Oils add richness and flavor to food, aid browning and are used in frying. But all oils aren’t created equal.
All About Oils in Cooking
- Any tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat.
- Nearly all cooking oils contain no cholesterol.
- Oils vary in the monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fat they contain, making some more desirable for healthier eating.
- Oils vary in how they are processed. Two terms are seen:
- Cold pressed: A method of extracting oils that involves only mechanical means. It’s a bit misleading as the olives or oilseeds processed are not, in fact, cold when processed.
- Refined: Oil that has undergone a heat or chemical process to extract the oil and make it neutral in color, flavor and aroma.
- Refining oils improves their shelf life and smoke point.
- Shelf life: All oils benefit from storage in a cool, dark place. Some oils—like peanut, walnut and olive—should be refrigerated if not used in a month or so. It’s OK that they become cloudy.
- Smoke point: All oils have a temperature where when heated, they smoke and what’s cooking no longer tastes good! High heat cooking—like cooking in a wok—is best done with oils like peanut, safflower and sesame.
- Just like wine, olive oils and gourmet cooking oils come from many places, are grown different ways, in many flavors and at many prices. Until you find favorites, start with the smallest bottles you can and look for ways to use what you buy [link to ‘Beyond Olive Oil’] quickly.
Every Kitchen Needs
- All-purpose vegetable oil like corn or a vegetable and oilseed blend. Use for general cooking, to pan fry or deep fry.
Sesame and peanut oil if you like Asian food.
Pure olive oil for general cooking and extra virgin—called EVOO by celebrity chefs—for drizzling on fresh vegetables or dipping crusty bread. Essential for Mediterranean cooking.
- One or more gourmet oils that can bump up a recipe’s flavor with little added fat and fewer ingredients.