Have you ever tried sautéing a batch of asparagus over high heat in olive oil? Ever wonder why the sesame oil you left out went sour so quickly and the canola oil is fine? Lots of people purchase familiar classes of oil – Canola or Vegetable for sautéing, searing and marinating and extra virgin for drizzling on salads, Italian subs and pizza. Let’s take a deeper look into alternate cooking oils and the best cooking methods when using each. It is time we learn how to cook with the right oils.
Olive oil– The standard oil in most cupboards around the country and of course in the Mediterranean. Keep in mind that there are different grades of this oil. Extra virgin being the purest form of olive oil, virgin being almost pure but still high quality taste, pure is a blend of pure and refined (or chemically treated) and the standard olive oil lacks the strong flavor of the pure versions. Perfect for finishing soups, salads, pastas, sauces as well as for dipping.
Peanut Oil– This oil extracted from peanuts contains a high smoke point, ideal for frying foods but not for those with peanut allergies. There is a refined version that has the allergens removed but this oil is often used in restaurants for frying since it is cheaper than other high smoke point oils. Peanut oil is widely used in Asia for dishes containing peanut sauce.
Sesame Oil– Frequently used in Asia, it adds a beautiful aroma to sauces and vinaigrettes, makes a beautiful marinade in replacement of olive oil and tastes great when tossed with a cold noodle dish. I have personally used this oil in replacement of standard oil when making rice, it adds extra flavor and leaves a smooth glossy finish on the rice. Sesame is a nutrient rich seed so this oil has been long used in South India for medicinal purposes as well. It is high in anti-oxidants and poly-unsaturated fat, which is proven to help those who suffer from high blood pressure. Be sure to refrigerate or cover when not in use since it goes rancid quickly when left uncovered due to the high amount of anti-oxidants.
Grapeseed Oil– This high smoke point oil has a neutral flavor. Ideal for deep-frying and wok cooking, which are methods that use high temperatures. It is slightly more expensive but high in quality and suitable for those with allergies who must avoid peanut oil. It is very versatile in that you may also use this oil for dressings and marinades.
Coconut Oil– An oil I have recently become fascinated with. This oil is said to benefit your hair, skin, increase immunity, regulate digestion, maintain cholesterol levels, help with weight loss, heart disease and high blood pressure to name a few. Although it contains saturated fat, it is also high in anti-oxidants. It can be used for baking, nondairy coffee creamers and shortening. An ideal oil for those suffering from dairy allergies or for use in vegan cooking and baking.
These are not the only oils around. There is flaxseed, hemp, mustard, palm, sunflower and even soybean oil. So the next time you shop for oil, be adventurous and try out a flavor you have never even heard of and flex your recipe making muscles.