What oil for what type of cooking? What is a smoke point?
Firstly, oil is generally not designed to be heated at high temperatures and once oil begins to smoke, that is its smoke point. Different oils have different smoke points and are more appropriate for different types of cooking, while some aren’t really suitable for cooking at all. When an oil begins to smoke, it becomes unstable and potentially carcinogenic.
What oil for what type of cooking?
Extra virgin olive oil is great for salad dressings, dips, sauces such as hummus and guacamole.
Coconut oil – can be used for cooking but at low enough temperatures, not suited to high temperatures. I sometimes use it in treats for texture, such as protein balls and bars.
In general, oils don’t work well at high temperatures. As my Mam my used to say ‘turn down that pan’!
So what oil should I be using?
Choosing oils that don’t have a strong flavour is a good rule of thumb. Grapeseed oil, rapeseed oil and sunflower oil are good options as they are more stable at higher temperatures. While olive oil and sesame seed oil are suited to medium heat. Animal fats such as butter, have a lower smoke point than plant oils, so try to keep the heat down when using these.
1kcal sprays can have their place if you are looking to reduce your calorie intake when cooking. However, keep in mind it is more important to look at your overall food choices in a day or week. Oils have their nutritional benefits too, as well as adding flavour to your food and helping them to cook well. These sprays don’t offer quite as many benefits as a drizzle of rapeseed oil will.
My personal preference for cooking oils are rapeseed oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil and sesame oil, depending on the recipe. Personally, I don’t like sunflower oil as it doesn’t offer as much nutritional value.
Remember context is everything, some smoke from your pan is inevitable and when cooking meat like a steak, smoke is expected. Just don’t be burning the pan, filling the kitchen with smoke and having the fire alarm going off every second night like I used to do! Sorry Mam!
Have you seen the daveynutrition essential kitchen tool kit?
- Essential kitchen items and what you need at home in you kitchen to achieve your cooking goals
- Tips to help with meal planning and cooking
Generally speaking a high heat refers to temperatures of 230℃ and over and is most suited to stir frying, grilling or searing foods for a short time.
While a medium heat may refer to temperatures 160℃-230℃, with temperatures around 190℃ and over often referred to as medium-high. These temperatures are usually used for cooking fish, meat, vegetables or frying foods like pancakes.
A low heat would refer to temperatures below 160℃ and is most commonly used for sauces, scrambling eggs or slow cooking.
Devi, A., & Khatkar, B. S. (2016). Physicochemical, rheological and functional properties of fats and oils in relation to cookie quality: a review. Journal of food science and technology, 53(10), 3633–3641. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-016-2355-0
Guillaume C., et al. “Evaluation of Chemical and Physical Changes in Different Commercial Oils during Heating”. Acta Scientific Nutritional Health 2.6 (2018): 02-11.
Vieira, S. A., McClements, D. J., & Decker, E. A. (2015). Challenges of utilizing healthy fats in foods. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 6(3), 309S–17S. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.114.006965