When we talk about oil, it is one of the essential components or we can say the ingredient for many recipes. It is a plant, animal, or synthetic liquid fat that is used in cooking (frying, baking, roasting, etc.). It is also used in food preparation apart from cooking. Food preparation involves factors such as flavoring the food without heating it on the stove, there are oils that can also be used in salad dressings and even in dips. Thus, this type of oil that does not require heating or cooking can be categorized as edible oil. Although, when we talk about oil in terms of cooking all of it is edible. But some cannot be consumed as they are raw in nature and thus require cooking or heating. As you know, there are monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated fats, such as vegetable oil and olive oil. These types of fats can help you lower your risk of heart disease when used instead of saturated fats.
What is Oil?
Oil is a carbon compound (fat) that helps you in cooking. There are two types of fats. Healthy Fats as well as Unhealthy Fats. Some oil contains both fats.
The classification of these fats can be done as;
- Saturated Fats – saturated fats are considered unhealthy. They are commonly found in products such as dairy products, fatty meats or coconut, and palm oils.
- Trans Fats – trans fats are those fats that are found in processed food. They are not a healthy option to have.
- Monounsaturated Fats – monounsaturated fats are those fats that are found in nuts. Nuts such as olives and avocados. Monounsaturated fats can also be found in extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, and avocado oil.
- Polyunsaturated Fats – polyunsaturated fats are those fats that include omega-6 and omega-3s, they are considered healthy fatty acids. You can get them from oily fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as chia seeds and walnuts. They are especially good for your brain.
Now, when we talk about cooking oil then several varieties can be given into consideration when choosing them for cooking;
- Extra-virgin olive oil – Extra-virgin olive oil is considered a healthy and versatile fat. It is an excellent choice for its antioxidant content, it also links to cancer prevention. Extra-virgin olive oil can be used for every type of food prep. It has a low smoke point; which means it is not always the best oil to use for cooking, at least not cooking at temperatures above 375ºF (191ºC). The low smoke point can be described as the temperature at which it begins to degrade and release damaging free radicals. Therefore, extra-virgin olive oil is mostly used in salads, dips, and dressings.
- Light olive oil – light olive oil also has several health benefits. It has a higher smoke point that is about 470ºF (243ºC). Thus, a high smoke point implies that it is a more versatile and ideal option. It is used in cooking that includes; sautéing, roasting, and grilling. It can also be used in baking, but the flavor of light olive oil is overpowering hence people tend to avoid using it in baking.
- Coconut oil – Coconut oil is of two types; refined and unrefined (virgin). The smoke point of refined coconut oil is 450ºF (232ºC). The coconut oil has a light coconut flavor, and it is best for sautéing or roasting. If we talk about virgin coconut oil, it has a more signature flavor of coconut. Its smoke point is 350ºF (177ºC). It is suitable for baking.
- Canola and other vegetable oil – canola oil is very prominent. It was developed in the 1970s by researchers at the University of Manitoba. Vegetable oils usually come from a blend of vegetables. Whereas Canola oil is manufactured and developed from rapeseed plants. The refining process of both canola, as well as vegetable oil, makes them neutral in taste. And they provide a smoke point of 400ºF (204ºC). Hence, this makes them get used to stir-frying, sautéing, grilling, frying, and baking.
- Avocado oil – avocados are enriched with healthy monounsaturated fats. They contain a high content of good fats. The smoke point of avocado is the highest known smoke point of any plant oil; 520ºF (271ºC) for refined and up to 480ºF (249ºC) for unrefined. Therefore, it is considered the best option for frying, searing, roasting, and grilling. Although avocado oil is considered the carrier oil and hence, it lets other flavors get more observable.
- Peanut oil – peanut oil is another type of cooking oil. It is often used in Thai, Chinese, and other Asian cuisines. It has a smoke point of 450ºF (232ºC). Thus, making it a better option for high-temperature stir-frying. It also works well in large batch frying, which is why the food industry heavily relies upon it for menu items like French fries and fried chicken. Unrefined peanut oil, on the other hand, has a smoke point of 320ºF (160ºC). Add it to dressings or marinades for extra flavor
- Sesame oil – sesame oil is another option that can be taken into consideration for cooking oil. It contains many monounsaturated fats and antioxidants as well. It also challenges the option of olive oil as a healthy choice for cooking. It has a smoke point that varies from 350 to 400ºF (177 to 204ºC). Thus, it implies that it can be used in stir-frying and sautéing as well as adding flavor as a condiment.
How to analyze which oil is best for cooking?
Always remember that using oil that contains healthy fats will definitely enhance your diet, as long as you consume it accordingly otherwise it might become a nuisance as well. Therefore, to identify and analyze the best oil for different kinds of cooking methods you need to go through certain “to do”. The certain ‘to do’ can be; One of the ways by which you can do it by going through the smoke point of each one of them.
As an oil smoke point is described as; when oil upon heating starts to smoke. It can lose some of its nutritional value and can give food an unpleasant taste.
Oils with high smoke points are good for high heat frying and stir-frying. These include:
Oils with moderately high smoke points are good for sauteing, over medium-high heat. These include:
Oils that have low smoke points include flaxseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, and walnut oil, and are best saved for use in salad dressings and dips. Some oils include avocado oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, and sesame oil, all these oils are the ideal solution for being used in frying or salad dressings.
Storing of cooking Oil
Storing cooking oil is a very concerning notion. It is advisable to purchase only the limited amount of oil that you can use within a month after opening it. Because when you keep oil more than a month or two after its opening, they develop a certain type of smelling them. You can check the smell of those oils that are kept for more than a month or two. Apart from this you also need to keep oils in a cool and dry place. Do not refrigerate them or keep them in direct heat or light as it can damage them.
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