The Dos and Dont's of Cooking Oils
How to enhance flavor and heath benefits
By Victoria Bentley NCTMB, CPI, LMT, HC
This is a subject with much contention and confusion, and I’d like to shed light on the numerous kinds of fat and oils available for home cooking. We’ve been told to eat a low fat diet and that saturated fats are particularly bad, but this is malarky.
The quality of all cooking oils and fats is important. Choosing organic brands is a good way to ensure this quality. Most grocery stores offer these, and Organic Valley and Kerrygold have pasture-style butters that are great. Find a local farmer, or better yet, go to a farmers’ market to get lard, tallow or schmaltz. It’s important to eat animal fat from properly raised animals. I cannot stress that enough.
Having a range of flavors to choose from makes food taste better. Use animal fats like butter/Ghee, coconut oil, and palm oil. Walnut, hazelnut and avocado oils add great flavor to your dishes, but use these sparingly.
Now, let ’s enjoy cooking!
The good guys:
Mmm! This is a flavorful cooking fat that is used for medium heat cooking. Don’t use it for high heat cooking due to trace levels of proteins, lactose (milk-sugar) and carbohydrates that burn easily.
It’s very important to buy grass-fed/ pasture-style butter. Cows who have been pastured and grass-fed are not injected with hormones and antibiotics as conventionally raised animals are. Much better for you and yours.
We have been consuming butter for three millennia, and it used to be thought of as medicinal. Only in the last century did it come to be considered “unhealthy.” There’s nothing unhealthy about these delicious fats. What’s unhealthy and not real is margarine, so avoid that all together.
This is clarified butter from Southeast Asia used for high temperature cooking. It is pure butterfat that is skimmed after it has been boiling, a process that leaves the “schorchable” proteins behind.
Lard, Tallow, Schmaltz (animal fat from pork, beef and goose respectively) – Buy the grass-fed/pasture-style to avoid the dangerous toxins that are stored in fat. Always choose the highest quality. These are excellent cooking fats that are stable over high heat. Beef tallow used to be the secret ingredient that McDonalds used to cook their French fries. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case, due to the intervention by some well-meaning, but misguided nutritionists.
This is not the best choice for cooking, especially over high heat, but it’s wonderful for salads, dipping sauces and pouring over vegetables.
There are three types of olive oils: extra virgin, virgin and pure. The first two are from the first pressing of the olives. They can be very flavorful and tasty. Pure olive oil is refined, which renders it flavorless and odorless. The better oils have lower acidity and stronger flavors.
One of my favorites, this oil is extremely stable and great for high temperature cooking. It does have a slight coconut flavor, so I tend to melt it over a baked sweet potato with some nutmeg and cinnamon. I also like to put a dollop in protein shakes. It is highly saturated, and has a bad rap because of this, but the benefit of the medium chained fatty acids from this oil are proven to be very healthy.
This oil is full of flavor and color and chock full of vitamin E. It’s also stable and good for high heat cooking and frying. Worldwide, it’s widely appreciated and is the second most used. The first is soybean oil. Palm oil is highly saturated and is great for meats and veggies over high heat.
Get out your wok! I use this for dishes that I want to give an Asian flair, and it’s definitely for medium to low temperature cooking. The toasted variety adds a smoky complexity. Use it with cabbage, carrots, ginger, soy/tamari sauce at the end of the cooking process.
The Bad Guys:
Vegetable Oils such as Peanut and Corn Oil
These are wholly unnatural fats that are extremely high in Omega-6 fatty acids that we have far too much of in the American diet. This high percentage of Omega-6 tends to increase inflammation in our bodies, which is not healthy. They are refined and deodorized just to make them shelf stable. Bottom line: Do not use them.
This is an unstable fat that oxidizes from light, air and heat. Even though it has Omega-3, it’s a plant source which does not offer health benefits.
The media “toots their horn” for this oil, but I do not. It’s heavily refined and genetically engineered. There is no healthy benefit.