For many, much of the taste of our food is due to the cooking oil or - to be precise - to the proper cooking oil. But… Today, I will not talk to you about the beneficial properties of olive oil. We will not look at the nutritional value of coconut oil and generally will not talk about oils on this basis. Today, what I want to do is answer some of your frequently asked questions regarding the use of each oil in cooking. So, next time, you will pick the proper oil from the shelf, use it to cook, fry, or -simply- serve the right food and store it properly until the next time you need it.
The oil is the "gold" of our kitchen
We all know that with cooking oil, we take our dishes to the next level. Sauteing, deep-frying, even a gentle sear in a frying pan with some oil can perfect our recipe. But the same goes for our roasts. You see, we use it alone or with some other ingredients as a marinade. We spread our roasts with it to make a crispy, tasty crust. Fact: Our cooking oil is our… color (that is, the one that will make our food beautiful) and the flavor enhancer of our dish.
Each cooking oil has its use…
Not all oils are suitable for all (cooking) jobs. Or, at least, not all of them lead us to the ideal result. In the following lines, we talk about the most common cooking oils of our kitchen and where we can use each one.
The olive oil. Perhaps one of the most valuable goods produced in Greece. Olive oil - an integral part of Greek cuisine and the Mediterranean diet - is one of the most important raw materials for both savory and sweet preparations. Undoubtedly, the best way to take advantage of the nutrients and the taste of olive oil is to enjoy it raw, e.g. over a freshly cut salad. In case we want to use it in cooking, we should add a little to sauté our veggies for example, and then add more of it just before we serve our food. This way, the olive oil will not "suffer" from the high temperatures and will be able to retain most of its nutrients. Now, when it comes to frying, opinions differ: Many consider it a pity to "waste" the nutritional value of olive oil by putting it in the frying pan. Others choose to use it even there as olive oil - and especially extra virgin olive oil - has a relatively lower burning point compared to other cooking oils, so it could very well be used for cooking or deep frying. In fact, it has been shown that if the temperature is between 140ο C - 150ο C (280ο F – 300ο F) the components of the olive oil are preserved.
Το seed oil. We refer, of course, to all kinds of seed oils such as sunflower oil, corn oil, etc. which many resort to since they are cheaper, e.g. for deep frying. And yet, these cooking oils are quite sensitive to high temperatures and -therefore- they are easily oxidized and decomposed into products harmful to our body. In fact, many times, some of these cooking oils are enhanced with preservatives that are particularly harmful to our body. All of the above lead us to the conclusion that -these oils- should not be used for frying, but for cooking or baking, in case no other cooking oil can be used in their place.
The sesame oil. It contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and can benefit our body at various levels. The main requirement? Like almost all cooking oils, it should be consumed raw and -of course!- in moderation. Sesame oil has a very strong taste which some people love, while others the exact opposite. Be that as it may, this oil is used by many in frying, however -like all seed oils- it is considered particularly harmful when used for deep frying and when it exceeds its smoke point.
The peanut oil. Rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, peanut oil has a characteristic taste that goes well with Asian recipes. We can use it to sauté various ingredients, as well as to fry them.
The coconut oil. It is an oil rich in fats, much of which is saturated fat. This means that it is an oil that should be consumed in moderation (like everything, after all), while it can be used in cooking and baking, both for savory and sweet recipes.
The avocado oil. A nutritious cooking oil, rich in antioxidants and vitamins valuable for our body. We can eat it raw in our salads, use it in our soups and roasts and in our desserts, but it is not suitable for deep frying.
The flaxseed oil. Also known as linseed oil, it is a special oil, not very popular, but very nutritious and rich in Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is a particularly fragile product that should not be used at high temperatures, but can be consumed raw in salads or in other preparations, such as in pasta dishes.
How do we properly store cooking oils?
Light and heat are enemies of the oil. The best way to keep its flavor and aroma unchanged is to store it in a cool, dark place - preferably in a glass bottle. In fact, for the more sensitive oils, you should consider the possibility of storing them in the refrigerator, in order to ensure their best possible quality.