We’re all familiar with oils. They are essential to cooking. An oil is basically a fat that remains liquid in room temperature. What I like most about oils is that each type can act as a flavoring agent for your dishes. When selecting oils, one must consider this as well as the smoke point of the oil.
The smoke point is the temperature at which oil begins to smoke. This is an indication that the fat is breaking down. When an oil reaches its smoke point, the fat molecules transform into fatty acids. These leave unpleasant flavors and can really mess with your dishes. Always choose an oil with a smoke point that is higher than your cooking temperature.
The best way to store oils so that they don’t go rancid is to keep them away from air, heat, light and moisture. This is the reason most oils come in colored glass containers (filter out the light). You can even refrigerate your oils. They will get a little cloudy, but once they are back at room temperature, they will become clear again. Also remember to keep your oils covered so they do not absorb smells.
Types of Oils
Canola Oil: It’s made from rapeseed. The nice thing about canola oil is that it is cholesterol free and has high monosaturated fat (which reduces bad cholesterol). It is virtually flavorless and a high smoke point making it a great cooking choice.
Flavored Oils: A good flavored oil will be made by extracting the aromatic oils from the desired ingredient (say orange). This oil is then emulsified with a high grade oil (say olive oil). These are great to use in salads. One of my favorites is the mandarin olive oil from Lucero. It is elegant and decadent.
Nut Oil: These are usually not blended and made exclusively from nuts. These are great flavoring agents since they bring the integrity of it’s parent nut along to the table. I don’t usually bake or fry with these. I use them more for marinades and salads. The downside of nut oils is that they tend to go bad quickly, so when you buy them, buy smaller bottles.
Olive Oil: It’s become incredibly popular and for good reason. Olives are actually fruits. This makes it different as most oils are extracted from grains, nuts, or seeds. Nowadays they are being produced everywhere, but Spanish, French and Italian olive oils remain the dominant types. A high quality olive oil will have a thicker texture then vegetable oil, but should not feel fatty. For more information on olive oil (and it’s production) check out our earlier piece on olive oil.
Vegetable Oil: Veggie oils include everything from corn, grape seed, peanut and soy. They are usually refined and end up being flavorless and odorless. Another plus is that they are cholesterol free. If a bottle says “Pure” it means that it is not blended. They usually have a high smoke point, making them great for frying.
January 10th, 2012