Whether you’re cooking French fries or chicken wings in a deep fryer, or making a chocolate cake, cooking oils are a common cooking ingredient. Cooking oil comes in many different types that are suitable for different cooking methods. It is important to determine what cooking oil you should choose and understand the importance of using cooking oil.
What is Cooking Oil?
When you are choosing cooking oil, it is important to understand what is considered oil. Most cooking oils contain three types of fatty acids: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated. The majority of cooking oils are liquid at room temperature and derived from plant sources. However, there are exceptions to these rules. Coconut oil and palm oils are solid cooking oils when stored at room temperature, and fish oils are derived from an animal.
While cooking oil types are similar in fatty acids, the structure of the cooking oil is determined by the main fatty acid. Most coconut and palm oils are higher in saturated fatty acids. Olive and canola oil contain a higher proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids.
Why Use Cooking Oil
Oils and fats are necessary for cooking. They have different purposes depending on the type of cooking that is being performed. They can be a heat transfer mechanism when food is being cooked in a deep fryer or stir fried in a wok. They can also be used as a shortening agent in baking. Oils in baking help make baked goods tender, such as a delicate croissant or a moist chocolate cake. Cooking oil can also increase the ability of food to help people feel full longer, and contribute to the flavor of food.
Another thing to consider when using cooking oil is what type of oil is best for your health and diet. Saturated fats have been known to increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk of many health conditions. For these reasons, you should avoid using man-made saturated fats such as shortening, and hydrogenated coconut and margarine.
The Effect of Heat on Cooking Oil
It is important to understand how heat affects cooking oil. Each type of cooking oil has a smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which fat or cooking oils begin to smoke. You want to avoid having cooking oil smoke because it can be dangerous for our health and a fire hazard in the kitchen.
Knowing the smoke point of cooking oil and how heat affects its taste will help you determine which cooking oil is best for your dish and the best way to use that oil. Almond oil has a smoke point of 495 degrees, and heat destroys the delicate flavor of this oil. For this reason, this type of oil is best used cold, such as drizzled over a salad.
Two oils that are a good choice as cooking oils are peanut and canola oil. These cooking oils have a high smoke point and are bland in flavor. Bland-tasting cooking oils don’t transfer flavors so it will not affect the taste of the main ingredient of the recipe.
Olive oils have a wide range of smoke points, from 320 degrees to 468 degrees. The range of olive oil depends on their processing techniques and level of acid in the olive oil. The flavor of the olive oil also depends on the method that was used to process the oil. Some methods may leave the olive oil with a strong flavor that will not work for delicate foods.
Avocado oil is an ingredient that works well in both cold dishes and as cooking oil. This oil has a smoke point of 520 degrees and is primarily of monounsaturated fatty acids.
When cooking or baking, it’s important to remember what to look for in cooking oils. The smoking point, ratio of fatty acids, and type of cooking are all things to consider in cooking oils. Being aware of these factors will help you choose cooking oils that will benefit both the quality of your cooking and your health.
Betsy is a registered and licensed dietitian with more than 12 years experience working primarily with patients with chronic renal conditions. She is also part of Fitium, a unique online system which helps you lose weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle naturally. Read more on why most diets fail to explore the new alternative for natural weight loss.