Time used to be when cooking was simple and uncomplicated — our parents would simply go to the grocery, pick stuff off the shelves, and whip up a delicious meal at home. These days, common food ingredients such as cooking oil have a dizzying variety. But rightly so, because cooking oil has been found to be one of the most vital foodstuff that affects our health in many aspects.
In a way, it’s great that there is a ton of choices in the market today when it comes to cooking oils. This gives consumers a wide variety of options for achieving the right flavors and providing their family with healthy meals. So just what are the different types of cooking oils and when is it best to use them?
Thanks to the deluge of cooking shows on TV, olive oil has enjoyed immense popularity as a cooking oil in the past few decades. It used to be considered a snooty or expensive type of oil, but once consumers realized its unparalleled health benefits, it became a staple in kitchen cupboards.
There are a few key differences between types of olive oils. Extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO) is ideally used for sauces and dips and for drizzling on salad and other dishes. The key to enjoying EVOO’s flavors and health benefits is not to heat it at high temperatures. EVOO is processed using cold pressing techniques, which means the oil is extracted at temperatures not exceeding 80.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Any higher destroys not just its flavor but also its precious antioxidants and monounsaturated fats.
If you are going to fry or saute food, use ordinary olive oil which is more versatile. In fact, majority of restaurants and food establishments today use olive oil for their general cooking needs. It is quite neutral in smell and flavor, and so can take on a variety of spices and other flavorings.
Canola oil has also emerged as one of the most popular types of vegetable oils, and for good reason because it is quite affordable and versatile. It also has a high smoke point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and is thus most ideal for deep frying.
Canola oil is derived from the rapeseed plant, and yes the word “canola” is a combination of the words “Canada” and “ola” or oil. Canola is a crop that is “made in Canada,” as it was developed by researchers from the University of Manitoba in the 1970s.
Sesame oil is widely used in Asian cuisine, and it has found its way more frequently into kitchens all around the world because of the advantages it offers in cooking. Although you may smell a certain aroma from sesame oil, its taste is generally neutral, and its high smoke point makes it suitable for deep frying as well. It also possesses a good amount of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, so it’s a healthy choice for salad dressings, especially for those with Oriental flavors like citrus or ginger.
The good thing and bad thing about peanut oil is, well, it tastes like peanuts! If you’re cooking some Asian dishes like pad thai or stir-fry vegetables, peanut oil will help you achieve a truly genuine Oriental flavor. It also has a high smoke point of 440 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can use it for Asian-style fried chicken, ribs, or other meats that require deep frying. Note though that peanut oil gets bad quite easily, so make sure to buy only enough for your needs in the kitchen and store it in a cool place away from heat.
A World of Flavors with Oil
There are even more types of cooking oils popping up in shelves, and it would be great for you to try them out for flavor, texture, and health benefits. Cooking oils do a great deal in making our food taste better, and as such it is an important ingredient that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Whatever type of oil you end up with, always make sure you choose the best quality that you can afford.