Cooking oils come in a vast range of options, all differing in taste, colour, and culinary uses. Each have their own pros and cons, and different types come with different health benefits.
With so many choices out there, it’s hard to know which is best suited for your needs.
We have put together this short beginner’s guide to cooking oils, explaining what they are made from, the differences between them, and why it matters.
What are cooking oils?
Cooking oils are liquid fat, extracted from plants, nuts, or seeds.
To use avocado oil as an example, the delicious pulp from an avocado is taken, mashed up in a giant blender, and then spun around in a centrifuge at high speed.
This spinning separates the oil from the water contained in the pulp, and this is the oil which is bottled and sold as cooking oil.
Obviously, avocados make avocado oil, and so the oil extracted from other fruits, nuts, and plants make their own versions of oils.
Olive oil comes from olives, peanut oil from peanuts, and sesame oil from sesame seeds.
Types of cooking oils
All cooking oils contain a unique combination of three types of fats; saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Some oils are higher in one type, and lower in others. This makes them behave differently during the cooking process, and also comprises their health advantages and disadvantages.
Saturated fats stay solid at room temperature (coconut oil for example) and are fat molecules that don’t have any unsaturated carbon bonds.
Monounsaturated fats by contrast have one unsaturated carbon bond in their molecule, and are usually liquid at room temperature but start to solidify when exposed to cold temperatures. Olive oil, for example, will solidify at around 3 degrees Celsius if kept in the fridge.
Fat molecules which contain more than one unsaturated carbon bond are called polyunsaturated fats. Sunflower oil, canola oil, and sesame oil are all examples of oils with high percentages of polyunsaturated fat.
The difference when cooking
All this talk of chemical bonds can be confusing, but it’s the chemical make-up of these fats which come into play in the kitchen.
Basically, the more carbon bonds a molecule has, the more sensitive it is to heat. This means that oils high in saturated fat are better for cooking, because they have no unsaturated carbon bonds.
Coconut oil is a great example of this, with 92% saturated fat (no bonds), and only 1.6% polyunsaturated (2 or more bonds). This makes it very resistant to temperature, and so can be used for high-heat cooking.
Ok, so the question you might be asking is, if saturated fats are better for cooking, then why not use them for everything? Well, mono and polyunsaturated fats also come with their own benefits.
These fats are often known as “heart healthy” because they lower the bad type of cholesterol (LDL), whereas saturated fats raise it.
Monounsaturated fats also increase the “good” type of cholesterol (HDL), which is proven to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Cooking with different oils will produce different results, and if you notice smoke at any point while you are cooking, you should take it as a sign that the cooking oil you are using is not suitable for high temperatures.
As a general rule, the higher a cooking oil’s smoking point, the more refined and processed it is.
A higher smoking point means there are more cooking options available through that oil. Low smoking points are fine for lightly sautéing, but if you intend on deep frying, then you’ll need the right oil for the job.
The quality of cooking oils
Not all cooking oils are created equal, and like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
High-quality oils should have the same characteristics as the plant, fruit, or nut they came from.
Avocado oil should be a nice green colour and olive oil should be bitter with a peppery taste.
Fake virgin oils are a huge problem in the market, with possibly up to 80% of the extra-virgin oils on the shelves not meeting the required standards to be labelled as such.
A good indicator of the quality of a cooking oil is the container it comes in. High-quality oils should only come in dark glass bottles, which keep out light and oxygen, and prevent the oil from going rancid.
Rancid oils have a nasty smell and horrible taste. They are also high in destructive free radicals, which can lead to cancerous cells forming.
Olivado cooking oils
Low quality cooking oils are something you don’t have to worry about when it comes to Olivado.
We literally wrote the book when it comes to the cold-pressed extraction method, which retains all of the oil’s natural goodness and taste with minimal processing, earning the right to truly be called extra virgin.
Our sublime range of oils are perfect for every conceivable occasion, whether it be drizzled over a fresh salad or used for deep frying.
Regarded the world over as one of the most respected manufacturers of high-quality cooking oils, Olivado have set the bar for the industry.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our cooking oils. Our friendly and experienced staff will be happy to help in any way they can.