Caring chefs employ a range of oils in their cooking; some prefer olive oil for sautéing, salad dressings, marinades and pan-frying. Some albeit in Italy only, use olive oil for deep-frying. Then some chefs use avocado- or walnut oil for dressings or brushcetta. The list goes on. There is no end to the creative cooking and usage of different oils.
With a myriad of uses from a pantheon of oils, it’s helpful to have some guidance in selecting the right oil for the purpose intended.
All oils have a smoke point and should be used accordingly (See sidebar).
The highest smoke point of any oil belongs safflower (265 C Approximately 550 F), and the lowest lard (183 – 205 approximately 400 to 430 F).
Peanut oil has a high smoke point and relatively neutral taste, hence preferred by Chinese chefs fro stir-frying; olive oil has also a high smoke point. When oil starts to smoke, it signals that it is breaking down, and will soon be catching fire. Deep-frying requires oil with a high smoke point.
Soybean-, corn-, peanut-, sunflower- and safflower oil are suitable for deep-frying.
The best and most neutral of all oils, is soybean oil.
Smart Fry company of North Carolina specializes in the production of soybean oil, that is widely distributed in the U S A, and now also in Ontario.
To obtain crisp, golden and greaseless results, heat the oil to 175 C
(Approximately 370 F) before adding the food. Once you add the first piece, pending on the volume of the oil, the temperature drops by 20 C (approximately 50 F), reaching an appropriate cooking temperature. It is very important never to overload the deep fry basket, and allow the oil to recuperate after removing one load.
Breaded food is best when this technique is used – briefly deep fry for colour and crispness then finish the cooking in a hot oven. This prevents charcoalization and burning.
For sautéing, clarified butter or virgin olive oil is recommended.
Roasting and baking leave room for experimentation. Try roasting beef and lamb with pecan and walnut oil for a rich and deep flavour.
Drizzle or on roasted vegetables with citrus flavoured olive oil.
Canola or soybean oil is best for baking due to their neutral taste.
Harvard University researchers established that the type of oil in the diet is more important than quantity used – the worst being hydrogenated oils., followed by saturated fats. The most beneficial oils are olive, grape seed, peanut, pecan and canola.
Next time you shop look for two types of oil – for cooking and dressings.
For cooking, peanut, virgin olive oil or canola is recommended. For dressings use extra virgin olive oil or hazelnut oil.
Peanut oil – Mild to assertive flavour pending on region of production.
Corn oil. Neutral in flavour and inexpensive.
Olive oil – Extra virgin recommended for dressings, and drizzling on bread. Virgin and regular olive oils are fine for sautéing or stewing.
There is a lot of fraud in olive oil packing. Select a reputable company’s product and stick with it.
Canola – neutral in flavour. Appropriate fro deep fat frying and /or sautéing.
Vegetable oil – Smoke point 155 C (approximately 380 F) neutral in flavour. Suitable for baking and inexpensive.
Hazelnut oil – Smoke point 190 C (400 F). Deeply flavoured, recommended for marinades, dressings, drizzling over grilled or roasted foods.
Pecan oil – Use for dressings, drizzle over roasted meats or vegetables.
Palm oil – Recommended for marinades and dressings, for delicate green salads i.e. butter head (Boston bib lettuce); escarole.
Grape seed oil – Recommended for sautéing, and dips.
Sesame seed oil – Recommended for roasted meats, fish and cookies.
Almond oil – Recommended for dressings.
Flavoured oils generally have a relatively low smoke point and are best used for dips, for drizzling on roasted meats or vegetables, and in dressings.
The following flavoured oils are available in gourmet grocery stores: garlic, lemon, truffle, rosemary, thyme, basil or chili.
SMOKE POINTS OF OILS
Safflower 265 C
Sunflower 246 C
Soybean 241 C
Canola 238 C
Corn 236 C
Peanut 231 C
Sesame 215 C
Olive oil 190 C
Lards 183 – 205 C