Cooking with oil is a pretty controversial topic in health and wellness and it’s hard to get a consensus on which oil is best and for what purpose. Our grandparents used to cook with butter, or animal fats such as lard, but more recently industrial seed and vegetable oils became much more popular and were touted as a safer alternative. But when we take a closer look at how these oils are produced and altered to be safe to consume it might make you think twice about your cooking options.
Vegetable oils or industrial seed oils such as canola oil, soybean oil, rice bran oil, sunflower and safflower oil must go through a chemical extraction process using extremely high heats (some even using chemical solvents), deodorising and often bleaching just to make the oil palatable for cooking. This doesn’t sound too appetising to me!
So, what can we cook with?
One way of assessing the safety of oil is by looking at its ‘smoke point’, this is basically the temperature at which the oil will steam or give off smoke and starts to release free radicals (this is past the point you want to cook at!). Extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil and avocado oil are the safest oils for high temperature cooking and baking. The smoke points of these oils are relatively high making them stable fats still at high temps.
Coconut oil has gained huge popularity over the last few years but its smoke point is actually relatively low (at approximately 170 degrees) so it’s best to use for low temperature cooking. If you’ve ever added coconut oil to the pan and it looks like it’s giving off smoke or steam then it’s too hot!
Cold pressed oils are produced using very little heat in the extraction process and this also indicates that no chemicals are used either! The cold pressed variety of oils such as olive, avocado, macadamia nut, flaxseed oils are delicious and best for salad dressings.
If none of these options seem appealing to you, it’s absolutely fine to simply fry with water (or bone broth – but that’s a different article)!
For more information on everything health & wellness tune into the Wellness Women Radio – That Sugar Episode. https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/wellness-women-radio