Cooking Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Compared to meats, eggs, and dairy products, vegetables and fruits are easy to cook. Animal tissues and secretions are mainly protein, and proteins are sensitive molecules; moderate heat (140°F/60°C) causes them to cling tightly to each other and expel water, and they quickly become hard and dry. Vegetables and fruits are mainly carbohydrates, and carbohydrates are robust molecules; even boiling temperatures simply disperse them more evenly in the tissue moisture, so the texture becomes soft and succulent. However, the cooking of vegetables and fruits does have its fine points. Plant pigments, flavor compounds, and nutrients are sensitive to heat and to the chemical environment. And even carbohydrates sometimes behave curiously! The challenge of cooking vegetables and fruits is to create an appealing texture without compromising color, flavor, and nutrition.