With so many different oils out there it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with which one to use. Here’s my guide to help you decode the labels and figure out what oils to buy and cook with.
Cooking With Oil
High Heat Cooking:
Heat oil until aromatic, then quickly add food. If heated until ripples form, oil is too hot and close to smoke point. Let cool, wipe out and start again. Another option is to cook with a small amount of water in the pan and then at the end of cooking, add the oil. This way the oil is not in contact with heat for very long and yet you can keep the flavor of the food.
- Coconut Oil: Contains mostly saturated fat and therefore highly stable at high temperatures. Lower in calories than most fats and oils because of high amount of medium- chain fatty acids that don’t get stored as fat but rather burned as energy.
- Butter: An animal fat, which is mostly saturated. Contains whey and casein; buy only organic, ideally grass-fed, raw is best.
- Ghee (clarified butter): Pure butterfat made from removing milk solids and water from butter (low heat and cheese cloth filter). Great for cooking since it is pure fat, with the milk proteins removed.
- Red Palm Oil — Red palm oil is made from the palm fruit instead of the palm kernel, and in its unrefined state, it is high in vitamin E and beta-carotene. It’s also stable under high heat and great for cooking. Make sure when buying palm oil that it is certified sustainable.
Moderate Heat (Light Saute):
- Olive Oil: Olive oil is a great source of healthy monounsaturated fats but at temperatures over 200 it can oxidize, which is not good for the body so only use it for low-heat sauteing. Store in a tightly closed container, ideally colored glass, in a cool cupboard for up to a year.
- Sesame Oil (unrefined): Also very stable because it contains a high amount of natural antioxidant. Toasted is made from toasted seeds and is dark in color with a strong aroma. This oil can burn so use as a seasoning agent or garnish and it has a nice light flavor great for stir-fries.
- Canola/Rape Seed Oil: This oil is controversial because of its processing. Some people say that it needs to be avoided altogether because it is such a hard seed that getting the oil out requires a lot of processing. Also contains 10 percent omega-3 oils, which makes it very fragile. Others say it is OK for baking at low temperatures. Others say that in spite of omega-3 oils, it is able to withstand higher heat. If buying canola oil, make sure it’s either certified organic or part of the non-GMO project verified as canola is over 90% genetically modified
Cold Use/Raw (no cooking):
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Grapeseed oil – this always used to be promoted as a healthy oil to cook with as it has a high smoke point but recently more studies are disputing this. Yes it does have a high smoke point but grapeseed oil is mostly polyunsaturated fats, which are unstable. It can oxidize easily when exposed to light, air and heat so is in fact very delicate.
- Hazelnut oil
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Flax seed oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Sunflower seed oil
- Walnut oil
Oil should smell and taste like the food it came from. It should be stored in glass and should have a date of manufacture/best used by date.
- Cold Pressed: This means extracted without using heat.
- Expeller Pressed: Extracted using a screw-type machine that presses the oil out. Can be done slowly, with very little heat or can be done quickly with lots of friction and high temperatures.
- Extra Virgin: The first cold pressing which contains the best tasting and most healthful oils. Must contain less than 1 percent acids. By definition, this is cold-pressed and first pressed, so don’t need to see these terms on the label. Must say 100% extra virgin, or may be a blend.
- Virgin: The first cold pressing, but can contain a little more acids than the extra-virgin (1-3 percent).
- High Oleic: Seeds that have been genetically manipulated to decrease the amount of essential fatty acids so that they have a longer shelf life.
- Unrefined Oils: Are left in their state after pressing – no filtering. These oils tend to be more flavorful and richer in nutrients, however they have a very low smoke point.
- Refined: Oils have their impurities filtered out, to increase stability and allow for higher temperature cooking. The processing can use toxic solvents, caustic soda, bleaches and phosphoric acid.
My recipe for you this week is one of my favourite salad dressing recipes. It uses olive oil and hemp or flax oil so lots of beneficial omega 3 fats to nourish your body:
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I like Braggs or Omega Nutrition brands)
1 1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 Tbsp hemp or flax oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 to 2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground fennel
- Whisk all ingredients together and use on your favourite salad.