A Guide to Cooking Oils
Olive oil is the go-to cooking oil for many people due to its flavor and its nutritional value. It is useful for sautéing, pan-frying, stir-frying, searing, grilling, broiling, and baking. There are many different types of olive oil, with differences in color, aroma, and flavor. Try a darker green oil for an herbal aroma and a slightly bitter, grassier flavor. Lighter yellow olive oils tend to be buttery, milder in flavor, and fruitier, perfect for dishes with subtle flavors that won’t get dominated by the oil’s taste. Extra-virgin olive oil has very low acidity and is best used uncooked (on salads or bread), so you can appreciate its high quality.
Vegetable oil is a blend of corn, soybean, palm, sunflower, and other oils. It is very commonly used for frying and cooking desserts when the flavor of olives is not ideal. Because of its neutral taste and low price, it is used in a huge variety of dishes.
Canola oil is often touted as one of the healthier cooking oils due to lower saturated fat levels. It is quite similar to vegetable oil in taste and usages, and it is often utilized for frying at medium temperatures. It boasts a light and clean flavor, although some people taste slightly metallic or fishy essences.
Heavily used in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Southeast Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisine, sesame seed oil is a delicious alternative to olive or vegetable oil. It is commonly used for frying tempura, marinating meat, and as a post-cooking seasoning on noodle dishes. A staple in my own kitchen, sesame oil adds a sophisticated flavor to any dish. I recommend stir-frying your vegetables or meat with garlic, a spoonful of sesame oil, and a dash of soy sauce to create a mouth-watering Chinese-style dish in under 10 minutes. However, beware of sesame oil’s low smoke point, and be sure to mix it with another, blander oil that is more heat tolerant (e.g. grapeseed oil) if using to stir-fry.
Coconut oil is a wonderful replacement for butter or vegetable oil in baked goods and desserts. Instead of using PAM or another non-stick product, try spreading a bit of coconut oil on your pan to give your pancakes a mouth-watering coconut aroma. It is also particularly tasty in curry dishes and soups, as well as drizzled onto rice, oatmeal, popcorn, smoothies, and even coffee!
Hazelnut oil possesses a strong, roasted, nutty taste that is slightly sweet. Commonly added to cakes, cookies, and other baked desserts, it can also be used to make a richly flavorful salad dressing or drizzled as a garnish over pasta or bread.
Use olive oil for salad dressings, sesame oil for stir-fries, vegetable or canola oil for frying and baking, and treat yourself to interesting, unusual oils on special dishes or occasions.
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