Does cooking reduce the health benefits of turmeric?

If you're eating turmeric for health reasons, try it in slow-cooked dishes or raw.
If you're eating turmeric for health reasons, try it in slow-cooked dishes or raw. Photo: iStock

​Does cooking have an adverse effect on the health benefits of turmeric? A. King

Some of the most wonderful flavours we use in cooking come from the chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves from predators. Turmeric is native to south-east Asia and produces an astringent-tasting compound called curcumin. It is highly concentrated in the roots, forming between 2 and 5 per cent of the weight. The flavour of curcumin helps to prevent the turmeric plant from being eaten by rodents and deer. Curcumin is an antioxidant and long been part of ayurvedic medicinal cooking and now part of Western wellness culture. Tests have been done on the curcumin in turmeric, and it appears that it is a reasonably robust compound, and while deep frying and high-temperature roasting do break it down, simmering at or below 100 degrees does not damage curcumin as much. So if you're using turmeric in your cooking for health reasons, it is probably best to use it slow-cooked dishes or, even better, use it fresh and raw in drinks or dressings.

I need a pair of kitchen scales. What do I look for? L. Nile

The key qualities are stability, visibility and longevity. I prefer digital scales for their accuracy and ease of use. Their drawback is that they generally require batteries. If you are a baker or find yourself doing more baking, a set of digital scales measuring increments of 1g will be essential, especially when it comes to weighing yeast and salt for bread dough. Look for a squat set of scales with broad and durable feet. Small feet, or feet that don't seem well attached, can cause the scales to be uneven and, therefore, unreliable. A large weighing surface will mean the bowl or container will not obscure the readout, while a smaller weighing surface may mean bowl overhang. You will need to clean your scales, so look for a set with an easy-to-clean or waterproof surface. There are scales made for people with visual impairment with large backlit readouts. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Letters

A few weeks back, I wrote about how to cook sausages to avoid their skins splitting. The advice from the experts here at the Brain Food Institute was to cook them low and slow. I shared the article on social media, where comments fell into two camps: those who said it was essential to prick sausages to release fat, and those who thought pricking was a heinous crime. My thoughts on the matter are, if you don't want fat, don't eat sausages. It's like going to the cinema but not wanting to look at large rectangles.

Send your vexing culinary conundrums to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @foodcornish