Cooking with Oils: When to use what oil?
Cooking with Oils: When to use what oil?
Most of us use some sort of cooking oil on a regular basis but, have you ever given the type of oil that you are using much thought? All oils aren’t created equal and there are a few things to consider before choosing which oil to cook with, bake with, or pour over your salad. Different types of oils each have very different chemical makeups. The chemical makeup of each oil means that some may withstand heat better than others, some are better for grilling, some are best for baking, and others are ideal for non-heat (i.e., best for salad dressings).
What is a ‘smoke point’?
In terms of oils, the ‘smoke point’ is the temperature at which the components in the oil start to break down as result of the heat and the oil begins to burn and smoke. When the oil reaches its ‘smoke point’, dangerous fumes and other harmful byproducts are produced, which can cause health problems over time. Each oil has their own smoke point, and it’s good to be conscious of these temperatures when using oils to cook. Typically, the higher the smoke point, the better.
Here is a chart of the most common, healthier oils, and their smoke points. Feel free to print this off and tape it on the inside of your kitchen cupboard for quick reference when cooking!
|Smoke Point (Fahrenheit)
|Smoke Point (Celsius)
|Best used for:
|Grilling, sautéing, salad dressings
|Sautéing, pan-frying, salad dressings
|Nut-friendly dishes, stir fry
|Extra virgin coconut oil
|Baking, low-heat roasting, sautéing
|Extra virgin olive oil
|Non-heat purposes such as dips and salad dressing
In addition to the oil’s smoke point, it’s important to be aware of the composition of the oil, what nutrients is has to offer, and the effects it may have on the body.
Avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any oil and it is packed with oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid that is deemed as a ‘heart healthy’ fat source. Avocado oil is a great choice for high-temperature cooking such as frying eggs, cooking stir-fry, grilling, etc. However, it is a versatile oil that can also be drizzled over a salad, appetizers, or be used to make a vinaigrette!
Olive Oil vs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Although both oils are made from olives, the method of extracting the oil is different. For regular olive oil, the manufacturer extracts the oil, processes and cleans it with chemicals, and then heats it. This processing method, in addition to heat, may result in the oil being stripped of nutrients and flavour. Extra virgin olive oil is cold-pressed meaning that this oil has not gone through a heating process. Therefore, EVOO is less processed and sustains more of its natural nutrient composition and flavour.
Oils to Limit or Avoid: Canola Oil & Vegetable Oil
Canola oil is derived from extensively processing the canola plant, and although this oil may have a higher smoke point that other oils, it does not tend to be a good source of nutrients. Canola oil is often used in fast food restaurants, as well as packaged and processed food items – just take a look at the ingredients on the labels of your typical salad dressings, condiments, and packaged snacks – you will be surprised at just how often it is used! There are a few things of concern with canola oil such as its processing and balance of fatty acids. The production of canola oil involves chemical solvents, bleaching, deodorizing, high heat, and heavy processing. In addition to concerns with its production, canola oil contains very high amounts of Omega-6 fats. As we have learned previously, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential to our health; however, it is important to maintain a healthy ratio of these fats in our body. In general, whenever possible, you’re better off swapping canola oil for a healthier oil alternative (i.e. olive oil, avocado oil, or one from the table above, etc.). Check out our recent blog post ‘All About Fats’ if you are interested in learning more: https://www.hockeyfansintraining.org/allaboutfats/
Similarly, vegetable oil signals an inflammatory response in the body as it’s highly processed with minimal nutrient density. The name “vegetable” oil may trick you into thinking that this oil is a healthier choice as it must be made from vegetables, right? Nope, this is a general term for any oil that may be derived from seeds, grains, nuts, or plants. Most often, vegetable oil is composed of a blend of canola, palm, soybean and/or sunflower oils, which are all known to be low in nutrients and not good for our overall health.
When choosing to cook with an oil, consider the smoke point and the nutrient composition of the oil before using it. Some oils can be used with high heat, while others are better used at a lower temperature, or without heat at all. Try your best to choose a healthy oil option when possible and avoid oils that are highly processed.
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