Choosing a Cooking Oil

Should I ever cook with olive oil?

Cooking OilCooking with oil is a bit confusing. What’s the benefit of using rapeseed versus olive oil? What does extra-virgin even mean? While Swiss Diamond cookware allows cooking with absolutely no oil, if you prefer to use it, there is only one thing you need to know:

Never heat an oil above its smoke point – it will coat your nonstick pan and cause food to stick.

If you follow this rule, your nonstick cookware will function beautifully for many years. In addition, you will benefit from increased flavor in your food, since an oil’s smoke point also marks the beginning of both flavor and nutritional degradation [Wikipedia].

WHAT IS A SMOKE POINT?

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which the oil begins to break down. This occurs at different temperatures for different kinds of oil. As a general rule, vegetable oils can take more heat than animal products like butter, and light-colored (more highly refined) oils can take more heat than their darker counterparts. [About.com]

CHOOSING THE RIGHT OIL

Choosing the right oil for each type of cooking is vitally important. For example, frying is done at very high heat, so it requires an oil with a high smoke point. Some oils are best reserved for salad dressings, since they break down at very low temperatures.

Swiss Diamond recommends the following common oils for most needs:

  • Vegetable Oil – What is sold as “Vegetable Oil” in the United States is usually pure soybean or cottonseed oil or a blend of several different refined oils. It is designed to have a mild flavor and a high smoke point, making it ideal for frying and other high-heat cooking. It is the most common oil worldwide. [Livestrong, Columbus Dispatch]
  • Canola Oil – Derived from rapeseed, canola oil is considered by many researchers to be healthier than vegetable oil because it contains less saturated fat. It is ideal for frying and high-heat cooking. [Livestrong]
  • Light Olive Oil – Olive and canola oils are both unsaturated vegetable oils, meaning they provide “healthy fats.” Compared to canola oil, olive oil has has a lower percentage of Omega-6 fatty acids, which can swell artery linings, and it has been shown in some studies to help prevent colon cancer. However, it also has more saturated fat and less beneficial Omega-3’s  than canola oil. The most important thing to remember with olive oil is that the different varieties, from extra-virgin to extra-light, perform totally different functions in the kitchen. Read more about TYPES OF OLIVE OIL. [Livestrong]

For your cooking needs, consider what temperature you will be using. [The Daily Meal]

  • Sauteing and sauces (low to medium heat) – canola, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, or soybean (vegetable) oil. Almost any oil can be gently warmed over low heat without reaching its smoke point.
  • Frying, searing and roasting (medium-high heat) – canola, corn, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower or soybean (vegetable) oil. Extra virgin olive oil is not recommended. If you prefer olive oil, use light or refined olive oil. Read more about TYPES OF OLIVE OIL.
  • Grilling and deep frying (high heat) – canola, corn, cottonseed, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower or soybean (vegetable) oil. Never use a nonstick pan on a high heat setting. Instead, heat the pan over medium-high heat until it reaches proper temperature.

There are four common varieties of olive oil, and each perform very different functions. [How Stuff Works, About.com]

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Made from the first pressing of the olives without chemicals or high heat. After pressing, no other processing or refining occurs. It has the lowest acidity of all the types of olive oil, and is best used uncooked to appreciate its superior flavor. Extra virgin olive oil should not be used for frying, sauteing, or other high-heat cooking.
  • Virgin Olive Oil – Made from the first pressing of the olives without chemicals or high heat. After pressing, no other processing or refining occurs. It has less flavor than its extra-virgin counterpart, but can still be used uncooked, or over very low heat.
  • Light Olive Oil – To improve the smoke point of olive oil, manufacturers use a filtration process. This removes impurities and allows the oil to withstand higher heat, but it also removes much of the flavor. Light olive oil is suitable for cooking over medium heat.
  • Refined Olive Oil – When the olives are pressed and the resulting oil is of a low quality due to poor flavor, high acidity or an unpleasant aroma, it is sent to a processing plant for refinement. Refined olive oil has very little flavor but has a higher smoke point, making it suitable for high-heat cooking. Not even refined olive oil can withstand the heat of deep frying, however, it can be used for sauteing.

Other oils can impart unique flavors to dishes. Consider this comprehensive list from What’s Cooking America.

What’s your favorite type of oil for cooking? Have you tried any flavored oils? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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One comment on “Choosing a Cooking Oil

  1. Hi there! This article couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I am going to forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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