Cooking for the Holidays? The Surprising Truth About Cooking Oil
If you will be doing the cooking over the holiday, chances are you will be using some type of cooking oil, and there some important things to know. Some can actually be hazardous to your health. Some oils are better than others for specific purpose such as baking, frying, or maybe even to make a homemade salad dressing. Something to consider is the smoke point or flash point of an oil.
Smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil starts to burn and smoke. When you cook with oil that's been heated past its smoke point, you do can lose beneficial nutrients and create harmful free radicals. The oil can become rancid and release volatile and sometimes dangerous compounds into your food.
So to avoid this you might want to use high smoke point oil such as avocado oil for frying and lower smoke point oil, such as olive oil for salad dressing. For high temperature cooking, select cooking oils with a high smoke point. The important thing about cooking with any oil is not to heat the oil over its smoke point.
For low temperature cooking, or adding to dishes and salad dressings, chose oils with a lower smoke point higher in Omega-3 fatty acids since they promote healthy cells and decrease stroke and heart attack risk.
Avocado oil is a very light oil packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. If you're striving for cleaner eating, avocado oil may be your best bet. It has a high smoke point (375 to 400 degrees F) and neutral flavor without being chemically processed like canola and vegetable oil. Avocado oil tends to be a bit more pricey than those more processed oils, but if your goal is to steer clear of refined foods at the same time looking for that high smoke point, and don't mind the cost, then this is a great choice for you.
Safflower oil has the highest smoke point of 510 degrees F which makes it great for frying and sautéing. If you're skeptical of vegetable oils and canola oil I would recommend safflower oil instead. Safflower oil is low in saturated fats, high in the good fats such as omega- 9 fatty acids, and has a neutral flavor.
Sesame oil is high in flavor! Just a little of it goes a far way so you don't need to use much. Sesame oil is a safe alternative if one has a peanut allergy. Although they are similar sesame oil may be safest. It's cold-pressed rather than chemically processed. Although it does not have the highest smoke point ranging (350 to 410 degrees F), it's a good unrefined option, if that's your preference.
The smoke point of oil varies with its quality. High quality extra virgin olive oils (with low free fatty acids) have a high smoke point. They are an excellent choice, but an expensive one. Mass produced, low quality olive oils have a much lower smoke point.