Cooking oil is one of the basic and essential ingredients of any kitchen. They not only, impart, enhance and carry flavors but also help in conducting heat uniformly for better cooking. Today it is highly confusing for any person to choose the right cooking oil amongst the multitude options available at our disposal. Selecting criteria for an oil for food preparation is not whether it is healthy for consumption or not but also if it stays so after cooking. Let’s look into some of the important points to consider while selecting the right oil:-
Smoking point of oil is its tolerance to heat and is the point from where the smoke rises from the surface of the heated oil. At this point, the oils start to break down, producing chemicals that are harmful for our body and may impart a bad taste and flavor to the food. Often, oils that are healthy at room temperature do not remain so when heated. Thus for frying and cooking at high temperature, oils with high smoke point should be used. These include canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and some olive oils. Some oils with low smoke points are safflower oil, corn oil, extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil.
Oil is nothing but a form of fat. Some oils abound in bad fats and high cholesterol content while other have plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and healthy minerals. The fats in oils can be broadly classified into unsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans-fats. Generally, oils with high-content of saturated fats or Trans fats should be avoided as they increase the risk of any disease. But oils with acceptable levels of unsaturated fat should be selected to promote a healthy heart and body. Oils like soybean oil and corn oils are rich in polyunsaturated fats while canola oil and peanut oil are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Though most oils have a neutral taste and can be used simply as a means of cooking, other cooking oils have a unique flavor of their parent ingredient. So when marinating, dressing or using in dips use oils that ooze a lot of zest. Peanut oil, for example will lend a rich, nutty taste to food while mustard oil may lend its strong flavor and aroma to any dish. Canola oil, refined vegetable oil etc are known for their neutral taste.
Depending on your individual and family’s health status, the dish for which the oil needs to be used and the flavors required, we can select the oil best suited for the purpose.