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HOW TO CHOOSE THE CORRECT COOKING OIL ?

No kitchen is complete without cooking oil. Used for sautéing, frying, baking, drizzling over vegetables for roasting or as salad dressing, there are endless ways to use oil. When used correctly, oils can have tremendous health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, decreasing inflammation and reducing your risks for heart disease and death. But if you use them wrong, they can increase your risk for all of these. 


Our bodies need a variety of healthy fats, many of which can be found in cooking oils. But oils vary greatly. Each has properties that make it suitable for different dishes and types of cooking. 


With numerous options like olive oil, coconut oil, mustard oil and all that jazz available in the market, we need to head in the right direction to live a healthy life. All cooking fats and oils are made up of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids in different proportions. 


Generally, oils and fats with a high proportion of saturated fat are less healthy than those with higher poly and monounsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol, omega-3 polyunsaturated fats may help protect against heart disease and omega-6 fatty acids may help with growth and brain function. 

Monounsaturated fats can also help lower cholesterol if they replace saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats may also help decrease the risk of breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis pain.

Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—which make up the majority of the fats in the most nut, seed, and plant oils—have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

One of the most important criteria while choosing the correct cooking oil is looking at its smoking point.

HOW TO CHOOSE A COOKING OIL

 

SMOKE POINT

 

Best Cooking oil

 

 

The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it starts to burn and degrade – oils and fats with a higher smoke point are more suited to frying food than those with lower smoke points, which are more suited for cold use - such as in salad dressings.

Fat type proportions and smoke points vary for the same type of oil depending on how it has been processed and/or produced.  How oil is stored and used also affects its qualities - as oils are reused, in deep frying, for example, they degrade. When not in use, most oils should be kept cool, in airtight containers and out of direct sunlight for maximum longevity. For these reasons the figures on this page are for general guidance and only apply to fresh, high-quality oils. Check the label or contact the manufacturer of specific oil or fat products for more precise data.

Following is the smoking point chart for the most commonly used fats.

 

BUTTER

With 51% saturates, 24% monounsaturated fats, 21% other and 3% polyunsaturated fats (omega 6 - 2% & omega 3 - 1%), butter is used widely in cooking, frying, baking and as a spread. Butter is also considered a staple food in many countries. It is most commonly made from cow’s milk, although it can be produced from the milk of other mammals like goats and buffalo. Being derived from animal sources (dairy), butter is high in saturated fat. It is also often salted to improve the flavour when used as a spread. Butter is not suitable for vegan diets. Many people substitute margarine for butter believing it to be more healthy, however, not all margarine is created equal. One has to be careful to choose kinds of margarine that contain no hydrogenated or trans fats and that have a low saturated fat content. 

Smoke point: 175°C /350°F

Predominant fat type: Saturated 

 

COCONUT OIL 

Coconut oil

 

 

Extracted from the flesh of the coconut, the seed of the coconut palm tree, coconut oil is very high in saturated fat (92%). However, despite its high saturated fat content coconut oil is not unhealthy.

Unlike saturated fats from animal sources that are made up of predominantly long-chain triglycerides (LCT), the type of saturated fat associated with health problems and weight gain, coconut oil has a high proportion of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).

MCTs are lighter and more soluble than LCTs and are not digested by our bodies. They are directly absorbed into the blood and are not stored as body fat. The body processes MCTs and can use them for instant energy and as an alternative to glucose from carbohydrates. Coconut oil is often used in curries and other dishes from The Caribbean and Southern Asia, especially in Thai food.

Smoke point: 175°C / 350°F

Predominant fat type: Saturated 


GHEE


Ghee is a type of clarified butter commonly used in and associated with, the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. Ghee's quality can vary considerably depending on the type of butter used and the production method.  Unlike butter, ghee does not need to be refrigerated and has a long shelf-life when kept in an air-tight container.   Ghee has a higher overall fat content than butter and higher levels of saturated fat.

Smoking point: 250°C / 480°F

Predominant fat type: Saturated 

 

OLIVE OIL (EXTRA VIRGIN)


With 73% monounsaturated fats, 11% polyunsaturated fats and 14% saturated fats, olive oil is associated with the Mediterranean but is now commonly available elsewhere. Olive oil is known to be a healthier alternative to many other types of cooking oils and fats. It is rich in vitamin E and other compounds that are known to help protect against certain diseases and can be beneficial to cholesterol levels.

Olive oil is often considered to be a ‘premium oil’ due to its high price. Virgin and extra-virgin olive oils offer the best health benefits as they are less refined than light or extra light varieties. The flavour and quality of olive oil depend on similar conditions to wine - the variety of olive used, the region, climate and the method of cultivation and harvest. Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point and is not usually used for frying food. Though pricey, extra virgin is great as a dip or in salad dressing. Drizzle over bean, grain, or pasta dishes. Use virgin, light, and just plain olive oil for sautéing veggies or meat. 

Smoking point: 160°C / 320°F

Predominant fat type: Monounsaturated 


PEANUT (GROUNDNUT) OIL


Used commonly in Chinese delicacies, peanut oil is derived from refining peanuts.  Usually in the West, commercially available peanut oil has to go through a rigorous refining process. The proteins in peanuts that can cause an allergic reaction are removed when refined into an oil. However, this is not the case for cold-pressed peanut oil, and those with a peanut allergy should avoid this type of oil.

Smoking point: 225°C / 440°F

Predominant fat type: Monounsaturated 

 

CANOLA (RAPESEED) OIL


With 63% monosaturated fats, 28% polyunsaturated fats and 7% saturated fats, oilseed rape is a member of the brassica family of plants, which also includes cabbage, broccoli, turnips and mustard.  The word ‘rape’ is derived from the Latin for turnip.  With only 7% saturated fat, rapeseed oil is considered one of the healthiest types of culinary oils available.  Rapeseed oil also has relatively high concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  In the UK, rapeseed oil has become very trendy over recent years with increasingly large parts of the countryside taken up with growing oilseed rape.  Rapeseed oil is often a key ingredient of the generically termed ‘vegetable oil’ in the UK due to its unfortunate name.  In North America the oil is usually referred to as 'Canola', the name deriving from a cultivar of the rapeseed plant.

Try it in dishes where you want other flavours to stand out, such as in baked goods, or on delicate fresh fish. It's good for medium- to high-heat cooking. Most canola oil comes from GMO plants; if that’s a concern, choose organic or non-GMO verified oils. 

Smoking point: 205°C / 400°F

Predominant fat type: Monounsaturated 


SUNFLOWER OIL 

 

Best Cooking oil

 

 

Sunflower oil is produced by pressing sunflower seeds.  Sunflower oil contains only 10% saturated fat and a high proportion of polyunsaturated alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-6).  Sunflower oil is versatile, has a high burn or smoke temperature and is relatively inexpensive, especially in the West.  Commercially sunflower oil has become more widely used in recent years, especially in the production of potato crisps (chips).


Smoking point: 230°C / 450°F

Predominant fat type: Polyunsaturated 

 

SOYA BEAN OIL 

Extracted from the seeds of the soya bean, soya bean oil accounts for around 80% of all commercial oil used in the US and around a third of all edible oil worldwide.  Soya bean oil is commonly hydrogenated and used in a variety of processed foods; the hydrogenated oil has much more saturated fat than the un-hydrogenated version.  Soya bean oil is usually used in baking and the production of commercial, processed foods.

Smoking point: 230°C / 450°F

Predominant fat type: Polyunsaturated 

 

SESAME OIL


Sesame oil

 

Used as a cooking oil and flavour enhancer in Southern India, China, Korea and other parts of Asia, sesame oil is extracted from sesame seeds.  Sesame oil is relatively low in saturated fats and has a good mix of mono and polyunsaturated fats with high levels (40%) of omega-6 fatty acid and can be a valuable source of vitamin E.

Smoking point: 210°C / 410°F

Predominant fat type: Polyunsaturated

 

 VEGETABLE OIL 


Typically made from a blend of many different oils, like sunflower, safflower, peanut, canola, corn and soybean, vegetable oil is very affordable and neutral tasting. Vegetable oil contains the highest levels of polyunsaturated fats of any type of cooking oil, which is a good thing since these types of fats have been shown to lower coronary heart disease.

While liquid vegetable oil is chock full of heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, other forms of veggie oil aren’t quite as good for you. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is used to make products like margarine, coffee creamer, packaged snacks and fried foods. Unfortunately, this form of vegetable oil has harmful trans fats, which is associated with an increase in heart disease and death. Vegetable oil in its purest form is part of a healthy diet, but partially hydrogenated oils aren’t.

Smoking point: 205°C / 400°F

Predominant fat type: Polyunsaturated  

Look after your oils!

As we know good things come to an end, it can be concluded that all oils will deteriorate over time with exposure to light, heat and air. The good news however is that there are lots of ways to minimise the damage to your oil.

Following are 7 ways to get the most out of your vegetable oil:

  1. Avoid stock-piling oil. Keep an eye on the 'use-by date and ideally use within 12 months.
  2. Oils prefer cool, dark places. Where possible choose oil in a dark glass bottle or tin and store it away from direct light.
  3. Use the right oil for higher heat cooking. Olive, canola and rice bran oils are all good choices.
  4. Avoid overheating oil when cooking. When oil is overheated it produces unwanted chemicals. An oil's smoke point is the point at which the oil starts burning and smoking, which signals that damage to the oil has started.
  5. Avoid reusing heated oils. As the oil darkens it develops off-flavours and becomes rancid.
  6. Avoid deep-fried foods. If you do need to deep fry, corn and sunflower oils are unstable at high temperatures. Refined olive oil (light olive oil) and rice bran oils are better choices.
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