I just read an online post (which apparently was written by someone getting paid by the word) purporting to tell foodie surfers which oils to use (and not use) for each of eight different cooking methods. Actually, all you need to know is which of three oils to use in every aspect of your cooking and baking…
For one thing… I was wondering why the article even bothered to tell folks not to use exotic, delicate oils like Wheat Germ and Flax Seed for cooking? Who actually uses those day-to-day? They’re expensive, and not easy to find in some markets.
Now, Sunflower and Peanut oil are fairly common and not quite so costly. And they’re great for high-temperature applications such as deep frying and stir frying. But they’re still a lot more expensive than Canola oil, which is the standard oil they used at Culinary School when I was there – perhaps because you can do everything with it. Of course, it works (and tastes) better in some applications than others.
I prefer Canola Oil for high-temperature applications like frying and searing. It is almost flavourless – though I can detect a slight bitter taste in some foods I’ve cooked in it. The thing is, it won’t burn at high temperatures.
My choice for sautéing is a blend of Canola and either Olive Oil or Butter – depending on what you’re cooking and what kind of flavour profile you’re shooting for. The canola raises the ‘smoke point’ of the pan (the temperature threshold at which the olive Oil or Butter by itself would start to burn) allowing higher-temperature cooking and still getting the extra flavour.
For baking, I generally use Corn Oil, because it has a definite if light flavour that complements that of baked goods. Of course, I still want to use butter in some recipes – such as Pastries – for the flavour. One special case: I always use fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil for my Pizza Crust dough, specifically for the flavour.
So… That’s really all you need: Three dependable oils that don’t cost a fortune and can be found in almost every Supermarket.
Now, about adding flavour…
The best example I can cite about other oils that are desirable to have in your pantry simply because they impart wonderful flavours to your food is Sesame Oil. A few drops will usually do you, even in the most Sesame-intensive Asian dishes. It’s just too strong to use as the cooking oil in any cooking application!
And, about heat-free applications…
By this, I mean Salad Dressing, Marinades and other non-cooked preparations. Of course Marinades often end up getting cooked, in the end, but they’re mixtures of various ingredients and not pure Oil, and there’s only a relatively small amount of Oil, overall, represented.
I like Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Salad dressings and other sauces that require Oil. I was using it in my home-made mayonnaise long before Helman’s brought out their Olive Oil flavoured version commercially.
So, there you have it… Cooking Oils simplified. Don’t let confusion over exotic oils scare you away from trying cooking methods that require specific cooking temperatures!
~ Maggie J.