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Know Your Oils

There are so many different kinds of cooking oils out there that it’s hard to know what’s what. I know I have to have various oils in my kitchen. This has been a learning curve for me as I watch cooking shows and experiment.

My mom only used vegetable oil so that’s what I did. Then I saw Rachael Ray who only uses EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).  Recently I found avocado oil and bought some. What you are using the oil for is a factor in what oils to use. Here is a guide to many of the oils on the market

Avocado Oil is a product of Spain and is made from pressing the pulp of the fruit, not the seed. It’s low in acidity and has one of the highest smoke points I’ve seen. The best Avocado oil I know of is the De La Rosa Brand – kosher year round, gluten free and has no additives.

Corn Oil is made by pressing yellow kernels of corn and is used in frying, salad dressing. It is high in Omega-6 fatty acids.

Cottonseed Oil – is a cooking oil derived from cotton seeds grown for cotton fiber.

Canola Oil - Canola is an engineered plant developed in Canada. The oil is derived from crushing the seeds of the rapeseed plant, which is a member of the mustard family. Canola oil is marketed as an oil very low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat. Canola oil is, for the most part, tasteless, making it a good choice for baked goods.

Olive oils

Olive Oil is usually produced in Italy, Spain or Greece, it has no additives. Basically they extract the oil from the olive fruit which preserves the natural taste. By cold pressing, the oil preserves its flavor.

EVOO – is similar to olive oil but the virgin in the name means it’s not refined, has no chemical treatment resulting in a stronger flavor and higher quality.? Olive oil is considered one of the healthiest oils due to its high monounsaturated fat content and low saturated fat content. Studies show olive oil helps the heart remain healthy and aids in regulating cholesterol.  It is also part of the Mediterranean diet food pyramid.

Pure Olive oil – usually a blend og virgin olive oil and refined olive oils. If the extracted olive oil is of poor quality, this process helps it to have a better flavor. This oil is good for frying.

Olive Oil from Morocco – De La Rosa Foods makes an excellent Kosher year round olive oil from Morocco.

Grapeseed Oil - Grapeseed oil is one such cooking oil that’s been controversial for some time now. Grape seed oil is processed from the seeds of grapes, which are formed as a by-product of wine making. On one hand, it’s similar to olive oil in that it contains some monounsaturated fat, but mostly it’s made of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) like omega-6s and omega-9 fatty acids. The high levels of PUFAs and omega-6s are not healthy since most people already get way too much of them their diets.

Peanut Oil – made from pressed peanuts and used in Southeast Asian dishes for general cooking. It has a high smoke point, so it’s useful for frying, but it is high in fatty acids.

Safflower Oil – produced from safflower seeds, this oil has a milder flavor than olive oil and can be cooked at higher temperatures.

Sesame Oil – Well, obviously it’s made from toasted sesame seeds and maybe its not so odd! This is a polyunsaturated oil used in Asian and Indian foods, as well as Middle Eastern foods. It was one of the first crops processed for oil.

Soybean Oil- this inexpensive oil is partially hydrogenated and can be found in most processed food. It is made from soybeans and considered a cheap source of protein. The oil is problematic due to its transfat it contains, making it a contributing factor to poor health.

Sunflower Oil – is extracted from the sunflower seed and is a very commonly used oil.

Vegetable Oil is actually a blend of corn, soybean, palm and sunflower oil. This is what my mom always used. On a recent trip to Costco, I noticed that their vegetable oil is really Canola Oil – gotta read those labels! Now that’s a problem because while canola oil is supposed to be healthy, it doesn’t get hot enough for some foods when frying.

Photos above by Mark Greenberg

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