I get great blog post ideas from readers, and because I respect your privacy, I will not say exactly who gave me the idea for this post a long time ago. A friend whose name starts with “C” and rhymes with Marilyn and I have discussed cooking oils and we agree that it can be confusing.
I admit that I’ve used the grossest oil ever, canola oil, in my sordid past to fry up fish for fish tacos mostly because I was unaware that anything else could be used for deep frying. If you want to know what is so nasty about canola oil, check out this video showing how it’s made. This stuff is not fit for our consumption! My poor choices in the past aren’t limited to inappropriate dating choices. I am always learning and evolving which is why I have stopped using highly processed cooking oils in my kitchen.
Many people wonder how cooking oils made from vegetables can be bad. Vegetable oils including canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, and safflower oils are made from the seeds of these crops which have either been genetically-modified or doused in tons of pesticides. The seeds are heated up, making them rancid right off the bat and releasing all kinds of toxic free radicals. Then the oil is extracted from the seeds using petroleum based solvents. The final product is so offensive in its fragrance and appearance that it must then be highly processed with additional chemicals to make it appealing for consumers. These products are among the most highly-processed parts of the American diet.
I do not subscribe to antiquated and faulty science about saturated fats being “bad” or the poor research linking cholesterol to heart disease, but I do believe rancid cooking oils made with petroleum based chemicals are bad. I avoid regular use of oils that have high levels of polyunsaturated fat because, when heated up, they oxidize and release toxic free radicals that harm the body. I choose traditional foods over processed foods. All of this is why I long ago rid my kitchen pantry of all but the following oils which cover every cooking and baking need.
- Coconut oil – No surprise here as this oil is routinely lauded as a superfood. It’s got a great flavor, if you like coconut and is high in good saturated fat. The smoke point is high enough to use for deep frying, but it’s best for sautéing at low to medium temperatures. It is also great for baking especially as a substitute when canola oil is called for in a recipe or when a vegan alternative is needed. I prefer virgin, cold-pressed and unrefined coconut oil most of the time, but not every dish benefits from the lingering flavor of coconut. When a neutral flavor is needed, use refined coconut oil instead. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, not hydrogenated, and it is stable on your pantry shelf.
- Ghee – Ghee is butter with the milk solids removed. It is more digestible than butter for people who are lactose intolerant. Ghee is my favorite ever cooking fat, and I love to fry my pasture-raised eggs in it. Use ghee made from the milk of grass-fed cows to get all of the health benefits-this is the one I use. It tastes so good, I can eat it right from the jar. Ghee has a much higher smoke point than butter and is great for deep frying and other high heat cooking. Ghee is shelf-stable and solid at room temperature. Try ghee melted over popcorn then toss with fresh dill and nutritional yeast…YUM!
- Butter – Butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows is a healthy fat. It also tastes great! Use butter for low-medium temperature sautéing and for finishing pastas the way great chefs do.
- Lard and tallow – If you’re not vegetarian, these can be wonderful fats for cooking and baking. These traditional fats are suitable for high heat cooking, and lard makes one damn fine, super flaky pie crust! Make sure all of your animal fats are from 100% grass-fed cows and pastured pigs, like these. You can also look for rendered animal fats from local farmers in your area.
- Olive oil – Olive oil is full of good fat and tastes delicious. However, heating it to high temperatures can negate some of the health benefits, so use it for low to medium temperature cooking. It’s also perfect for drizzling on finished dishes and making salad dressings.
- Sesame oil – This one is rarely used in our house, but its flavor definitely belongs in Asian-inspired dishes. Because it has a high level of polyunsaturated fat, don’t cook with it. Instead, use it as a finishing oil to impart flavor.
- Avocado oil – This one is all about flavor. Use it as a finishing oil, not for cooking.
- Nut oils – Salads and vegetables drizzled with walnut, hazelnut or macadamia nut oil taste delicious. These are not for cooking, only for finishing or salad dressings.
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