Oil war! Which oil is right for cooking?
When you pass through the aisles of super market, have you ever wondered why there are variety of oils in those shelves? Too many brands, types, colors; Every bottle with its own benefits & USP. When it comes to buying the oil, every person has its own perception with respect to taste, texture, health etc. Do you think you are using the right oil? Have you ever questioned yourself?
These days we see dozens of commercial on oil; some says Olive oil is the best for weight loss, some says Canola oil is good source of Protein, some says the traditional vegetable oil is best for health. You have many options when it comes to choosing the ideal oil for yourself. But there comes a question, are you actually choosing the best oil which not only is healthy but also remains healthy after cooking?
Yes you read it correctly; when we pick that ideal bottle of oil, we usually forget the fact that this oil will benefit the same after cooking. As we in India love cooking in hot oil, most of the oil tend to lose its nutrients when heated at high temperature. When you’re cooking at a high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and don’t oxidize or go rancid easily.
The temperature at which this oxidation occurs is called the smoke point and it is associated with unpleasant odours and flavours. When oils undergo oxidation, they react with oxygen to form free radicals and harmful compounds that you definitely don’t want to be consuming.
To fry food you need a high temperature and therefore a high smoke point, so saturated fats with long chain lengths work best.
Did I leave you in dilemma? The simple solution for this is to keep a range of oils. Keep coconut or a similar saturated fat for heavy frying, olive and rapeseed oils for light frying and salads, and pumpkin and avocado oils for dressings and dips.
A look at different Oils and their cooking style
It is a term used for any (non animal-based) oil from vegetable or seed origin or it can be a blend of these oils. It is mainly polyunsaturated fats of different chain lengths, so it’s one of the healthier options.
Industrial seed and vegetable oils are highly processed, refined products that are way too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. Not only should you not cook with them, you should probably avoid them altogether.
These oils have been wrongly considered “heart-healthy” by the media and many nutrition professionals in the past few decades.
- Best for: the latest advice says we should avoid altogether
- Worst for: high temperature frying
It is developed from rapeseed, was specifically developed for frying as it contains predominantly longer chain monounsaturated fatty acids and has a relatively high smoke point.
The fatty acid breakdown of canola oil is actually fairly good, with most of the fatty acids monounsaturated, then containing Omega-6 and Omega-3 in a 2:1 ratio, which is perfect.
However, canola oil needs to go through very harsh processing methods before it is turned into the final product.
- Best for: roasting potatoes, frying
- Worst for: it has a very subtle flavour, so is not to everyone’s taste for drizzling
Peanut oil (from peanuts)
It is mainly long chain omega 6 (polyunsaturated) fatty acids. It has a high smoke point and is also good for frying. However, they are very rich in polyunsaturated fats, which make them a poor choice for cooking.
Peanuts technically aren’t nuts (they’re legumes) but the composition of the oil is similar.
- Best for: frying
- Worst for: baking
Olive oil is well known for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. It does not have a high smoke point, so should only be used for low-temperature cooking.
Cold pressed olive oil is the best choice, as it is not heated or processed by chemicals in the extraction of the oil from the olive. It is easily oxidized so should be stored in a dark place in a colored bottle.
- Best for: light frying and salad dressing, baking, dressings
- Worst for: high temperature frying
Extra virgin olive oil
It is made of the extracted juice of crushed olives. It is one of the only cooking oils made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining. There are very specific standards oil has to meet to receive the label “extra-virgin.”
Because of the way extra-virgin olive oil is made, it retains more true olive taste, and has a lower level of oleic acid than other olive oil varieties. It also contains more of the natural vitamins and minerals found in olives.
- Best for: dressing salads, drizzling over pasta, baking
- Worst for: frying at high temperatures, because of its low smoke point
Most coconut oils are made from smoke drying, sun drying, or kiln drying the dried meat of the coconut called ‘copra’. When it comes to high heat cooking, coconut oil is your best choice. Over 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated, which makes it very resistant to heat.
This oil is semi-solid at room temperature and it can last for months and years without going rancid.
- Best for: high-temperature frying, baking
- Worst for: drizzling over food, although it can be combined with other ingredients to make a dressing
Now you see, with a variety for oils in your kitchen storage, you know the right oil for right kind of cooking. So next time you hit the super market, do keep in mind to pick couple of those bottles, so that you use the right oil for your food and better health to your family.
How to store your cooking oil?
Oil can break down even without the energy of a burner underneath it. Other than heating Humidity, light, and heat are its largest enemies. You all have at least one friend who stores their oil right above the stove, or perhaps even sitting in a bottle against the back splash. They are no-good, dirty rotten oil-killers and I urge you to de-friend them immediately.
Oils even those that have been used a few times should all be kept in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dark place.