Not every cooking oil is created equal. Almost all the cooking oils contain fat and have saturated, monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats in them. It is necessary to understand the different kinds of oils and their fat content before we make our pick.
Without getting too much into the technical part, let us try and understand a little about the fats present in the oil, and different types of cooking oils.
Saturated fats are found in animal products, and some examples are butter and other dairy products. Saturated fats not only elevate the cholesterol levels in the blood but can increase the rate of heart diseases. Oils high in saturated fats get solid when stored at room temperature.
Unsaturated fats are of two kinds – mono and polyunsaturated. Oils that have a high content of unsaturated fats do not increase cholesterol levels and are considered good for cooking. Some examples of such oils are olive oil, canola oil, and corn oil.
What is the difference between unrefined and refined cooking oil?
When we step into a grocery store, we often find refined and unrefined cooking oils. Have you ever wondered about the difference between these two types of oils?
Refined oils do not have any foreign matter as they are well refined. These types of oils are very clear and do not have any taste or flavor. Most of the refined oils are used for medium cooking and deep-frying. This is what makes them perfect for various recipes. Refined oils are also used in baking, pan-fry recipes, and wok cooking.
Unrefined oils are prepared using cold-pressed methods, and these have a true flavor. The flavor of these oils is often strong and can affect the taste and aroma of the recipe as well. However, these are also used as flavoring agents in some dishes.
Unrefined oils are also known as salad oils and are used in sauces, sautés, marinades, and salads. These can be used for high-temperature cooking.
Know Your Cooking Oils
Some of the cooking oils have quite low smoke points, and they start to burn and change color even when you cook at low temperatures. There are other varieties of oils that can be used for deep frying as the smoke point is high. Listed below are recommended uses of some of the commonly used cooking oils.
Known to be a monosaturated oil, canola oil is extracted from the plant known to be from a mustard family. The oil has a very mild flavor and is available as refined oil. The oil has a high smoke point, making it an all-purpose oil that can be used for salads, deep-fries, pan-frying, and sauteing. It also has a low content of saturated fat.
Though not widely used for cooking, corn oil is extracted from the corn kennel and is bland. It has a high content of polyunsaturated fat and is often used in mayonnaise, margarine, and salads. The oil can easily withstand high temperatures as well and is thus used for deep frying as well.
Olive oil is made from ripened olives and is a monounsaturated oil. The oil has a light green color and different flavors that range anything from bland to strong. The oil is graded based on the extraction process and acidity. Olive oil that is labeled “virgin” is cold-pressed and has low acidity, and the one labeled as pure uses a chemical process for refining.
Peanut oil is made from steam-cooked peanuts and has 18% of saturated fat in it. As the oil has a bland flavor, it is used for cooking various dishes. Also, dishes made using this oil have a rich and nutty flavor, making the dish delicious. Peanut oil has a high smoke point and is hence used for deep and pan-frying as well.
As the name suggests, safflower oil is made from the seeds of safflower, and has a pale-yellow color. Though the oil has such a color, it is bland and has a high content of polyunsaturated fats. The oil does not have vitamin E; however, it is used as an all-purpose cooking oil. It is also used in salads as the dish can be chilled without the worry of solidification. It also has a high smoke point and is used for baking, deep-frying, and pan-frying.
Sesame oil is made from sesame seeds and has both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Sesame oil is available as light sesame oil and dark sesame oil. Light sesame oil has a nutty flavor and is made from untoasted sesame seeds. This variety of oil is perfect for dressings, stir-fries, and wok cooking. The dark sesame oil or the Asian version is made from toasted seeds and has a very strong flavor. Hence, this oil is used in moderate quantities and is not used for cooking.
Known for its reasonable price tag, refined soybean oil has a very mild flavor, and is largely used in the USA. It has a high smoke point and is thus used as all-purpose oil. Any commercial food label that has vegetable oil as an ingredient in the USA often contains refined soybean oil.
Sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds, and has a pale yellow color and a bland flavor. It has a low content of saturated fat and high amounts of polyunsaturated fat. Refined sunflower oil is widely used in various Asian counties, and works like a charm when used for deep and pan-frying.
Known to be inexpensive cooking oil, vegetable oil is a blend of various oils made from seeds, vegetables, and nuts. Most vegetable oils have soybean oil in them and are low in saturated fat. These have a very high smoke point and a mild flavor. Due to its cost, and high smoke point, vegetable oil is widely used in commercial establishments.
Do you find this list useful, and qhich cooking oils do you use the most? Do let us know via a comment.