Everything You Didn’t Know About Cooking With Oils

The latest food scandal of 2014 has already happened: Authorities from Swizerland and France reported that huge quantities of sunflower oil were found adulterated with mineral oil, making hazardous to our health.

As oils are a part of our cooking habits we would like to give some guidance regarding which oils are best for various types of cooking and how to use them correctly.

So first things first, we tested various fats that are used in frying either in our kitchen or in restaurants.

  • Margarine: a refined vegetable fat that was invented in early 1869 in order to substitute butter, which was very expensive at the time. It is not recommended for frying because it has zero tolerance in high temperatures and contains a lot of water.
  • Butter (yes, the original one): used primarily in northern countries like the UK, Scandinavian countries, Ireland, and is completely avoided in the Mediterranean and Middle East. The reason? Butter is rich in transfat and is linked with heart problems and various forms of cancer. Simple put – do not use it for frying,
  • Palm oil: it is widely used in restaurants, and very few use it at home. It becomes solid when left at room temperature.  It is totaly odorless and tasteless and has a high level of saturated fat, that is harmful for the heart. Whilst palm oil is used extensively for frying, it is recommended to be avoided.
  • Sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, soyseed oil: these oils are suitable for cooking in high temperatures as they can stand up to 210 Degrees Celcius. However, they are rich in saturated fat where they become oxidised when reaching the smoke point, producing harmful chemical reactions.  They are linked with cancer-generated chemical elements.
  • Olive oil: it is used to stand high temperatures and is full in polyphenols which protect the oil from oxidising. Do not use when cooking above 180 degrees.

 

The Chemistry Of Frying

During frying, oils are subject to deterioration due to physical and chemical reactions that happen due to the raising of temperatures, such as oxidation,  hydrolysis and more, which results in formulating a complex mix of unwanted byproducts that are toxic and cancer-generating. Temperature is the main reason for oils to be oxidised, and for that reason, it is important to follow some guidelines to make frying less harmful:

  • If you are using olive oil for frying, make sure that the temerature is between 170-180° C.
  • Prewarm the oil, but do not let it burn.
  • Make sure you dry all food from remaining water, before throwing it to the pan. By this way you will avoid hydrolysis.
  • Do not let the food in the pan for too long.
  • Make sure you replace the oil after each round, and avoid frying different types of food in a single oil. In other words, change your oils!

 

How to use the minimum quantity of oil possible:

Put just a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and make sure it covers  the whole pan with a thin layer. Spread it with your finger or a brush to do so.

  • Warm it up to 160° C
  • Remove pan from the heat if it starts to smoke
  • Fry just once and never use the same oil to do it twice. Using this method, the food absorbs very little oil and becomes less greasy.

 

How to obtain optimum results when deep-frying:

  • The food must “swim” in the oil.
  • The temperature must reach the most of 180° C for very few minutes
  • This kind of olive oil can be used for up to 2 times, tops
  • If the oil has become dark, or has some sort of foam, remove immediately
  • Never fill up with fresh oil

 

Pros and cons of frying:

Pros:

  • Fried food tastes great, we admit that
  • Frying is a quick and easy way to make food fast (that’s why its quick in the first place)
  • Frying below 180° C is beneficial for fish and vegetables

Cons:

  • Fried food is rich in saturated fat and calories, which overall do nothing good for your body.
  • Frying in high temperatures creates oxidation in the oil and food and in result, harmful chemical reactions are taking place which you consume.

photo by: jshontz

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