a basic Italian spice blend may have dried oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder and onion powder.” If you’re still craving salt, add a bit of finishing salt once your dish is plated — just a little will go a long way.
4. Heating Oil or Butter in the Pan
If you cook with nonstick or ceramic pans, you could experiment with skipping butter or oil or reducing the amount used to see how the meal turns out. Cooking oils can add calories quickly, but they also deliver healthy fats and can give foods a rich flavor.
5. Carefully Measuring Ingredients
The recipe might call for half a cup of this or a tablespoon of that, but unless you’re baking, you can usually add more or less of an ingredient without a negative impact. If you’re trying to increase plant protein, for example, maybe you’d like to add more pepitas or beans. But if it’s your first time making a recipe, you might not want to stray too far from the amounts listed.
6. Washing Poultry
It might feel counterintuitive, but rinsing chicken before cooking it is unnecessary — and potentially dangerous. This is a recipe step you can skip because rinsing poultry can splash bacteria at you or around your kitchen. Instead, cook your turkey and chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any bacteria.
7. Weighing Portion Sizes
Often, recipes will indicate a serving size. That’s just a suggestion. There’s no need to weigh or record what you eat — unless you want to.
“Keeping a food diary can be a very helpful tool for weight management,” Gorin says. “But I’ve seen this take an unhealthy turn when people feel guilty when they don’t log the calories from a cup of black coffee or from a dash of cinnamon. You can certainly write down that you ate these foods to see that you were making good decisions — using cinnamon instead of sugar as a coffee sweetener, for instance — but obsessing over a few calories isn’t going to be helpful.”