An Oil Primer

2014-02-07 06.08.25

There are so many different kinds of oils out there, each claiming to have all sorts of health benefits, but how do you break it down in deciding which oils to cook with and when?  This is just a brief introduction to cooking oils, and I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so if you have more that I didn’t include, please share in the comments!

Olive Oil:  I try to use this for as much as I can, but the biggest problem with olive oil is that it has a low-tolerance for heat.  When cooking foods on high-temperatures, you don’t want to use olive oil because it can become carcinogenic if cooked at high-temperatures for long periods.  Carcinogens = cancer, so don’t do this.  Olive oil is great though for making salad dressings, lightly frying things, roasting, baking and dipping.

Vegetable Oil: This is for the high-heat cooking and frying.  Also some baking, but you can usually replace vegetable oil in any baking recipes with applesauce.  I mostly use vegetable oil to season my cast-iron pans and not for much else.

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature.  Want to know why?  It’s a saturated fat.  After years of research telling us to avoid saturated fat, it turns out there is a difference between good and bad saturated facts.  Coconut oil contains a saturated fat called lauric acid which helps to increase the good high-density lipid (HDL) cholesterol in your body (yeah, there’s such a thing as good cholesterol too).  HDLs actually help to lower your overall cholesterol count and can help with some thyroid issues.  So that’s pretty cool.  Coconut oil is very stable (as it’s a saturated fat-anyone take Organic Chem?) and can be used for cooking at high temperatures.  You can also usually substitute any recipe that calls for oil or butter with this stuff.  It’s not lower calorie, but it’s definitely a better option.  You can also use coconut oil as a lotion, make-up remover, etc, so it’s really not a bad thing to have around.

Sesame Oil: I use sesame oil when making stir-frys or anything that I want to give an Eastern Asian flavor.  The light sesame oil has a high smoke-point and can be used for high temperature cooking whereas darker sesame oil is not good for deep frying or anything involving super high temperatures.  Instead, use it for lightly sauteing or stir-frying.  Sesame oil is not very stable, so it’s important that you remember to keep it refrigerated to keep it from going rancid and to protect the antioxidants it contains.

Truffle Oil:  You don’t want to cook with this oil.  This is a finishing oil, as in, you drizzle it on top at the end of the cooking process.  Truffle oil is a gift from the heavens in my opinion and should go on anything and everything savory.  It’s not cheap, but if you only use a little bit at a time (which is what you should probably be doing anyway), it will last for ever.

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