Oil is one the most important cooking ingredients.
Falvourful oil in a dish or salad elevates it to heavenly heights.
Oil is derived from a range of foods, and accordingly, offers a range of taste dimensions, from light to heavy, with a high smoke point, watery or medium bodied and deeply flavoured.
Some cooks prefer vegetable oil with a light and almost neutral flavour, whereas others like to use extra virgin oil, yet for a few nothing else will do except hazelnut or walnut oil for salad dressings.
In practice, every oil has its place in gastronomy, but it would be impractical to have all kinds of oils available in any household.
Here is a list of some the oils available readily in many grocery stores;
Avocado oil: Becoming popular among young food aficionados with its “buttery” flavour. May be used in dips, for frying, and dressings.
Canola oil: Tolerates heat well (440 F or 200 C) has a neutral flavour and is light in texture.
Grapeseed oil: Has a nutty flavour, and a high smoke point. Oxidizes relatively fast, and should be used within six months of bottling.
Olive oil: The oil of olives has been used for millennia by Middle eastern peoples and has a high smoke point, good flour and is versatile.
It comes in different qualities. The best and most flavorful being cold pressed extra virgin with up to .8 per cent oleic acid, next comes virgin olive oil with 1.5 per cent acidity and considerably less flavour.
Regular olive oil contains two per dent or more oleic acid, is thin, and devoid of any flavour.
Refined olive oil, if kept in a dark cool cupboard, can last up to two years; unfiltered oil has a shelf life of one year but tastes better.
Peanut oil: It is preferred oil of Chinese chefs for wok frying (450 F = 220 C smoke point) and a thick texture with an almost bland taste.
Sesame oil: Very flavourful and expensive. It is used in Oriental cuisines for marinades, sauces and dips. Should be stored in a cool and dark cupboard.
Sunflower and safflower oils: Are refined, neutral tasting light oils and mostly used for sautéing.
They oxidize rapidly. Buy in small quantities and use within a few weeks of purchase.
Vegetable oil: May be pressed from corn or soybeans; is inexpensive and has a relatively high smoke point. The flavour is neutral and texture thin. Mostly used in commercial kitchens for sautéing and dressings. Oxidizes quickly.
Nut oils (walnut, hazelnut and almond) are unctuous, deeply flavoured, and expensive and oxidize rapidly once opened.
Use them for roasted root vegetables, dressings, and dips.
Keep them in a cool dark place. Buy small quantities and the watch best before date on the label.
Hydrogenated coconut oil: is used mostly for frying in Germany, has a neutral taste and light texture.
Like salt, oil is an important flavour-imparting ingredient and should be selected with due care. Each oil has its specific use. All-purpose oils like vegetable, and canola are generally neutral in taste and suitable for frying and sautéing but little else. Manufacturers of dressings use them due to their low cost.
All-purpose oils suit the palates of people who like bl