Cooking with Vegetable Oils
As food is most nutritious when consumed closest to or in its’ natural state, frying and deep-frying are not health minded food preparation choices. With that said there are ways to use these methods that are less harmful than others. Most oils, other than the polyunsaturates, can be used in cooking, sautéing and baking. Ideally the best oils to consume are the least processed. When it comes to high heat cooking such as frying or deep-frying, a high smoke point oil is necessary. Refined oils will have a higher heat point than non-refined. Choose naturally refined cooking oil over one that has been chemically extracted. Some oils listed will only have a refined or unrefined option, as the other may be uncommon due to availability.
Smoke Points of Oils
An oil’s Smoke Point is the temperature at which the oil physically smokes when heated. Smoking signals that the oil has begun to burn and will begin to create free radicals and carcinogenic substances. Discard any oil that has begun to smoke, and never heat an oil above its smoke point. Below is a description of common cooking oils and their smoke points. The smoke point for a refined oil will always be higher than the smoke point for an unrefined smoke point.
Let’s refer to the smoke point for the refined oil with the letter “R-“
Let’s refer to the smoke point for the unrefined oil with the letter “U-“.
Almond R- (255 °C or 495°F) is a high heat oil and can be used for sautéing and frying. It has a light delicate flavour, and is suitable for cooking, baking and salad dressings.
Avocado R- (265°C or 510°F) when refined can withstand very high heat; it’s also ideal for sautéing and frying. Its smooth texture and nutty flavour make it a good choice for salad dressing or simply drizzled on vegetables, like olive oil.
Butter (175°C or 350°F) is the naturally saturated fat made most commonly from cow’s milk but is also available from goat, sheep and buffalo.
Canola R-High Heat (255°C or 495°F) and R- (220°C or 425°F) is a mild-flavoured, all-purpose oil ideal for sautéing or baking at medium to medium-high temperatures. Canola oil can be used in place of butter or shortening in baking recipes.
Coconut R- (185°C or 365°F) and U- (140°C or 280°F) Refined coconut oil is great for sautéing and baking at medium high temperatures and has virtually no flavour, which makes it ideal for lighter fare or subtly flavoured dishes. Unrefined coconut oil can be used in lower heat applications to cook nearly any food. Coconut oil can substitute butter or shortening in any recipe.
Corn U- (160°C or 320°F) when unrefined can be used at low to medium cooking temperatures. Unrefined corn oil can be combined with other lighter flavoured oils and used in salad dressings and dips that have stronger flavours such as peppers and garlic. By itself, corn oil has a buttery flavour.
Ghee (250°C or 485°F) is a ‘clarified butter’, which has been processed to remove the ‘milk solids’ leaving a very stable cooking oil, mainly consisting of butterfat. Ghee can be used anywhere butter is called for, or to replace other oils. The best thing about ghee is that you can make it yourself at home! See recipe below.
Grape Seed R- (220°C or 425°F) is neutral and light-flavoured, can withstand medium high cooking temperatures, and works well for sautéing or baking.
Palm Kernel R- (230°C or 450°F) can be used for high heat sautéing, frying and baking
Peanut U- (175°C or 350°F) is superior for distinctly flavourful sauces, marinades, light sautéing, stir-frying or frying.
Olive U- (160°C or 325F) can be used for just about everything: salad dressings, dipping oil, even in cakes and cookies. When cooking, use olive oil at low to medium temperatures.
Safflower U- (200°C or 390°F) with its neutral flavour, high oleic safflower oil can be used for medium-high to high heat sautéing and frying, as well as for baking.
Sesame U- (175°C or 350°F) can be used for light sautéing, or as a key flavour component in sauces or dressings, while refined sesame oil (230°C or 445°F) can be used for high heat applications like frying. Unrefined sesame oil can be used in baking muffins, cakes and cookies.
Sesame oil (Toasted) U- (175°C or 350°F) has a strong flavour often used in oriental cooking and stir fries. A little is all you need of this flavourful oil.
Sunflower (high oleic R-240°C or 460°F) is delicately flavoured and acceptable for high heat cooking, such as sautéing and frying, as well as for baking.
Walnut R- (205°C or 400°F) is superb for flavourful salad dressings and sauces. It can be used for medium-high temperature sautéing or baking.