Photo: iStock/AlexPro9500

 

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is,
“What type of oil should I use in cooking?”

A good quality cooking oil is definitely an important component of meal preparation and a healthy diet. With so many oils available on store shelves, selection can feel confusing and overwhelming. Oils have various levels of fat, come in a variety of shades and colors, and react to heat differently.  In addition, flavors differ – some are rich and robust, others are more neutral.  Olive oil, in particular, differs by the variety of olive used, where it was grown, when it was harvested, and how it was processed.

Enlist Your Senses – Taste, Sight, Smell                                                            

  • To learn about the difference in flavor of cooking oils, taste, taste, taste before using in a recipe. Make notes for yourself about the flavors and your preferences whenever you try a new brand.
  • When looking at and tasting oils, check for similarities to the plant or food from which they are made. For example, good quality olive oil can range in color from gold to some shade of pale green and will have a faint olive or grassy aroma and a slight peppery flavor or bite to it. Avocado oil tends to be clear to sheer pale green in color, milder, more neutral in flavor and very slight to no aroma.

Which Oil to Use?
Cooking oils have different smoke or flash points, meaning they are stable up to a certain heat.  Paying attention to an oil’s smoke point is like selecting the right tool for a job. When an oil overheats, it begins losing its nutrient value and raises the risk of oxidation.  As a general guide –

For high heat cooking or roasting:

  • avocado oil
  • canola oil (cold pressed)
  • peanut oil
  • sesame oil

For low to medium heat cooking and baking:

  • avocado oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • canola oil (cold pressed)
  • sesame oil
  • peanut oil
  • pumpkin seed oil

For uncooked foods (salad dressings, sauces or drizzling):

  • avocado oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sesame oil
  • walnut oil
  • flaxseed oil
  • pumpkin seed oil

Buying Tips:
The market is flooded with oils that are not pure or of the highest quality and the “best buy” on the grocery store shelf is not always the best choice. Many oils are imported and blended, not actually grown and produced where they are bottled.  For example, some producers in Italy are known to create less expensive blends with oils imported from other parts of Europe. The labels state “packed in Italy” or “bottled in Italy” but those oils may or may not include any oil from Italy and the quality is uncertain.  For the freshest, best quality oils, choose those that are grown and bottled in the same place.

It is worth the effort to find good quality oils for both flavor and health reasons.  Here are a few buying tips:

  • Packaging is key – choose dark colored bottles to keep out light and oxygen.
  • For best quality, look for the words “extra virgin”, “cold-pressed”, “expeller pressed” or “unrefined” on the label.
  • Avoid all highly processed oils, such as hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, and blends of lower quality oils.
  • For oils that are used less often, buy in smaller quantities to maximize freshness.
  • Look for bottles that provide “best by” dates or “date of harvest”.
  • Do not use any oils that have a rancid smell or taste.

For everyday use, stock your pantry with at least one good quality high heat oil and one low to medium heat oil.  Beyond that, consider adding a more specialty oil such as a nut or seed oil.  Some grocery store brands you may enjoy include:

  • California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Gaea Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Spectrum Organic Mediterranean or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Wegman’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • New Season’s Market 100% California Olive Oil
  • Chosen Foods Avocado Oil
  • Wegman’s Avocado Oil
  • Spectrum Organic Canola Oil
  • Spectrum Sesame Oil
  • Spectrum Walnut Oil
  • Wegman’s Pumpkin Seed Oil

 Storage Tips:
Heat, light and oxygen are not friendly to healthy cooking oils!  To avoid oxidation and spoilage –

  • keep all oils in dark, tightly sealed containers, preferably glass
  • store in a cool, dark place
  • place nut and seed oils in the refrigerator

 

© 2020 Love + Craft Kitchen, LLC, All Rights Reserve

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