(Last Updated On: January 28, 2019)

A Guide to Oil-Free Cooking

Cooking without oil is simple to do once you get the hang of it. We used to slather our pans in the stuff, and it took Andrew some time to get on board with the idea, but it’s been two years since we started cooking (primarily) without oil. Except for a few meals where it really does work better, it’s been working fine without any. We thought we’d share a few tips and tricks to get you started down the no-oil path.

Why Do We Cook Without Oil?

Our goal is to squeeze the most nutrition-y goodness out of every food we eat. We’d rather get our fats from foods that are also good for our body. Oil isn’t one of those sources. 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 my fats for whole plant foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds that not only help your digestion and your heart, but are also delicious.

How to Make the Switch

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, therefore I 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. Along with potential chemicals in our food, we were adding even more oil than necessary to make these pans work. With the no-oil method, I realized I needed to upgrade. So we got rid of the old ones and replaced them with new non-stick pans.  Perhaps ceramic would take care of this issue over the long-term by not flaking?

Cookie Sheets

  • We’ve have been able to use the same pans for baking and roasting, but I place parchment paper or a silicone mat on the pan before we put the food on it. I also 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 the food on medium to low heat 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 I’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 fahrenheit, at the end for crisper foods which works great. Recently, We’ve also been using an air fryer to bake which has been really helpful! (These can be a little pricey, but when we didn’t have an oven in Taiwan they were a life-saver and worth the money).
  • Sauteeing : Now that I 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.

Are you cooking 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.