Doing oil right
If you’re like most people, you walk down the cooking oil aisle at your local supermarket, gaping at the wall of bottles, cans and sprays. Why are there so many different oils? What oil do I use and when? Which tastes the best? Can this oil take the heat? Which one do I put in my car? Well, never fear, we’re here to set your mind at rest (and to answer that last question first – don’t put any of these oils in your car!).
Now, the healthiness of oils can sometimes be confusing. Are they bad, are they good, how much is too much? The short answer is yes, oils are good for you, the slightly longer answer is yes, the right amount of the right oil is good for you. This is because oils are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can assist in regulating blood cholesterol and vitamin E which is a fat-soluble antioxidant.
Oils are rich in fat (around 90-100%) but don’t worry, it’s the saturated fat you have to worry about and most oils have less than 20%. However due to this high fat content (even though it’s good fat) oils should be used in moderation. One to two tablespoons is usually enough for most recipes and dishes. Also be sure you know your oil’s behaviour under heat – the best predictor is ‘oxidative stability’ – the chemical reaction between oil and oxygen. Otherwise, you can utilise the very clear indicator of its smoke point – the point at which the oil starts to visibly smoke – so you don’t ruin your food or accidentally start a fire!
Oils react to heat and light, so don’t store them too close to the oven or in direct sunlight – a cool, dark cupboard or pantry is perfect. Most oils don’t last more than 6 months, so make sure you check any older oils to make sure they haven’t gone bad.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A cooking staple, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an unrefined, flavoursome oil, that isn’t treated by chemicals or altered by temperature (hence the ‘virgin’ in its name), meaning it retains more of its vitamins, antioxidants and health benefits. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is perfect for salads, drizzling over dishes, or simply with fresh bread and dukkah. It’s good for cooking at medium levels – for example, roasting your veggies in the oven at 180°C (with a smoke point of around 190-210°C, choosing this oil bodes well for anything cooked under this range). With Extra Virgin Olive Oil’s anti-oxidant nature, the oil is protected during the heating process, therefore retaining its health benefits.
Light Olive Oil
The ‘light’ in Light Olive Oil refers to the flavour and colour of the oil, not the fat content. Since Light Olive Oil is usually chemically treated, it comes with a higher smoke point but less of the naturally occurring vitamins and antioxidants of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. However, due to its higher smoke point this oil is great for adding to stir-fries and other general cooking.
Sunflower Oil comes from sunflower seeds and is refined with the use of chemical solvents. This unfortunately strips a lot of the nutrients from the oil but does allow for a higher smoke point at around 232°C. Due to its high smoke point, Sunflower Oil is great for any sautéing or frying you have got planned. From potato fries to that salmon steak, Sunflower Oil is there for you.
Extracted from sesame seeds, this oil is a staple in Asian cuisine. It’s packed with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as Vitamin K which, aids in blood coagulation. Sesame Oil is a bit of a general-purpose oil but goes great with stir-fries and other Asian inspired dishes.
Peanut oil is also a staple of Asian cuisine with its nutty scent and strong flavours. With a high smoke point of around 230°C peanut oil takes stir-fries in its stride and can even be used for deep-frying.
As if avocados couldn’t get any better, they also have their own oil. Although Avocado Oil is a little on the pricier side (there goes my dream of owning a house), it’s a delicious, healthy and great multi-purpose oil. It has a higher smoke point than Extra Virgin Olive Oil (around 270°C), so can be easily used in roasting and grilling. You can also retain Avocados oil’s vitamins and antioxidants by drizzling it fresh on salads and meals.
A good all-rounder, Canola Oil is extracted from the rapeseed plant (rape coming from the latin rapum for turnip) and is chock-full of omega-3s. Canola Oil has a rather neutral flavour, so not much point in drizzling over salads.
Packed with Omega-3s, Linseed (or flaxseed) Oil is good as a dressing but not for cooking. Store your Linseed Oil in the fridge as it and use it sparingly as it can have quite a strong flavour.
Rice Bran Oil
Rich in antioxidants, vitamin E and plant sterols, Rice Bran Oil has one of the highest smoking points in the game (232 °C), making it great for deep-frying and stir-fries. Take note, however, that Rice Bran Oil is not particularly rich in natural antioxidants – so better to utilise oils, where possible, that contain more health benefits (such as Vegetable Oil).
Good for frying and sautéing, Vegetable Oil is made of a mix of oils extracted from legumes. Much like Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil can be a pretty good all-rounder, just be sure to check the label to find out what blend of oils you’re buying and always make sure the saturated fat content is below 20%.
Made from nuts such as almonds, macadamia, pecan and walnut, many of the nut oils shouldn’t be used in cooking due to their low smoke points. Only the nut oils rich in monounsaturated fats can be used for cooking – that means Macadamia Oil is fine but Walnut Oil should be delegated to dressings only.
At the end of the day there’s an oil to suit any of your culinary needs. From deep-frying to drizzling and sautéing to sizzling, oil is definitely more than just a one trick pony. So why not start out your oil love affair with a bottle of Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil and get cooking, eating and enjoying the delicious world of oils.
All oil-ed out? Cobram Estate have the perfect recipe for you to test your oil knowledge (but mainly to give you a delicious feed). Their Spicy Barbequed Butterfly Leg Lamb recipe goes perfectly with Great Health’s give away. Win 1 of 5 bottles of limited edition Cobram Estate Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil.