Last week we covered the different kinds of fats out there. That post was heavily related to the chemical structure of fat, and how the four main ones differ. This week, we are supplementing this post with the different types of cooking oils to use in your kitchen and for what purpose they best lend themselves. This is a good one – let’s dive in 😉. And P.S. sometimes you slice into the last avocado and it has some spots… it is what it is 🤣.
Why Do I Need To Choose Different Types of Cooking Oils?
This is mainly due to the cooking oils susceptibility to heat, light, and oxygen. See when exposed to these three elements, fats can oxidize. This does not only let your food usually taste bad, but it also produces some toxic by-products. Ever put a pot or a pan on the stove, added some oil, and waited for it to heat up? Then at one point or another, you may have seen blueish smoke forming, because the oil was too hot (and you did not pay enough attention to the pot/pan 🙋🏼♀️). Basically, that is the point when your oil has oxidized. Some oils oxidize more easily than others and that is the reason why it makes sense to choose our oils carefully.
Saturated Fat Cooking Oils
As a general rule, the more double-bonds an oil has (i.e. the more saturated it is), the more it will be susceptible to heat, light, and oxygen. This means that saturated fats make an excellent choice, especially for higher-temperature cooking.
We talk a lot about Coconut Oil and its health benefits here. It is perfect for baking, roasting, and frying. It is also delicious. I particularly like it for frying pancakes or sweeter things as I sometimes feel it adds a bit of a sweet note to the dishes. It is best stored in a cool, dark place.
If you have never heard of ghee – it is basically clarified butter. This means that the milk molecules have been removed, making it possible to be also enjoyed (mostly) by people who are lactose intolerant and/or do not consume dairy. You can pretty much use ghee in a similar if not the same way as butter. Use it for roasting, frying, or when greasing a baking pan. It is best stored in a cool, dark place for up to three months. It can last up to a year when put into the fridge (ours never lasts that long anyway…😉). If you want to make your own ghee – I have linked you to this article from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition on How to Make Ghee at Home.
For a very long time, butter was seen as THE culprit number one in our quest to cut out as much fat as possible from our diets. Luckily, we now know this is not true any longer. Butter obviously contains dairy so it is not suitable for all dietary requirements. In principle, you can use it how you are using ghee though. Because butter contains dairy, it is best stored in the fridge in order to avoid spoilage.
Monounsaturated Cooking Oils
Now that we covered the saturated types of cooking oils, let us move to the monounsaturated one. All of the monounsaturated cooking oils should be stored in a cool, dark place.
This is not an oil that you hear me talking about often, mainly because it is super expensive and I do not use it that much myself. Avocados have a range of health benefits! I have just recently posted my dear friend’s best guacamole recipe, where I dive a lot deeper into those. Unlike most other oils, avocado oil is also made from the flesh and not the pit. Avocado oil still has a relatively high smoke point. It is perfect for sauteing, stir-frying, but also excellent in dips and dressings.
Sesame oil is an excellent choice when you are trying to make Asian-inspired dishes. I, for example, use sesame oil for frying off these Korean-style Kimchi Pancakes (Kimchi Jeon). They are also an excellent choice in dressings, in particular, if you are looking for a bit more of a nutty flavor combination.
The queen under oils!! I do not think any other oil gets this much recognition in terms of its health benefits. This has largely been made popular by the Mediterranean diet. There is good reason for the “hype”. Olive oil has been shown to lower your risk of heart disease, arthritis, and potentially even cancer. Olive oil has a slightly lower smoke point than avocado and sesame oil. Therefore, it should not be used on too high a heat (light sauteeing for example). As we likely all know, it is also delicious in salads, sauces, and dressings.
Polyunsatuated Cooking Oils
This type of oil will always remain liquid, irrespective of its storing place. There are simply not enough double-bonds in order for it to (… wait for it) bond. This type of fat is extremely susceptible to the light, heat, and oxygen we discussed above. Therefore, you should not cook with it. Nevertheless, these types of oils have been shown to reduce inflammation, and your risk of heart disease. They improve the cell membrane and may even be beneficial for your brain health. All of these oils should be stored in the fridge/freezer.
There is a reason why walnuts look like a brain. They are an excellent source for our brain health! Walnut oil is no different here. The flavor of this type of oil is super-rich and nutty. Walnut oil is delicious in smoothies, cold sauces, dips, and as a drizzle on fish (once baked).
My absolute least favorite of this entire list! Flax oil has a strange taste that is quite overpowering to other tastes. Studies have shown that it may treat constipation, and reduces cholesterol, and heart disease risk. You can use it in smoothies, cold sauces, dips, and also as a drizzle on fish (once baked). I warn you though (in case that was not clear previously (🤣) this is very much an acquired taste.
Hemp seeds are a complete source of protein and contain an excellent omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. It is therefore no wonder that hemp oil (or hemp seed oil) has similar benefits! Hemp oil may aid in lowering cholesterol. You also find it in natural body care as an ingredient, as it may help to improve skin health. Hemp oil has a slightly nutty flavor (similar to the actual seeds). You can use it in the same or similar way to both Walnut and Flax oil.
How to Choose Your Cooking Oils
Now that you know which oil lends itself best to which purpose – let us talk about choosing cooking oils when in the supermarket. I always make sure to buy in dark glass bottles (again, this makes the oil less susceptible to light) and smaller quantities so that they keep well and do not go off. Where possible I choose organic, cold-pressed varieties because again, this means the oil has been less exposed to light, oxygen, and heat during the extraction process. That way, I know that I get the best quality oils possible!
I hope this post was informative and has helped you learn a bit more the different types of cooking oils! Refer to this post any time you need some guidance 💕. Remember, the general rules of “saturated”, “monounsaturated”, and “polyunsaturated” still apply. So even if you have an oil that we have not discussed above – you should be able to use it in a similar way in the kitchen (and storing) to either of the three categories mentioned above.