All oils are a source of fat. Each tablespoon of vegetable oil contains about 14 grams of fat and 120 calories. However, a moderate amount of oil low in saturated fat and HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol, is essential to a healthy diet.
Oils low in saturated fat that hold up well in hotter temperatures such as those in frying and sauteing are olive oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil and canola oil. Hotter frying temperatures result in tastier food with less oil absorption. Foods cooked at 325 degrees F to 375 degrees F have good flavor and a crisp texture.
Canola oil is considered the best for frying, it has a light flavor that does not interfere with the food, it is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat or the ìgoodî fats, and low in saturated fat, the ìbadî fats. It is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, essential in a healthy diet.
Corn oil is also excellent for frying; its light corn flavor enhances the taste of food. Canola oil and corn oil have a higher smoke point than many other oils and will not easily burn.
For lower temperature frying and sauteing, olive oil is a good choice and adds a delicious flavor. The paler the color the more delicate the taste. Olive oil ranges from unrefined, extra virgin, virgin and extra light. Use a stronger flavored oil when frying flavorful foods such as fish and a more delicate flavor in baked goods.
Light sesame oil is good for frying and sauteing; its nutty flavor adds an interesting note. Dark sesame oil should be used only for flavoring foods. Sesame oil is high in polyunsaturated fat.
Peanut oil can be used for sauteing or stir-frying. Its fresh peanut scent enhances food without changing the flavor.
Soybean oil, commonly known as vegetable oil, is versatile and can be used either in frying and sauteing or in baked goods. It can be used with hotter frying temperatures and its bland taste will not affect the flavor of your food.
Butter is high in saturated fats and should be used sparingly. It adds wonderful flavor to baked goods, sauces, and is used as a condiment. Unsalted butter is best for low temperature sauteing. A tablespoon of butter blended with canola or olive oil during cooking can add a delicious taste.
Nut oils such as almond, macadamia, walnut or hazelnut should not be used with heat because the delicate flavor will be lost. They are best in dressings or drizzled on hummus, toasted nuts, goat cheese and lettuces.
Coconut oil, vegetable shortening, palm oil, margarine and other highly processed oils are commonly found in processed goods. They are high in trans and/or saturated fats, the LDL ìbadî cholesterol, and should not be used.
We like to refrigerate our oils. Olive oil solidifies at cold temperatures so the large bottle is kept in the refrigerator and a small spray bottle is kept in the cupboard to use for coating pans or spraying on pastries. Other oils can be kept this way or in a cupboard away from the light, maintaining freshness while still being easy to use.
If oil begins to bubble or smoke during the heating process it is getting close to the flash point. Never throw water on an oil fire, it will splatter and spray the flames. Remove the pan immediately from the heat and cover it tightly. Throw baking soda on any flames outside the pan.