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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Cooking Oils

Frugal Kitchens 101

In recent years there has been a lot of bad publicity surrounding fats and oils as part of the diet.  Products suddenly appeared in stores with low or no fat labels followed by no-trans fats and even fat substitutes.  In many ways what this has done is create a lot of confusion for consumers and more so for new cooks.   The bottom line is a certain amount of fat is necessary as part of a healthy diet.  In children fats are necessary for proper neurological development.  So fats aren't something you can arbitrarily omit from your diet without suffering later health consequences.  At the same time cooking oils and fats are a necessary part of cooking.  There needs to be a balance though.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses cooking oils for home cooking.

Fats and oils can be classified as:

  • saturated - raises total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), solid at  (eg. vegetable shortening, hard margarine, butter) or semi-solid  (eg. palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil) at room temperature
  • trans - raises LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol)
  • monounsaturated - lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and increase the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
  • polyunsaturated - lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group
Bad cooking oils : vegetable shortening, hard margarine, butter, palm oil, lard, palm kernel oil, coconut oil

Good cooking oils : canola, flaxseed, peanut, olive oil, non-hydrogenated soft margarine, safflower, sunflower, corn, grapeseed 

I use fats and oils in cooking, baking, deep frying and dressings.  Here is a list of my favourite oils and what I use them for.  Most of them fall into the good cooking oils:
  • canola oil (rapeseed oil) - pan frying, baking
  • peanut oil - stir fry, deep fry, fondu, the oil of choice for frying turkey
  • vegetable oil - usually a combination of soybean, canola and corn oils, a generic oil suitable for deep frying, used in baking and breadmaking, doesn't impart much of a flavour
  • corn oil - baking, dressings and pan frying
  • cold pressed extra virgin olive oil -  wonderful flavour and my favourite oil, used in salads, as a bread dip, cooking, flavoured oils
  • extra light olive oil - baking, frying, flavoured oils
  • medium olive oil - cooking, salad dressings
  • grapeseed oil - an oil with a high smoke temperature ideal for oiling grills
  • safflower oil -  adds no flavour, cooking, salad dressings
  • clarified butter/ghee - this is butter with the milk solids removed so gives all the flavour of butter without the milk solids and scorching problems, topping, cooking
  • shortening - pastry dough
  • lard - pastry dough, tortilla shells
  • butter - cooking, baking, as a topping/flavouring

    10 food lovers commented:

    LindaG said...

    I really appreciate this in-depth post. I have been confused for ages - to the point where I use only canola oil for pan frying or deep frying, and olive oil for when I make spaghetti.

    I wasn't sure about anything else so haven't used them.

    Now maybe I can experiment some. :-)

    Natalie said...

    Worst oil: rancid oil of any kind!

    I have to transfer my olive oil into a wide-mouth jar and store it in the fridge to keep it fresh.

    LindaG said...

    Which brings me, as ignorant as I am, to ask "How do you know if an oil is rancid?"

    Does it get mold like other stuff does?

    Garden Gnome said...

    Hi Linda, your welcome :) Time to experiment!

    Garden Gnome said...

    Hi Natalie, I so agree with rancid oil. I've been rather lucky over the years but our primary residence is in Ontario so my oils aren't exposed to much in the way of heat or light especially in the pantry. However, I have to be careful at our vacation home where temperatures can get quite warm. Lots of fun...

    Garden Gnome said...

    Linda if an oil is rancid it likely won't have mold. If there is mold on soft butter it is because of other contaminates like bread crumbs. A rancid oil is not difficult to detect as it will have both an off smell and flavour. The flavour is hard to describe but you will definitely know it if you taste it.

    LindaG said...

    Okay. Thank you!
    I guess I should start smelling and tasting them, too, haha!
    Do you prefer dark bottled olive oils? I've read that you should pick bottles from lower, darker shelves if you have to get a clear bottle, because even store lights can break them down.

    Garden Gnome said...

    Linda, I tend to choose olive oils based on what I'm using them for. A lighter olive oil is great for salads while a darker, fruitier EVOO is nice for dipping bread in. The darker the olive oil the stronger the flavour so I pair lighter oils with lighter meats like fish or chicken. Pork can handle a medium olive oil while beef pairs better with a darker olive oil. Now all this being said, I like cold pressed olive oils. I don't use pomace olive oil for cooking, only soapmaking.

    Light can break down olive oils and for that reason I prefer those in dark bottles although I have used olive oils in clear glass as well.

    LindaG said...

    Thank you again for your knowledge and patience! :-)

    Garden Gnome said...

    You are quite welcome Linda :)